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Inventors Pitch The King Of Infomercials

Sue Sorensen and her acupressure pillow. Click to view more pictures from the event.

How often do you see something in one of those late night commercials and mutter "Why didn't I think of that?" Well, 25 people who are thinking of those ideas were in Charlotte on Friday, hoping to make it big with their inventions. When the King of Infomercials wants to have a look at your latest invention, no distance is too far to travel. Joe Marshall came all the way from his tiny town of 150 in North California where he lives on a street called Pigturd Alley. "That's no kidding!" says Marshall with a chuckle. He made the trip for a five-minute audience with the man who invented the Ped Egg. You know that super-popular egg-shaped file that scrapes dead skin off your foot and catches the shavings? A.J. Khubani came up with that. He's constantly on the road looking for products to feature under the "As Seen on TV" logo of his infomercial empire. In Charlotte, he held court at Time Warner Cable Arena. "Most of the products we market come from everyday inventors," says Khubani. "We'll certainly find at least a few products here - at least one we can test market and hopefully be the next big thing." Joe Marshall of Pigturd Alley is waiting in the wings, and he's revved up on a Red Bull and a 5-Hour Energy Drink. "I'm good to go!" he says, and steps in front of the panel. His invention is called the "Hometch Flavor Injector." It's a canister with needles to squirt marinade into meat, cream into cupcakes, vodka into melon balls. And he swears it's way better than any other sauce injector on the market. Plus, it appeals to a wide demographic. "We've got old guys like me who like to barbecue," says Marshall. "We've got moms and grandmas who like to bake. We've got all the alcoholics. Everybody's covered on this!" The King of Infomercials is impressed. "Listen I think the presentation was very good, the visuals were excellent," says Khubani. "It could be an item." A few minutes later, it's Sue Sorensen's turn. She's a corporate trainer - also from California. And she's feeling a bit out of her element. "I'm talking to these people and they're like from a different planet," says Sorensen of the other inventors in the waiting room. "I've had people over there saying 'I did this, I did this, I did this one.' And I've got this." Her first - and only - invention is a pillow with rubber balls inside that hit acupressure points in your head and she says it has miraculously cured her snoring problem. When Khubani sees it, he's skeptical. But he says she's on the right track trying to solve a common problem like snoring. More than 300 inventors applied to meet with Khubani in Charlotte. He chose just 25. There's the CitTrease orange peeler. The Linerganizer to line and organize your drawers. There's a hook to keep your pants zipper up. Cicely Buchanan came up with that. "It's been a problem of mine for years and no matter what price point I buy pants at, it always seems to be one or two that seems to have that problem," says Buchanan. David Okamoto brought his sauce holder for people who eat in their cars. "Who wants to eat fries without ketchup?" says Okamoto. "Who wants to eat your Chicken McNuggets without sauces? There's always the problem of where do you put the sauce when you're eating it, and I have solved it." Khubani takes a pass on most of the ideas. And while it's a bummer to get rejected by a guru like Khubani, it's not the end of the line for most of these folks. They're serial inventors, always dreaming up something new. Which is just what it takes to succeed, says Khubani. "The truth is the majority of ideas do not make it commercially," he adds. " Think of Thomas Edison - the most famous inventor. He had a thousand patents to his name, but how many were commercially viable? Probably just a dozen out of the thousand that he invented." So keep on going, says Khubani, and hopefully you'll come up with the next big thing. Friday night the crowd at the Charlotte Checkers game will be asked to vote for the best of three inventors chosen as finalists: the sauce injector, the pants zipper lock and a tray for carrying hot food from the microwave to the table.

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