When you think about patents today, you probably think of technology or medicine. But, there’s a whole segment of innovation in the United States that isn’t based on processors, microchips or biological breakthroughs. Enter Frances Prado, whose garment-based product, Hanging Secrets has been successful in part because she protected it with a patent. We interviewed Frances to learn more about her story. Here is an abbreviated transcript:
Save The Inventor: Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your history leading up to your idea for Hanging Secrets.
Frances: I’m Frances Prado. Besides being the inventor of Hanging Secrets, which is a new take on a lingerie organizer, I’m a mother, wife, and sister devoted to the ones I love. I’ve been a production manager at Costco for 22 years now. All these things aren’t just titles, they’re lessons and experiences that prepared me for this journey as an inventor and entrepreneur.
What was the spark that led to the idea of Hanging Secrets?
I was trying to work my way out of empty-nest syndrome through productivity. The first thing I could think to do was clean and organize our home, so I started with my bedroom. I opened a drawer and found a cramped, haphazard mess of my bras and underwear. This was a problem and surely I wasn’t the only woman who thought so. And with that, I took to the drawing board in order to create a product that organized and protected our intimate apparel with ease.
When did you decide to make a go of Hanging Secrets and what indicators let you know that this was a viable product?
In December 2014, I brought Hanging Secrets to another woman entrepreneur whose opinion I value greatly, Dr. Melinda Silva, and asked for her thoughts and criticism since she was in my primary target market. She loved it. Her support and investment allowed the concept of Hanging Secrets to become a reality. We knew there was a demand for our product because we’re a part of the demand!
When did you first realize that you needed a patent? Was there someone who guided you in this decision to protect your intellectual property?
It was July 2009. I read a mom inventor book and it emphasized the need to file a patent. A few months before my provisional patent was about to expire, I participated in a pitch contest sponsored by Edison Nation in a Hollywood studio. I made it to the second round and pitched to a panel of three judges, one of whom was Louis Foreman. They loved it. As I drove home that day I knew I had to take the next step in the patent process. I knew I needed to protect my intellectual property.
What does having a patent mean to you and your business?
Our patent has allowed us the opportunity to contribute to both the U.S. economy and to women’s charitable causes (a portion of Hanging Secrets is donated to the Virginia Ann Scheunemann Memorial Fund), which is, for me, the true meaning of living the American Dream. It brings credibility when dealing with banks, investors, manufacturers and pitching opportunities, making the pursuit of this business easier. We have to share our knowledge along the way to foster, empower and support the next generation of women. That is my goal as an inventor and business owner right now. Only 7% of patents are issued to sole female inventors in the United States and only 0.3% of those sole inventors are Latinas. It’s mind boggling to know that I am among that small handful of women.
What patent-related or IP-related advice would you give other inventors and innovators based on your experience?
Recognize when to seek professional assistance while applying for a patent. Also, trademark and copyright your brand, that gives you two financial incentives and opportunities. Most importantly, remain positive, passionate, patient, and persistent.
If you’re an inventor and would like to tell us your story, please visit our Share Your Story page. You may end up with your own feature right here on our blog.
Read more about women inventors and the patent gender gap here.