If you prefer to LISTEN ?- I tell the story!
Inventive. The Man Behind the Flap
From the time he could walk, my inventive husband Richard Victor Jessel has always been something of a inventive doodler and “ideas” man. As a child, the local villagers used to entrust him with their faulty clocks to get them going again!
Before I knew him, a large period of his life was spent in the field of electronics. He had his own firm with 15 employees and his inventive mind designed and manufactured metal detectors.
During this time his inventive mind designed many other things, including pipe tracing equipment, test equipment for photo reactive lens and devices for solver recovery in the photographic industry. He is a Member of the Institute of Patentees and Inventors and is a Mensan.
The Start of the Flap – No Draughts, no Rattles, no Springs
When Richard first knew me, he was so irritated by my cat flap rattling and blowing, that he suggested he could become inventive once again and design a cat door that never rattled or blow open. Without realising what was in store I said to him “if you think you can do it, then go into the garage and make one for me and my cats.”
Richard eventually emerged with a cat flap that was inventive and totally impervious to wind. The idea was immediately patented. The new concept was called Petway and became more refined as the idea was exhibited. It was introduced to Cat Exhibitions, Crufts and Catteries, and was shown on the BBC’s programme “Tomorrow’s World “ in the days of presenter Bob Symes.
The first Petway was used constantly by our five cats over 5 years with no draughts, rattles or banging. (20 years later the flap was apparently still in constant use!)
A well known door manufacturer took interest in the idea and offered to build a fire door using the concept and install it in a suitable position. A giant sized cat flap!
Working for the NHS I was given permission for us to install and trial the door in a large hospital in Reading. It was built as a fire door, but as it would have involved high financial outlet to have it tested, it was installed as an external door outside the busy gymnasium/physiotherapy department. It was filmed for BBC Television South, “News Around.” Some of the patients and staff at the time may remember its vivid red and green colour. Green for entry, red for no entry!
We were told that a fire door in that particular position, with that amount of traffic would be giving trouble within 6 months and last no more than 9 months. In fact it lasted for 5 years accepting 24 hour traffic including porters with trolleys, disabled persons etc. During this time it kept draughts at bay and never blew open, and opened and returned to position with ease.
Eventually after 5 years a top hinge hinge had loosened and caused the door to scuff the floor. Sadly all the original personnel maintenance staff had moved on, and no-one knew who had installed it. It had been dismantled and double doors were installed. Shame. That area has now been rebuilt.
Despite this, it had achieved that aim of a good trial under all conditions of use and weather.
The concept and idea of this door has been further developed and the drawing is saved and hidden for the future. Other variations are under a new patent.
Richard thought that the same idea could be applied to a LETTER BOX
Letter boxes have the same problems as cat flaps. Rattly, and letting in draughts. To alleviate these conditions they have needed very strong springs to keep them shut when not in use. These springs can be a source of damaged mail, and in some cases damaged fingers.
Richard’s design obviates all of these, with no springs, draughts and rattles, plus the advantage of accepting large and thick mail.
Just as the Petway/ Cat Flap, and Fire Door , the letter plate is very light to operate and will not trap mail or fingers.
With all three of these inventions we couldn’t afford moulding tools at the time despite the unit being attractive to the manufacturing and marketing world and users of the product.
The frequent response was…
“it’s good, we like it and if someone was to take this on then we would HAVE to have it.”
A large cat flap manufacturer was prepared to take on the letter plate manufacture – but two years down the line seemed an awfully long time to wait. It needed just ONE manufacturer to take the plunge.
We knew we had a good products and the dreams stayed with us for many months and years, with highs and lows during the decade of the 90s, but money had to be earned and Richard and I continued employment. This was the priority and inventions were put onto the back burner at that time.
The Lively Mind
Richard and I continued in employment and worked in many interesting and challenging positions, and designing one of them, being the “no touch” television panel for bathrooms. Many were installed in major hotels, including the “Sofitel terminal 5 at Heathrow.
We had been keeping up the Patent fees every year and just had three more years to go, when I heard Richard say he wasn’t going to renew the Patent any longer. Perhaps something afresh in his mind would come along later that felt worth patenting and start the process all over again.
I didn’t reveal that I’d heard him state that, and no way was I going to allow these ideas to fade.
I thought of all the the earlier years of dedication, time, sweat and money that had gone into the project. Just because it didn’t get off the ground, despite all our high hopes, didn’t mean it wouldn’t work later on.
I’d been keeping up with news and research and in 2008 it was a very different scenario. The country was in a deep recession once again.
Everyone was concerned with SAVING ENERGY AND MONEY, the “in” words were GREEN and ECO and RENEWABLE ENERGY. Everything was about SAVE, save, save!
