With persistence, contractor sees his invention reach new heights

Everyone knows the challenge and fear of carrying out home maintenance jobs that require tool management while standing on a sloped roof.

That “problem,” according to retired, fourth-generation painting contractor Tracy Wickwire, is what sparked his creative imagination just over 12 years ago. Today, he can now claim credit for an elegant and practical solution: an angled, adjustable and affordable tool and product carrier known as the Wicky Tool.

“Creating this tool was about starting something that I believe in and carrying it through,” Wickwire said. “I understand why about 95 percent of people who have a good idea never make it to a fully developed product. The road is long and the cost is high. But, if you quit, you can never win.”

And “won” he has, with the first 1,500 Wicky Tools just arrived in Hood River for distribution to regional hardware stores.

The tool is a sleek, miniature platform with adjustable restraints that can accommodate and attach to different-size paint cans and work buckets. It sports two “legs” that can adjust to different roof slopes with textured rubber feet that secure the platform in place, even on slippery metal roofs.

Since the platform attaches to the bucket, it can be carried as one unit, eliminating the handyman’s need to carry two separate items onto the roof and risk additional maneuvering.

“This tool allows you to secure your product and tools easily before getting on the roof and concentrate more on your own safety while working on a roof,” said Wickwire. The Wicky Tool works on roof pitches between 3/12 and 6/12, the most common found in homes today.

The road to creating the Wicky Tool was not an easy one, but Wickwire has a message to anyone with potential “solutions” out there.

“I always wanted to invent something,” he said. “I first designed a wooden version of the Wicky Tool over 12 years ago to help me on my own 5/12 angle metal roof. I knew I needed something that I could set a bucket down on my roof so it wouldn’t fall off.

“It’s the road from prototype to product that is so difficult. But this is America, and if you really believe and have the passion in your idea and stay the course, you can be successful,” he said.

According to Wickwire, one of the greatest resources available to help in the long road to production was the Columbia Gorge Community College’s Small Business Development Center.

“Mary Merrill and Guy Moser at SBDC both helped me carry this through,” he said. Wickwire also attended the Oregon Entrepreneurs Network business accelerator boot camp coordinated by Robin Cope.

With these two resources, Wickwire developed a business plan, explored and developed resources, worked through design modifications and explored financing before reaching his goal.

Wickwire notes that two other Hood River-based individuals played critical roles in the actualization of his idea: design engineer Caleb Walker and business partner Jeff Nicol.

Walker, according to Wickwire, met with him hundreds of times to fine-tune design elements of the product.

Nicol got on board as a financial partner after Wickwire and his wife, Pattie, pitched the idea during an OEN Angel Conference preliminary round “pub talk” in 2011. By that time, Wickwire had already applied for a patent on his product and was ready to move forward. Additional shareholders have been added since.

“We now have a great company formed with a great logo and brand. We have our manufacturer and tooling and the Wicky Tool is in full production,” said Wickwire.

And, the price is right.

“There are a couple of other roof tools out there but they are very heavy and expensive, hard to store and don’t connect to your bucket,” said Wickwire. “We have been able to design a very well-built, easily stored and quality tool that fits in both the professional and do-it-yourself markets with a suggested retail price of $29.95.”

Local stores who have agreed to carry the Wicky Tool include Morgan Paint and Hometown Paint. Wickwire hopes to finalize agreements with other local and regional retailers including Hood River Supply, Miller Paint and Jerry’s Building Supply.

Wickwire is also in negotiations with Dunn & Edwards and Paint Sundries and Solutions — two large national distributors.

The Wickwire Tool Company is now official and more tools are in development, said Wickwire. Perhaps tied to his eight years serving in the U.S. Navy, he has a strong personal motto he lives: “If you quit, you lose. Simply never quit.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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