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September 21, 2014 | Tom Ballard

PART 2: Papa continues to refine his invention, making it better

Pocket In High Pro(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a two-part series on local inventor Carl Papa.)

By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

“I had an idea, acted on it, and stayed with it,” Knoxville inventor Carl Papa says of the device he developed to address the tendency of some golfers to not shift their weight to the front foot before hitting the ball.

“I continued to refine it to get it smaller and smaller,” he added. The now nearly five-year journey of persistence and constant improvement is testimony to what it takes to succeed as an inventor and entrepreneur.

Papa said that the first version relied on light circuitry that he crafted from old Christmas tree lights.

“I woke-up in the middle of the night, went to the garage, and started working,” he recalls in describing that initial design.

Papa was not intentionally following a prescribed process to vet his device like those suggested in the “Business Model Canvas” that is being used today in many of the region’s accelerators. Instead, he was simply applying common sense – talking to golf instructors and players to seek their input and constantly refining his version.

After the prototype that involved Christmas lights, a later version beeped. It was introduced at the Knoxville Open in 2011, but Papa felt it was still too bulky and included a mat that made it cumbersome to carry. The current model is much smaller and devoid of electronics; it clicks.

“This (newest model) would never have happened without the earlier versions,” Papa says.

The “Pocket Pin High Pro” costs $24.95, one-fourth the cost of his earlier version that incorporated a mat and electronics. More important, it is lightweight – three ounces – and can be carried in a pocket.

So, how has Papa been able to help golfers who are not properly shifting their weight?

The “Pocket Pin High Pro” produces a clicking sound when weight has shifted to the front foot during a golfer’s downswing. Papa explains that knowing your weight has transferred to the front foot creates the muscle memory needed to hit down and through the ball more consistently.

For those interested in visualizing how it works, the company has videos available here.

Like many inventors, Papa drew on the expertise of others. He cited an engineer in Friendsville who “took my ideas and converted them to drawings.” Rapid prototyping helped him limit the iteration process as he developed newer, better and less expensive versions.

Along the way, Papa also became familiar with the Tennessee Inventors Association (TIA). It was one of those happenstance events that he described as divine intervention.

“I invented a product with no idea how to market it,” Papa explained. So, as he was surfing the Internet for marketing tips, the inventor found TIA and learned on a Saturday morning meeting two days later. So, he decided to attend the session.

“I found them so friendly and asking how they could help,” Papa recalled. “The networking in the room was phenomenal.”

Today, in addition to leading his own company, Papa is also championing TIA where, for the last three years, he has served as the organization’s President.  He says membership is increasing, and Papa encourages other entrepreneurial inventors to attend the monthly Saturday morning sessions.

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