Talking Shop with Michael Peters, inventor of Myfloatingbar

Monday, March 12, 2012
Michael Peters is owner of Myfloatingbar.com which offers a floating bar, canopy and cooler so the owner can take the party to the water. (Fred Lynch)

Michael Peters is in the business of fun. With his invention, Myfloatingbar, he says he's taking the party to the water. Now, his creation is competing in an online contest, "Get on the Shelf," sponsored by Wal-Mart. He's hoping to be one of three winners with the most votes to get a shot at selling his product on Walmart.com or in physical Walmart stores.

Myfloatingbar is a modular, swim-up bar that can be used and purchased in individual pieces or as a package. The five-piece assembly fits a pop-up canopy to provide shade in the water, keeping cold drinks handy at the same time. It even includes cupholders, and one model fits a cooler to keep it upright in the lake, pool or on a float trip.

The Jackson native began his career in engineering and surveying, developing those skills into a home building and real estate development business. He says his new business is something much more fun and enjoyable. While he devotes most of his time now to Myfloatingbar, Peters continues to operate a home repair and remodeling business called The Honey Do Company of Cape Girardeau.

Q: Where did the inspiration for Myfloatingbar come from?

A: As an avid boater, I spend as much time on the lake as possible. A couple of years ago, I met the most wonderful, fair-skinned girl in the world, my girlfriend Nicole. She said to me, "I really like coming to the lake with you, but I don't think I can handle it as much as you. To escape the sun, I have to be on the boat in the heat. And to escape the heat, I have to be in the sun." The thought instantly popped into my head, and the prototype was born within a week. And she has been happy ever since, I may add.

Q: What steps were involved in turning your idea into a viable product?

A: After the prototype was created, a patent search was enacted. When that came back clear, we decided to apply for a provisional patent. This allows one year for perfection of the product, without the fear of infringement. After achieving "patent pending" status, I interviewed many blow molders in the plastic industry, most of which have an in-house design team. This part was discouraging. I'm sure they get a lot of people wasting their time on projects that never come to be. So I decided to head in a different direction and find a mold designer of my own, for I already had the basics of what I wanted. This was definitely the right move. He and I set a land speed record of pushing a project! Normally takes 10 to 12 months, we did it in six weeks. He helped me find a mold manufacturer, as well as the final blow molder. Then it was time to present it to the marketplace. We have done trade shows in Tulsa, Chicago, St. Louis, Miami, Orlando, Minneapolis, Lake of the Ozarks, Lake Martin, Destin, Fla., and Fort Worth, Texas. In the process, we have established many great contacts, as well as retailers.

Q: Was it difficult to get retailers to carry your product?

A: Getting retailers to carry the product is an ongoing challenge, but once they have seen the product in use, or have used it themselves, they are sold. It has been a little discouraging with some of the medium-sized retailers. They seem to forget that they were a small business once also. The small and the large retailers are much better to work with.

Q: How did you learn about the On the Shelf contest?

A: I was at a trade show, when I received a phone call from a close friend. She described to me what it was, and said, "We gotta do this!" The voting links are below: www.getontheshelf.com/product/2358/Myflo... or text 2358 to 383838. People can vote once a day by both methods. Or visit myfloatingbar.com and click the link.

Q: What was the biggest challenge in starting your own business?

A: The biggest challenge in starting and keeping any small business running is cash flow. As any business owner knows, having a great idea, or being able to do the task is only about 15 percent of what it takes.

Q: What has been most rewarding?

A: Probably the most rewarding part of this process is the fact that we have managed to keep all of the manufacturing of the products we make right here in the U.S.A. Watching your small business grow, attending trade shows, watching people's faces and listening to the comments, and, of course, making the sale is a close second. Knowing whatever life's challenges throw your way, you can handle them, and handle them well.

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