Robert Rivera is an owner-operator truck driver by trade. About two years ago, he had a “eureka moment” while performing routine maintenance on his tractor. As Rivera tells it, he was fumbling through his tool box when he came across a screwdriver with a screw holder permanently attached to the head.
“It was an older one from the ‘70s,” Rivera recalled. “I really didn’t trust the screw not to fall out, but I thought it was a good idea. It was just food for thought at first, but about a year later I finally devised a mechanism that holds screws in place.”
According to Rivera, the problem with existing non-magnetic screw holders is that they’re permanently attached to one screwdriver. He felt it would be better to have one detachable device that would work with all screwdrivers, and with a wide selection of screws. It also works on electric power drills. Rivera calls his invention the “Screw Claw.”
“It will work with a flat-head screw, but it’s designed for all screws, including multi-slotted screws like a Phillips head, and even hex head screws,” Rivera said.
The Screw Claw uses a locking mechanism to attach the device to most screwdrivers. The locking mechanism is attached to a spring with a hook or “claw” which holds the screw in place at the tip of the screwdriver.
In order to transform his prototype into a reality, Rivera turned to the McAllen Chamber of Commerce and its DesignPlace program. Through a partnership with South Texas College, the program helped Rivera take his idea from prototype to its final design.
“In my case, the program helped me design the prototypes,” Rivera said. “The chamber put me in contact with South Texas College and they had the engineers there help me refine the product and make the technical drawings. They also helped me make the connections with the packaging and things like that.”
“We love when we get people like Robert who are committed to their idea,” added McAllen Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Steve Ahlenius. “They keep, plugging away. The little victories start adding up, and they make a huge difference.”
The chamber also put Rivera in touch with a Fayetteville, Arkansas-based program called Communities Unlimited. The program seeks to foster entrepreneurship in historically-impoverished counties in a seven-state region that includes Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.
In mid-November, the organization sponsored Entrepreneurs Unlimited: A Pitch Contest, which drew 50 entries from across the region. Rivera’s Screw Claw was chosen as one of 15 finalists. Rivera and the other finalists then submitted a video sales pitch for their respective products, which were voted on by a panel of judges and members of the public who viewed the competition online.
Tasha Moore of Little Rock, Arkansas, took first place for her online Spanish class idea, and Rivera took second place honors for his Screw Claw invention.
“I was stunned,” Rivera said. “My microphone wasn’t working, so I wasn’t able to say anything. I just typed in my appreciation that I was able to enter. It was a win-win in my case. Just being able to place was unexpected, because there were so many good entries.”
Rivera is now marketing his invention to everyone from professionals like electricians and construction workers to the do-it-yourselfer. He says he has produced 1,000 Screw Claws, and has sold about 100 units so far.
“From the research that I’ve done, there are 125 million households in the United States and there’s a screwdriver in virtually every household, so there’s a big potential market out there,” Rivera said.
“We’ve been working with Robert for about two years and a lot of the credit goes to him,” added Ahlenius. “His resiliency and his willingness to stick to it is what’s driving his success. That’s the common thread we see with all successful entrepreneurs.”
You can watch Rivera’s sales pitch to the Entrepreneurs Unlimited Pitch Contest at www.communitiesu.org/pitchcontest/