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A 1996 Gallup poll found that two thirds of American teenagers would like to found a company. Kathryn (K-K) Gregory, a ninth-grader from Bedford, Massachusetts, has been living that dream: she became an inventor-entrepreneur in 1994, at the age of 10.
After a New England snowstorm, K-K was in her yard building a snow fort with her younger brother. Although she had dressed for the cold, K-K was frustrated, because snow kept finding its way up the sleeve of her coat. When she came in the house later, K-K's concerned mother suggested that K-K sew something that would bridge the gap from sleeves to gloves.
K-K rose to the occasion: with her mother's help, she sewed some synthetic fleece into cylinders that would fit snugly over her forearms and hands. Because she wanted to leave her fingers free, K-K designed the detachable sleeves to extend only as far as the palm of the hand, and she cut a slit for the thumb, to anchor the sleeves in place. K-K intended for her invention to be worn under sleeves but over gloves; however, in her first field tests, snow was now sneaking under the lower edge of her new sleeve and piling up over her palm.
So K-K remodeled her invention, contracting its diameter so that it could be worn under mittens or gloves: her next tests were a complete success. A few weeks later, K-K made copies for her Girl Scout troop, where they were an instant hit.
Now that she knew she had a winning idea, K-K moved on to the next stage. A great deal of research and a consultation with a patent attorney confirmed that her idea was original. So she gave her invention a name, "Wristies," applied for a trademark (granted) and patent (still pending), and founded a company, Wristies®, Inc.
To promote her invention, K-K has aimed high. From her office in her house, she has signed purchase and marketing agreements with the Girl Scouts, Federal Express, and McDonald's, among others; in the fall of 1997, K-K became the youngest person ever to promote a product on QVC, where just a 6-minute spot earned her $22,000 in sales.
K-K has won numerous awards, including induction into the Kids' Hall of Fame (1997), and has been profiled on the Today Show (Weekend Edition) and in the Boston Globe and New York Times. She often shares her entrepreneurial experiences at schools and invention workshops. K-K's story provides a classic example of the inventing and entrepreneurial process, step-by-step: novel idea, design of prototype, field testing and refinement, market testing, general research and patent search, patent and trademark application, incorporation, promotion and sales, profits.
K-K is not just a teenage entrepreneur: her other interests include rock climbing, in which she has also enjoyed prodigious success; and of course, K-K is returning to school (10th grade) this fall. Meanwhile, Wristies®, Inc. continues to thrive.