For years, John A. Deddens Sr. helped countless entrepreneurs open businesses through his position as director of the Small Business Development Center at Holmes Community College in Ridgeland. Now, it’s his turn.
Production and distribution is just around the corner for Deddens’ latest invention, Freshy, a sealer that does, well, what it’s supposed to do, Deddens explained.
“It all started innocently,” he said. “My best friend came into town and was eating potato chips while we were driving around. When he was finished, some chips were left in the bottom of the bag and he said he wished there was a way to keep the blankety-blank chips fresh. From then on, I was intrigued.”
After drawing several sketches, Deddens found a design he thought would work. After he made a prototype and successfully tested it, Deddens took steps to patent the design – a circular plastic tube that fit snugly in a three-sided square form, with a one-sided magnetic strip to stick on refrigerator doors.
“Then, I went through the ups and downs of getting people to make it,” he said. “It’s so simple that it makes the wedge look complex, but to get somebody to build it was quite a chore. I didn’t want to manufacture it. I was looking for a one-stop production facility to do the whole thing from beginning to end – production, packaging, boxing and shipping. I’m negotiating with a couple of people right now, but it’s moving slowly.”
Deddens repaired a slight product flaw in which the one-piece device would break if abruptly pulled.
“Instead of putting it out on the market with a product flaw, I tried to figure out what to do,” he said. “The answer came to me on Christmas Eve. I added a notch on the end that was a major, major improvement.”
Deddens recruited his son, John A. “Johnny” Deddens Jr., who works for a marketing firm, to come up with a catchy name. Freshy fit the bill, he said.
“Freshy is the best description for it,” he said. “Freshy works. If you want to keep something fresh, use Freshy. Our family and friends must believe it works because the clips would disappear from our refrigerator door. That was fine with us because it meant people liked them.”
Deddens tapped the talents of R.C. “Dick” Beeson, former president of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Hunt-Wesson, Colgate-Palmolive and Canada Dry to run the company, he said.
“Dick has tremendous expertise in market knowledge and exposure to distribution and packaged goods,” Deddens said. “He was my boss at KFC when I was vice president and he was president. Later I became his assistant. He would come up with an idea, and I’d follow up or vice versa. We’ve stayed in touch over the years. He’ll run the company and I’ll keep my day job.”
Holmes Community College, for whom Deddens works, has given its blessing, he said.
“(Holmes Community College President) Dr. Starkey Morgan is a blessing to work for,” Deddens said. “This is the best gig I’ve ever had.”
Freshy will be mass marketed to consumer products divisions of grocery store and discount chains, such as Wal-Mart and Target. The red and yellow clips will be packaged in a trio of varying sizes and will retail for about $5. Specific custom orders with special colors and imprinted logos for companies or colleges are another aspect of the marketing plan, Deddens said.
“We’ve had people tell us it’s comparable to the invention of the hula hoop,” Deddens said. “But my son described it best: Freshy’s not the best thing since sliced bread. It’s the best thing for sliced bread.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.