Everyone knows how irritating a wobbly table can be in a restaurant. Mike Rather has the answer and he has turned it into a steadily growing little business. Mike’s carefully-designed and manufactured wedges can stabilise any table and much more.
The Auckland-based graphic designer set up Wobbly Wedge Limited and since mid 2009, he has been selling the product in two sizes. "I was sitting at a wobbly table in a local cafe one day and thought to myself, ‘it's time someone made something to fix this'," says Mike. "The design popped into my head not long after ... I just knew the wedges would be round with a concave top."
He began experimenting with variations on the design at home. "I decided on two sizes. One small for tables, cabinets, shelves, desktops and benches," says Mike. "The larger version did the same sort of thing but would suit bigger items such as fridges, big cupboards, big shelves and doors. I then made a set of homemade rubbery samples to test out."
The next step was to work with a plastics manufacturer in Onehunga, who came up with injection moulding tools to Mike's preferred shapes and sizes. "From there, we set up the machine and made some test Wobblys before producing the first run of 1000," he recalls. The wedges are moulded in clear urethane, a particularly durable plastic but one that is also soft and flexible.
Since the first batch left the factory door, Wobbly Wedges have popped up in a wide variety of places including on building sites to space timbers during construction, and in offices and homes to cushion the vibration of instruments and appliances. "People keep finding new uses for the wedges because of their shape and soft resistance qualities. They hold things in place without damaging them or chipping paintwork," says Mike.
The Wobbly Wedge company has recently joined GS1 New Zealand to facilitate further sales by ensuring the product has globally unique identification and bar coding. So far, Mike has 10 customers, mostly suppliers to the hospitality sector where - as everyone knows -- there is no shortage of wobbly tables. "I've even heard of people going up to a restaurateur and telling him or her that they need wedges ... it's the kind of promotion that you just couldn't buy!"
The wedges are also being distributed through suppliers of photographic and engineering equipment. Mike says he is looking to expand the number and range of customers in New Zealand and overseas, with interest already shown from as far away as the Persian Gulf. Wobbly Wedge has design- and trade-mark protected its particular type of wedge in this country and Australia, with legal advice still being sought on securing the same in North America and Europe.
It has been a steep learning curve for Mike who has long been self employed as a graphic designer. "Over the years, I have learned a lot from clients and others about being in business. I've often thought it would be great to make your own product ... joining GS1 and applying stickers with bar codes to the packaged wedges has been another step in making that a reality," says Mike.