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'Charlotte: Mission Possible' turns to your ideas


Times are tough for social service agencies and charities. Budgets have been slashed while demands for their services are increasing. Several media organizations, including WFAE, have teamed up to help find a solution. We call this project Charlotte: Mission Possible. A company in Charlotte is also playing an instrumental role in the project. It's tasked with asking the public for ideas to help charities improve their services. WFAE's Simone Orendain has this report on Edison Nation and its role in Charlotte: Mission Possible. To learn about Edison Nation you first have to find out what Everyday Edisons is. "This is where dreams come to life. What you're looking at here is a television studio," says Michael Cable, host of Everyday Edisons, a TV show. The Everyday Edisons TV studio is a 100 year old former gristmill near uptown Charlotte. "Everything is being filmed here all the time," he explains. "We use every inch of our studio, what we call our invention factory for all kinds of different things." The part reality-part documentary show follows how ordinary people's ideas turn into products that are put to good use by anyone. Cable says, "We're not talking biotech or rocket science, just things that make consumers lives easier, save time or make life more enjoyable. Really simple things, useful things." Like a cat scratching post that's covered with sand paper- "Emery Cat" so your cat can file its own nails. It costs around $335,000 for Everyday Edisons parent company, Enventys, to get a product to the point where it's manufactured. Enventys gets a cut of royalties from sales of the product. "Emery Cat" is now on shelves at Wal-Mart. Other products can be bought online or via infomercial. Cable says the casting calls can be overwhelming affairs. And so, the Edison Nation website was born. Edison Nation is a social network for everyday inventors and anyone with a good idea. Matt Spangard heads the networking site. "Which allows us to have unlimited virtual auditions for an unlimited number of major retailers and manufacturers around the globe now rather than helping 10-12 inventors per year, we're able to help hundred, thousands per year," he says. The Edison Nation website links people with ideas to retailers that put out specific criteria of what they're looking for. Spangard says, "We're able to go straight from the idea person to the retailer who also is a manufacturer. They can take it to market much quicker. They'll can get behind it from a marketing perspective because they're representing that product solely on their own." Now, Edison Nation is applying its approach to Charlotte: Mission Possible. "This is completely pro bono for us. This is us giving back to the community and giving back to Charlotte. We have a great platform that works on the new products side. We wanted to give it a whirl on the charitable side as well," says Spangard. Edison Nation set up a log-in site for Charlotte: Mission Possible, where people can post their ideas on helping charities. In this case, "inventors" are the everyday newspaper and news website readers, TV viewers and radio listeners. Their "products" will be solutions for social problems. The "companies" - if they accept these ideas - will be charities and community leaders. The log-in site goes live July 19. Spangard notes it'll be a little different from vetting an idea for a consumer product. He says, "I think it's really important that people reviewing these ideas on the roundtable team don't bring too much of their own background to reviews. Because That's where often times things will go wrong. That's where people who are experts will say, 'Oh, that will never work.' You really need to approach it with an open mind." As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. Spangard adds lots of good inventions and innovations come during tough economic times. With charities battered in this recession, the time just might be ripe for some solid ideas that will help.