Mar 1, 2012 - By Joshua Scheer, Staff WriterRiverton businesswoman Jeri McFarlane has accomplished a feat few people do: invent a product and be able to produce and sell it.
"It came out of frustration," she said of her invention, the JarBox.
A JarBox is a plastic container made to store jars. The first iteration of the container holds 12 quart-sized jars.
"Every year my mom comes up for the summer," McFarlane said. "We can. We hunt and fish, and we can everything."
When the pair wrapped up their canning, she was always frustrated with the dirty state of her stored empty jars. There were also difficulties with her mother transporting her jars back to Arizona in her camper.
"Breakage was problem number one," McFarlane said, while noting the dead bugs, dust and other rodents that invade cardboard boxes.
"I said, 'I need a jar box.'"
She started looking for alternatives for storing her jars and couldn't find anything.
That was two years ago.
McFarlane, through her company Store-It-More LLC, hired Rob Wright and Pat Thayer of Riverton's Legacy Molding Corp. to help with the engineering.
Wright told her most inventors change their product 13 times before ending with a final design.
"At revision 24 we came up with the JarBox," she said. "It takes two years to reinvent the box."
Using jars full of water, McFarlane, her husband and the employees of Legacy took part in drop tests. Breakage was limited.
Wright estimated the protection provided by the JarBox is six times better than cardboard.
Legacy Molding will be producing the JarBoxes.
Wright purchased a 500-ton piece of machinery just for the product.
"We're really excited about it," he said. "We believe in the (JarBox) and think it's going to be a real boost to our business."
Elements of the design are protected under patents. The JarBox snaps shut, has special raised surfaces to make for safe stacking and has loops to tie them down. Each jar is separated from the others so they cannot bump into each other.
"It's designed to be an heirloom product," McFarlane said, "but you can recycle them."
Back in December, the first run of JarBoxes totaled 3,500. Of those, 1,000 were sold to an online retailer whose customers have provided McFarlane with feedback.
"To actually have something other people are willing to invest in ... it's really humbling," she said.
She's heard of people using the containers for reloading equipment, small children's toys, craft supplies and fly-tying items. She's even had requests for the product to be made in a camouflage pattern.
Currently, JarBoxes are being made in a nearly clear plastic after the first run was a solid tan color. McFarlane said early feedback indicated people wanted to be able to see what was in the containers.
She plans in the future to do limited production runs of seasonal colors.
In the coming months, McFarlane will be adding different sizes to the JarBox family. Next will likely be a 12-pack pint jar container. Prototypes are also in the works for six-packs for both quart and pint jars.
In Riverton, JarBoxes are available for sale at Linton's Big R.
The container is also available for sale online at a number of retailers. A list of retailers, which McFarlane plans to keep updated as she expects the number to grow, is available at www.jarbox.com.
The JarBox was one of five products chosen to represent Wyoming at a National Institute of Standards and Technology trade show in Orlando, Fla., and Washington, D.C.
The product also will be displayed at a number of other trade shows across the country this year.
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