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Home improvement can often be a messy and frustrating task even for those with the knowledge, skills and tools to do the jobs.
It's also where Vancouver resident and transplanted Englishman Andrew Dewberry, 54, found an innovative niche, capitalizing on the opportunity to enhance a tiny portion of the process with a few devices designed to make every budding Mike Holmes a little more comfortable.
"I'm an architect by profession so I was actually working down at Emily Carr [University of Art and Design in Vancouver] getting the new building built on Granville Island and watching workers," says Mr. Dewberry, a native of Manchester, England. He noted with interest as they applied caulking to some aluminum shock frames, particularly when they smoothed it out with their fingers. The crudeness of that final step got his creative juices flowing.
"To me, in the late 20th century as it was then, it was just such an anachronism. So I came up with a tool to do that."
Mr. Dewberry had 5,000 units of his Caulk-Rite tool made out of plastic, assembled them at home and started selling them locally in 1996 as a way to simply and easily apply the ideal amount of caulk.
A hastily scrambled appearance at the Western Hardware Show brought in another 20,000 sales, while a trip to a national hardware show in Toronto added Canada-wide distribution through retail giants such as Canadian Tire and Home Hardware.
Customers quickly started requesting a caulk removal tool, too, to go along with the original piece, and Mr. Dewberry came through with that – winning "best of show" at the following year's national show – with the pair of tools that have now sold 35 million pieces globally. He has since invented a caulking injection tool, a pair of devices to deal with grout and a safety blade for cutting, and has successfully applied for the patents for all six tools.
"A lot of people just have an idea, don't bother with it and then 10 years later, it's there and they say, 'I had that idea, too,'" he says. "That's the majority of us.
"But the innovator takes that idea, realizes that they've not seen it anywhere, figures out whether or not it is available anywhere and starts to do something with it."
Inventing, and by extension innovation, certainly comes naturally for Mr. Dewberry, who tells new inventors to "always make it simple, mass marketable and plastic because that's the cheapest way of doing things." But while he feels innovators are mainly business-aligned characters, he considers himself first and foremost an inventor.
"I know every inventor is an innovator, I prefer to call myself an inventor," he says. "What I do is I have ideas continually, I see something and for some reason it just clicks. It might be an idea along the lines of an idea I'm working on.
"So what I'm working on at the moment is basically being fired toward plumbers as a trade. Suddenly about five weeks ago I had an epiphany which changed everything and I realized it's the general distribution. Little things make big changes."