- Associated Press - Monday, October 27, 2014

BEAUFORT, S.C. (AP) - Bluffton brainiacs Matt Gulick and Mike Finlen are taking their will trying to land investors and their own infomercial for their screwy new invention.

Gulick and Finlen’s idea is a fresh take on keeping household foods from going stale: introducing the “Cereal Screw Spout.”

The product is precisely what its name implies - a plastic screw that can be turned into a bag of sugar or a box of cereal to add a secure spout for easier pouring, longer freshness and spill prevention.

The duo is among about 30 inventors with the chance to pitch their new products to Ajit Khubani, the CEO of Telebrands. The company is behind the quirky “As Seen on TV” commercials for products you never knew you needed.

The idea for the device began unfolding one morning six weeks ago, when Gulick saw a grimace spread across his son’s face after scarfing down a spoonful of stale cereal.

“He was so disappointed,” Gulick said. “It pulls at the heartstrings: A small son being disappointed by his father, and a man beginning a journey to never disappoint him again.”

Gulick relayed the episode with his son to Finlen, and the two thought back to their days as combat engineers in the U.S. Marine Corps stationed in Okinawa, Japan, and during an eight-month combat tour in Iraq.

The pair brainstormed a simple device that uses the physics of a screw to securely attach a spout and cap to the side of his son’s cereal box.

“In the Marines we used to say, ‘Keep It Stupid Simple,’ KISS, and that’s what we did,” Gulick said.

The pair made their first prototype using a 6-inch section of PVC pipe and a Gatorade cap. It was an instant hit among family and friends, they said Friday.

However, friends saw more potential beyond boxes of Rice Krispies. Add several different sizes and variations, and Gulick and Finlen could make screw-spouts for just about any packaging, from cereal boxes to heavy dog-food bags.

The newly minted inventors decided to pitch their idea to Telebrands and filmed a YouTube video playing off the company’s formula for commercials, made famous by late salesman Billy Mays, Finlen said.

The company invited them to Los Angeles to participate in its monthly “Investor Day,” Gulick said. Now the pair is dishing out almost $2,000 of their own money to make the trip. They have secured a provisional patent for the device, all in the hopes Telebrands will help them finish and market the product, they said.

“It’s like the train’s left the station, and we’re just running to catch up,” Gulick said. “This thing has gone so fast.”

“We’ve been working on this constantly; it’s been crazy,” Finlen added. “I’ll probably sleep for 24 hours when we get back” from the pitch.

The send-up commercial also attracted the attention of the producers of “Make Me a Millionaire Inventor,” a show produced in the United Kingdom that helps jump-start inventions. Producers are working on an American version of the show, according to Finlen, and the pair should know in about a month if they will be cast, Gulick added.

If the screw-spout isn’t picked up by Telebrands or the TV show, Gulick plans to shop the product to local investors.

“The first thing we’ll do if we make money off this will be to donate a bunch to a food bank,” Finlen teased. “Because we’ve wasted a lot of food on this in research and development.”

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Follow Zach Murdock on Twitter at https://twitter.com/IPBG_Zach

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