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Inspired by an offhand comment from her father, Abigail M. Fleck invented a new, quicker and healthier way to cook bacon, then founded a company to sell her product.
One Saturday morning in 1993, when she was eight years old, Abbey Fleck and her father, Jonathan, were cooking bacon in their St. Paul, Minnesota home. Having run out of paper towels, Abbey's dad was forced to use the daily newspaper to soak up the excess fat from the cooked slices. When Abbey's mother protested at this impromptu arrangement, Abbey's father facetiously suggested that he should just let it "drip dry" instead.
Abbey thought there must be a way to do just that. She realized that it would be both less messy and more healthy to cook the bacon hanging above a dish that would collect the liquid fat. So Abbey and her father began to design what eventually became the Makin' Bacon dish. It is a square, inch-deep skillet of microwave-safe plastic, with three T-shaped supports rising up from its center. The bacon cooks while draped over the crossbars of the central supports, and the fat drips down into the dish.
The Makin' Bacon dish is not only efficient, but easy to use. After the rashers (up to 18 at a time) are cooked and removed, the collected fat can be poured straight out of the dish. The three "drip bars" are removable, for easy cleanup and space-saving storage. The dish is also inexpensive, currently selling for about $7. However, the device does still require a paper towel, draped over the bacon to prevent splatters while it cooks.
Knowing that they would readily find a market, Abbey and her father founded a company, A. de F. Ltd., and began selling Makin' Bacon the next year (1994). Since then, sales have been spurred by endorsements from Good Housekeeping and Abbey's personal appearances on TV shows like The Late Show with David Letterman. All this attention has made Abbey's experience exciting and fun.
Abbey has also gained rather serious entrepreneurial experience. In 1994, she and her father negotiated a promotional campaign for Armour bacon packaging. In 1996, they were granted the first of two patents for their "microwave cooking vessel" (#5,552,585). In 1997, they successfully settled a patent infringement suit against a Pennsylvania company that had begun to sell a similar device.
Today, Abbey Fleck's enterprise is thriving, with Makin' Bacon available in stores nationwide and over the internet. At fourteen years old, Abbey is hardly a full-time entrepreneur; but she will hopefully have further inventing successes in her future.