- Associated Press - Monday, June 8, 2015

CHARLEVOIX, Mich. (AP) - For Corey and Anne Schaub, a makeshift invention meant to entertain their children has evolved into a full-time business focus.

While visiting Anne’s parents, Al and Joy Hettig, at Six Mile Lake near East Jordan in summer 2012, the Northern Michigan natives sought a way to keep their kids occupied without digital devices close at hand.

The Hettigs’ pontoon boat wasn’t capable of speeds that the youngsters would find exciting, but Anne believed that adding a diving board to it might pique their interest. She asked Corey to tackle the project, and he spent about 20 minutes in her father’s workshop following through.

The result, which the couple now refer to as the “redneck diving board,” was constructed mainly with wood and duct tape, and used a basketball to provide spring action.

“We put it on the boat, and the kids had a blast all weekend long, and we of course jumped off too,” Anne told the Petoskey News-Review ( http://bit.ly/1KDKfEC ).

During the family’s five-hour car trip back to their then-home in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Anne researched to see if any boat-mounted diving boards were available commercially. She found none. A product-development idea began to take root, one that Anne and Corey began devoting time to alongside their full-time jobs.

Corey, whose work background includes stints in sales and design of extruded aluminum products and as a service manager for boats and recreational products, focused on the project’s engineering aspects. His wife, who has a business management degree and worked in nonprofit marketing in recent years, tackled marketing plans for the new diving board. Corey’s sons, Austin and Avery - now 15 and 17, respectively - offered input along the way, too.

“There were many designs and prototypes that we went through,” Anne said. “It was truly a family project.”

Along the way, one key challenge was finding a way to manage the downward forces generated by a diver jumping off the end of the board, which can cause significant up-and-down jarring of the boat.

“This design contains all of that,” Corey said.

The Schaubs’ diving board makes use of a progressive-rate urethane spring, a type used elsewhere in stamping equipment, to cancel the force from the jumping.

By fall 2013, the Schaubs were ready to seek out a manufacturer for the LilliPad diving board (named for their daughter, Lillian, now 3), and the product was ready for customers the following spring. Now living in Traverse City, Corey and Anne are making LilliPad their full-time work pursuit. Just shy of 800 LilliPad boards were sold in the product’s first year on the market, Corey noted.

With mostly aluminum construction, the diving boards list for $1,295 to $1,395, depending on mounting provisions. Surface and under-floor mount types are offered. The board can accommodate divers weighing up to 250 pounds, and instructions specify that water depth should be 15 feet or more for diving.

“We have close to 100 dealers across the country and in Canada,” Corey said, adding that one French retailer carries the diving board as well.

LilliPad Diving Boards recently announced a partnership allowing its product to be offered as an option on Michigan-built Avalon and Tahoe pontoon boats. The Schaubs also see opportunity in the houseboat industry, as well as with owners of power boats and sailboats that offer a flat area for installation. The diving board earned an Innovation Award in the watersport equipment category at the Miami International Boat Show earlier this year in Florida.

LilliPad currently has warehousing in Indiana, which the Schaubs would like to bring to Northern Michigan if the venture’s success continues.

To achieve a workable cost structure, the Schaubs have relied on overseas manufacturing - in China, to be specific - for the diving boards so far. But if business volume continues to grow, they’re hopeful that U.S. assembly could be a more cost-effective option for LilliPad in the future.

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Information from: Petoskey News-Review, http://www.petoskeynews.com

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