Three men with Lehigh Valley ties are finalists in a competition that could put their invention on sale at Walmart and Walmart.com.
Austin Benton, Ryan Conlin and P.J. Vrabel are the inventors and patent holders of Kool-Z, a higher-tech twist on the old-fashioned can cozy.
They, and their product, are now one of 20 finalists among thousands in the Walmart Get On The Shelf competition.
This is the second year of the competition in which individuals and businesses submit a product they'd like Walmart to offer their customers. The multi-stage contest includes opportunities for the public to vote online and winners get the opportunity to sell their product through Walmart.com.
After making the finals, the team was invited to Walmart.com headquarters to pitch the Kool-Z to a panel of judges. The presentation was filmed for an upcoming Internet TV show as part of the competition.
Their pitch began airing on Monday and can be viewed here, where you can also cast a vote until Thursday.
The winner will have their product offered for pre-sale on Walmart.com, with a chance to earn more company marketing support and to get the product placed on retail store shelves.
Kool-Z is a beverage cooler that hugs 12-ounce cans like a wetsuit, keeping drinks cold longer, making it great for the beach, a barbecue or relaxing outside. It’s got a swivel top so that your lips never have to touch the can.
Having worked on the product for four years and created several prototypes, the team came up with a final product—and a patent. The patent involves fully enclosing a 12-ounce beverage can, particularly around the lid area. Drinks contained and sealed in the Kool-Z won’t spill.
Conlin, who lives in Easton, is a financial advisor at Investment Advisors Management, also in Easton. Vrabel of Bethlehem is an employee benefits consultant for a commercial insurance broker in the city. Benton is a finance manager at a financial services company in Philadelphia.
Benton and Conlin are also 2002 graduates of Lehigh University.
“We’re just three regular guys who came up with an idea and decided to run with it,” said Benton. “We’re the underdogs in this race, big time. Most of the other products are part of established business and have sold huge amounts of product already. To think that we’re just starting out, and are competing with these businesses already, is wild.”