Would our concept in the Letter Plate design fit into all of this? Wouldn’t it be a good time to look into more research and perhaps make this “DRAUGHT CUTTING, NEVER BLOWING OPEN LETTER PLATE WORK?
I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I’d arranged for us to become Exhibitors at the National Housing Federation Development Exhibition at Olympia 2008. I broke the news to my husband who was gobsmacked and more so when he saw his Exhibitors Pass worded “Assistant!”
We were selected as one of the 10 finalists in the “Green Shoots” Competition at Earls Court Ecobuild 2008.
People flocked to see our STL models and prototypes, some of whom initally doubted it could work without springs. We decided that by Ecobuild 2009 we would launch the product as a marketable unit, but first as an INTERNAL back plate to work with original external letter plates. This would allow the consumer to trial a brand new concept and see if it did what it said on the tin.
This would only necessitate removing the back draught excluders and replacing with what was to become the ECOFLAP
The Ecoflap was born!
The exhibition stand was built for Ecobuild 2009 and the Ecoflap was launched.
To keep the pennies down, we printed all our own brochures, web site design, and the stands were built in-house. We also had a Birthday Cake especially made for visitors to our stand, and even a sip of wine.
After frantic efforts leading up to our launch day, our Ecoflaps were nowhere to be seen from our manufacturer in China. Phew! they arrived the day before the Exhibition opened.
During 2009 Richard and team produced the Ecoflap with extras such as soft rubber moulding around the mating surfaces of the flap part and minus the ridges – these were not for show, they were actually part of the engineering aspect for the light touch opening and returning back to the closed position, but this was rectified with “what took place inside the Ecoflap !”…the ECOFLAPEX – which became the standard
Other Eco Resellers approached us to sell Ecoflap online and this continued throughout the year. One of our resellers, unknown to us had a National Promotion in the “Sunday Telegraph and Observer and we literally sold out by 2010.
Tension was high to get another consignment manufactured before the Chinese New Year started, with orders building up all the time. This wasn’t easy for us but we kept our heads above water and once the consignment was delivered the back log of orders and more were distributed.
Barclays Business Competition and Industrial Award
We entered the Barclay One Small Step National Business Competition to try to win a much needed bonus for our business – 50,000 for our dreams of growth. We ended up a runner up, which got us no finance but wide spread support. The Ecoflap also won an Industrial Award.
In the meantime, Richard completed the Twin Flap System for use with the manufacturing of doors and also suppliers of door furniture. Two prototypes were made finished in stainless steel or brass and showed for the first time at Ecobuild 2011. Because most suppliers were only interested in large quantities Richard and I realised we should go down the investment route and become a Ltd Company.
We were approached by the BBC’s Dragon’s Den Team but then realised the emphasis appeared to be on entertainment and drama, and also we felt we wouldn’t fit the bill.
A Real Opportunity
Richard received a call from BBC Radio Berkshire and as a result Maggie Philbin for the “Tommorrow’s World” Team came by and interviewed my husband. As a result of this company investors came on board and Ecoflap Ltd. was formed.
The Ecoflaps sold well and orders were coming in from parts of Europe.
As time went on, we decided to form a new company once again to allow the concept to be developed into the product that started it all… THE PETWAY
Much tooling, design went into the application of achieving faster production, for larger volumes which took many months of trials, and small batches of the Petflap today are being distributed to long waiting lists of customers, from the Distribution Centre together with the Ecoflap interior letter plate.
The Ecoflap is still sold to this day, and having proven the concept worked for 9 years, there are plans afoot to discontinue it as an interior letterplate and use the design for an external letter plate. Stainless steel and brass external plates have been trialled, during prototype construction.
!! So get started in the race to claim one, and become the proud owner of the Classic Original Ecoflap from the very last batch.
Meanwhile the production of the Petflap continues.
Quoted from the Inventor Richard Jessel
An idea often isn’t developed because of the syndrome
“Surely if it works then someone would have thought of it before”
There is nothing more annoying than to see an idea you have had, abandoned and then a similar idea turning up in the market many years later. Someone took that plunge, so just think, it could have been YOU. But it isn’t easy taking a new concept to and onto the market competing with products serving the same purposes. To break into that market with a different concept is very difficult, but the passion will get you there. It happens over years.
Richard Jessel feels a Charity could help to prevent the waste of so much creativity amongst the huge number of would be inventors.
He would also like to see the giving and the basic understanding of very easy electronics in an uncomplicated format. His own young grandson has demonstrated a fascination for this subject and a great desire to improve his knowledge of how electronics work.
If you’d like to see how Ecoflap and the Petway /Petflap are doing today then click through to
Look out for the branding with birth name…we’re proud of it.