I grew up in an extremely small Texas town; all the members of my community knew who I was. I was the girl riding my four-wheeler for hours down the rock-paved streets. I was the girl selling crawdads I caught on the side of the farmer’s market road by the levy. I was the girl climbing around the creek with the neighbor boys, building forts and blowing up ant beds with fireworks. I was proud to be the only girl that could hang with the boys. The only time I remember crying was when my family wanted me to wear a dress or jewelry.
I’m 30 now. I wear dresses and proudly sport diamond engagement and wedding rings on my left hand. Unfortunately, it took a tragic accident for me to realize that when I’m outside playing hard, I shouldn’t wear the diamond rings my husband worked and saved for months to buy for me.
I was in love with my ring and never wanted to take it off. I am a high school art teacher and multi-sport coach, and I constantly use my hands on the job. I was always on the softball field catching in for my outfielders. One afternoon, I caught a ball and felt a sting in my ring finger. Removing my hand from my glove, I found that the softball had flattened my engagement ring into my finger, causing a diamond to fall out—a diamond that I never found and would definitely have to replace. I called my fiancée, and his response was, “I think I’m going to throw up!” I felt awful about the incident, but how was I supposed to know my engagement ring was so malleable? That ring was the first piece of nice jewelry I had ever owned and wanted to wear.
I considered the loss, a lesson learned the hard way but I never wanted to have that feeling again.
So I began searching for places to keep my ring when it wasn’t safe to wear it. Nothing available refrained from coming unzipped or unscrewed; nothing kept my rings safe from other elements that could scrape it.
I needed a protective, convenient, and consistent place to keep my rings from being damaged or lost, that could still give me peace of mind while I was hard at work or play. That’s when I decided to do something myself. I developed the Lion Latch—a small plastic container with a carabiner that latched the lid on tight and allowed me to attach it to my keys or inside my gym bag.
Originally, the Lion Latch was a single 3D printed container that I used myself. Other coaches or my athletes would see it and tell me they wanted one, too, but 3D printed items are expensive, and no one wanted to pay $30 for a piece of plastic—no matter how much it would save them in the long run. I began thinking of ways I could manufacture the Lion Latch and offer it to not only my friends but also to people all over the world.
After researching manufacturing costs, my idea came to a standstill. Where would I get the money to have an injection mold made in the U.S., without being out of pocket thousands of dollars? I researched grants and ways to achieve funding, and the option that spoke to me the loudest was crowd funding.
However, I was afraid to take such an expensive risk.
I was afraid to pursue my idea until I attended a Texas Tech graduation where Dr. Mica R. Endsley, chief scientist of the U.S. Air Force,was the guest speaker. I felt like Dr. Endsley was speaking directly to me when she said, “Most great ideas never leave the drawing board.” I wrote that quote down in my notebook, and the following week I started searching for a way to make my idea of the Lion Latch come to life.
Upon my return home, I decided I was going to make Lion Latch happen. I finalized a Lion Latch that appealed to more than just married people, and I began comparing U.S. manufacturers pricing. I spoke to several patent writers about protecting my idea, had a logo created, product photos taken, and made videos for the kick starter launch.
It was May and I decided I wanted to launch my campaign in October, promising the Lion Latch would be in hand in time for Christmas stocking stuffers. But if I did that, I would have to wait a following year, because I had to wait for funding to make the mold happen. I took another leap of faith. After speaking to business members of our community, I created a business plan and applied for a loan. The loan would be the same amount I was aiming to raise on my kick starter.
MY LOAN WAS APPROVED! I was able to finalize the deal with my manufacturer and have the Lion Latches pre-made before my kick starter campaign even launched. This was an even bigger risk than deciding to do a kick starter, because I could be out $15,000.
I had a plan.
A plan to reach out to the communities that I loved, asking for their help and support to get my idea funded.
I had posters made at our local print shop and began going out and meeting the small business owners of my community, telling them about the Lion Latch and asking if I could put up one of my posters in their business window. I also put my posters up in my school’s teacher’s lounge and copy room. I became a part of the local business alliance and attended morning coffee meetings to get the word out.
I sat on a town parade float and threw out kick starter fliers with lanyards attached to them. I went to girl’s athletics classes, stood on a plyometrics box and shared how the Lion Latch would prevent them from losing their small jewelry during athletics. I passed fliers out to runners at the local fun run check in. I emailed every volleyball parent I knew. I did an art lesson plan presentation at a conference and played Lion Latch videos on loop for people to watch as they were filling the room. I met with two big business owners in the community who contributed $1,000 each to have Lion Latches to give out as Christmas staff gifts. And lastly, I asked my social media community to share, share, share Lion Latch on their Facebook pages and invite their friends to like the page too.
I set a goal and decided I was going to do what it took to make it happen.
With the help of the multiple communities I was a part of, by the end of October, I had reached my kick starter funding goal. In December, my Lion Latches came in. My husband and I assembled them and shipped them out just in time for Christmas stocking stuffers.
My goal had been achieved, and my dream was coming to life!
The best part was that 85% of my backers were people I knew or were their friends. I can’t express how special that made me feel.
I am still that rough girl, playing outside and in the dirt. Now I know to take my rings off before I plan on getting dirty. That and Lion Latches are much easier to sell then crawdads.
Lerin Lockwood, the inventor of Lion Latch, played collegiate volleyball at Hill College in Hillsboro, Texas, where she was named the 2005 NJCAA Region V Defensive MVP of the conference. She received her Bachelor's of Art in Art at Texas State in 2008. Following graduation, Lockwood continued her coaching career as the assistant volleyball coach at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. She graduated from UIW with a Master's of Science in Sports management. Lerin left collegiate volleyball to accept a high school ceramics teaching and multi-sport coaching position in Marble Falls, Texas. Lerin Lockwood is entering her 14th season coaching various sports in the great state of Texas. She currently resides with her husband, Trent and French bulldog, Batman.