Juli Lank's To-Go Sealer won best in three categories at the 32nd-annual INPEX convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
For the past 15 years, each time Juli Lank thought up a new invention, she would go over to her parent’s house to see her father.
“Dad, I’ve got an idea,” she used to say.
Her father would groan, something along the lines of “Oh God” on his breath, but she would reassure him that it was a very good idea.
On June 15, 46-year-old Lank won three gold medals for an on-the-go bag sealer prototype at INPEX, America’s largest invention trade show. The To-Go Sealer, as Lank is currently calling it, ranked best in the arts and crafts, medical and kitchen categories at the 32nd-annual show in Pittsburgh.
“There are people that have good ideas, and then there are inventors."
Juli Lank, local inventor
She first thought of the concept for the To-Go Sealer two years ago. At the time, she worked as a nurse at the Halifax Medical Health Center and was bringing her lunch from home to help her keep up with her dieting. She was having trouble fitting all of the components of her meals in a lunch box and was looking for other ways to pack her food without Tupperware.
Originally, she tried to seal plastic bags with a flat iron, but that didn’t work. Instead of sealing, it shriveled and burned the plastic. So she started tinkering.
“There are people that have good ideas, and then there are inventors,” Lank said.
From when she was a child, she’d always have ideas pop into her head. She said the difference between an inventor and someone that simply has good ideas is that an inventor can’t stop after thinking of ways to make things better or easier and acts on them. Lank called it an obsession.
Because of the amount of time and money that goes into creating new products, Lank said it’s a miracle anything gets invented. She added that people have to be passionate and love it, since only about 2 percent of inventions actually make it to the market.
“If you’re fear-driven, this is not your market,” Lank said.
After 14 years working as a nurse in local hospitals, Lank decided to work on her inventions full-time. This is the first idea she’s gotten patented.
Thanks to the INPEX convention, Lank has six different parties interested in her To-Go Sealer. Of those six, two of those are Cuisinart and the QVC network.
When Lank came up with the idea for the To-Go Sealer, she went over to her parents’ house to tell her dad as usual. This time though, her father had a different reaction.
“You might [have] something, Juli,” her father said at the time.
Lank’s father died on June 8, the Thursday before the start of the INPEX convention. Because of his declining health, Lank hadn’t planned to attend the convention, but felt her father’s death was like permission for her to go.
“It felt like I did it for him,” Lank said.
Winning the gold medals was like a tribute to her father, Lank said, especially because of how he reacted when she told him about her big idea.
“Out of all of the things that he thought were harebrained, he really liked this one,” Lank said.