“I knew one of them would float to the top,” Johnson said.
Now he’s a man with a growing business.
He launched PVC Bendit a year ago. The growth started off slow, but has been picking up speed recently. Johnson is selling about 100 PVC Bendit tools a month. The device heats PVC pipe from the inside, making it pliable and bendable.
The U.S. Navy is one of his customers. It’s particularly useful to electricians and is gaining popularity among theater stage designers and people in other fields Johnson said he’d never considered marketing to.
“I was excited when we started selling one a day,” he said. “That’s how many we have to sell to break even.”
Johnson was a part owner in R JetTek, an inkjet recycling business on the west side of Colorado Springs that does business nationally. He sold his share in that company to pursue some of the inventions he had in mind.
“I turned 55 a few years ago and I figured if I didn’t hurry up and do some of these things, I never would,” Johnson said.
Initially, he wanted to bend clear acrylic pipe to make outdoor lighting. He bought a bunch of PVC pipe and decided to practice his methods on it because it was cheap.
“You can go broke with that clear acrylic,” he said. “I burned up a lot of PVC pipe. I think I even started some fires.”
Once he perfected the design with PVC pipe, he found that it didn’t translate that well to the clear acrylic and started looking to see if there were any practical applications for his invention. Once he realized there were, he was surprised to find that no one else had beaten him to it.
Existing tools for bending PVC pipe are cumbersome, less practical and more expensive, he said. He filed for a patent.
Once the patent was pending, he launched the website and waited for orders to roll in.
They didn’t. The problem – his site wasn’t showing up on search engines.
“We didn’t even show up on page 18 when we first started,” he said. “And I know I never look past page 2.”
He hired someone to help with search engine optimization. Once the business hit the first page of Google searches, orders started flowing.
Now he has three full-time sales people spread throughout the country and two full-time people building PVC Bendits in the R JetTek facility in Colorado Springs.
“I’m really working on quality control,” he said. “Once you go from one or two a day to 100 or 150 a month, there are some growing pains there.”