Great ideas come in surprising ways. In fact, Bobby Musselman, inventor of the Cell Buckle, never thought about inventing anything until a long road trip in August of 2010 to Sturgis, South Dakota, to the big annual motorcycle rally there, created a need: a hands-off way to use his cell phone while he was riding.
On Monday The Cell Buckle's first big marketing campaign kicks off on the Discovery Channel's American Chopper, where it will make its debut. It also marks the first anniversary of his idea. "A year ago this was just a thought in my head," Musselman explains. "I made up a prototype, showed it to some friends and 10 out of 10 said they liked it and would buy it."
In December of last year, he hooked up with plastic part designer Richard Dennis of Plastic Design Resources, who helped him refine the design and determine the right materials. After several iterations in design, Musselman found the right designs - one for a motorcycle handle and another for the steering wheel of a passenger car, truck or other 4-wheeled passenger vehicle.
"The most difficult part was just getting the right materials, but we decided on acetal for the clip and the slide that allows you to adjust the Cell Buckle to fit the type of device you need to hold," he said. "The acetal is strong yet it is flexible to allow the clip to go over the steering wheel or the handlebars easily. That is overmolded with an elastomer from Kraton - we use a 25 durometer on the top of the Cell Buckle and a 20 durometer on the bottom of the Cell Buckle."
The Cell Buckle's adjustability allows it to hold any device up to 2.9" wide, including iPhones, GPS units, MP3 players and the Play Station Portable. The motorcycle model clips around handle bars from 7/8" to 1" diameter. The larger one for vehicle steering wheels fits onto steering wheels sized 1¼" to 1½" diameter. The devices also fit on stroller handles, golf carts, grocery shopping carts, and even clips onto the tray tables on airplanes, as he discovered when he made a trip recently to China to visit his moldmaker and molder.
While he regrets having to go to China for the manufacturing, a friend has experience dealing with manufacturers there for toy products for big name toy makers, so his comfort level was pretty high, he explains, adding that he's not too worried about intellectual property theft. "Once my product is out there in the stores, whether it's made here or made in China, I've opened the door for knockoffs. Anyone can rip you off," Musselman states.
Musselman's previous career as a big-name DJ in Phoenix, where he played the game-day music at Diamondbacks' home games and other large venues, didn't really prepare him for being an inventor, manufacturer, distributor and marketer. But now he's winding down his DJ career to become a full-time product promoter. "We're doing well so far and we've not even advertised it yet," he says. "The web site is now live (www.thecellbuckle.com) and Monday night's American Chopper debut should result in some big orders."
He's also certain that the Cell Buckle will stay put on a motorcycle handle. "I tried it out with the windshield in place at 95 mph, and it worked fine. Then I tried it without the windshield at 105 mph and it stayed perfectly in place - I've still got my iPhone," he boasts, grinning and holding up his red iPhone.
Musselman anticipates that sales will be strong and that he will soon have to get additional molds made to manufacture in the U.S. The Cell Buckle sells for $19.95 and can be purchased on the company's web site.