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Orlando Sentinel; Orlando, Fla.; May 23, 1993; Jane Applegate;

Almost four years later, McGinley and his wife, [Sheryl McGinley], are selling Lounge Lokrs to hotels and resorts. The tough, plastic locking drawer is designed to be installed under outdoor chairs and sells for less than $40. After stowing towels, books and suntan lotion, the guests attach the locker keys to their wrists with waterproof nylon wristbands.

Full Text:
(Copyright 1993)

The glistening hotel pool beckoned John McGinley to jump in. But he was reluctant to leave his wallet and room key under a towel. He wondered why there wasn't any safe place to leave his stuff while he swam a few laps. That's when the idea for a lounge chair locker hit him. Almost four years later, McGinley and his wife, Sheryl, are selling Lounge Lokrs to hotels and resorts. The tough, plastic locking drawer is designed to be installed under outdoor chairs and sells for less than $40. After stowing towels, books and suntan lotion, the guests attach the locker keys to their wrists with waterproof nylon wristbands.

"When we received the patent in 1991 we went to manufacturers to see if we could make the lockers and make money," said McGinley, who works as a construction supervisor at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles.

When the financial aspects looked good, McGinley began writing a business plan. But, unlike many entrepreneurs who barrel ahead without enough market research, McGinley took his idea to a respected hotel security chief to see if his invention made sense.

It did.

"We think the product offers a tremendous service and has a great deal of merit," said Dick Hudak, director of corporate security for ITT Sheraton Corp., one of the world's largest hotel chains. "We would like to be part of John's success."

Hudak said Sheraton plans to install Lounge Lokrs at a few hotels in Hawaii and Mexico this summer to see if guests like the product.

the Lounge Lokr should be considered an amenity and convenience, rather than a foolproof security system, Hudak said.

"We will be stressing the convenience and not recommending guests put a $500 bankroll in there," he said.

The hotel industry, especially the Hotel and Motel Association's security committee, is working hard to protect hotel guests from criminals, Hudak said.

Hotel security has made headlines in recent months. The May issue of Money magazine has a major feature on traveler safety. It quotes a survey on hotel crime conducted last year by Corporate Travel magazine and Beta Research. Almost a quarter of the 227 executives interviewed had been a victim of hotel crime.

Although hotel executives are embracing the Lounge Lokr, the McGinleys are working furiously to get the product made. They raised about $70,000 from friends, relatives and a few of McGinley's co-workers to get the prototype off the ground.

"We cashed in $17,000 worth of double E savings bonds and used what we saved for a down payment on a house to get the company going," McGinley said. "We're shoestringing it now while I'm still trying to raise more money."

John focuses on the design, manufacturing and finances. Sheryl, who has a background in marketing, is preparing brochures and sales material for the lockers.

McGinley is working until midnight most nights, pushing ahead on the Lounge Lokr after putting in a full day at Paramount. He's saving vacation days to go to Hawaii in August so he can participate in the Sheraton's on-site test.

"I want to watch people's responses to the locker because we won't be putting them on all the chairs," said McGinley, who hopes to ship the first lockers for commercial use in September.

Steven Nim, owner and general manager of the Anaheim International Inn and Suites, is awaiting his first batch of Lounge Lokrs for use at his 120-room motel near Disneyland Park.

"When John showed me a prototype, I told him it was a fantastic idea," Nim said. "It's a neat way of providing the guests with peace of mind, so they are able to go out there by the pool and have somewhere to put their things."

Jane Applegate is a syndicated columnist and author.

From the Small Business Development Center, College of Business Administration, University of Central Florida

Turning any innovative idea into a profitable business venture is a complicated process involving invention, marketing, manufacturing and distribution - all of which require adequate financial support. The road from the drawing board to the marketplace is a long and expensive road to travel.

The Florida Product Innovation Center is one of a handful of publicly funded innovation centers in the United States designed to assist in innovation development. Funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration through the Florida Small Business Development Center Network, the Florida Product Innovation Center assists the inventor/entrepreneur in evaluating the likelihood for success of an idea before that inventor commits significant time and money to a full-scale marketing effort. The center's primary thrust is to support statewide efforts in innovation through individual consultation, group training and innovation dissemination.

Through the work of a full-time product innovation specialist, the center links the entrepreneur to a comprehensive network of resources. The center's advisory board includes experts in the areas of financing, patent law, international marketing, product development, innovation management and many specific technical fields. In addition, the center provides its clients access to the state's universities, federal and state government agencies, venture-capital firms, private investors and inventor organizations.

Ideas to Dollars is a monthly seminar designed to introduce the inventor/entrepreneur to this process. This three-hour program is offered by the UCF Small Business Development Center. For more information, call (407) 823-5554.

Sub Title:
     [3 STAR Edition]
Column Name:
     Small business
Start Page:
     ITT Sheraton CorpDuns:00-192-7326Sic:6719Sic:7011

Reproduced with permission of the copyright owner.

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