From Napkin to National

Carmel Valley San Diego Community | Michael Sick | Lanai Pool PumpIt was not that long ago that I found myself at lunch at TavérnaBlu in the Del Mar Highlands Center with an inventor and his business partner.  There’s no shortage of restaurants in Carmel Valley and you can count on business being transacted in most of them any given day.  If there were research to prove it, I would bet there are more napkins consumed in Carmel Valley restaurants than any other zip code in the city.  Not because folks in Carmel Valley are messier than usual, but they are being doodled on to be the proverbial “back to the napkin”.

The inventor, Lonny Stephens, is a home builder from Lakeside and he determined that the average home with a swimming pool was spending about $1800 annually to run the swimming pool pump.  He also figured out that the pump was way over powered most of the time and re-circulating water could be done with a much more efficient pump.  While Lonnie was strong in construction and had a head for engineering, taking a product to market was new to him so he applied to Connect’s Springboard program for mentoring.  While Connect is located in nearby UTC, Lonnie was willing to come to Carmel Valley for a working lunch.

Lonny’s concept was to develop a new way to think about running a pool pumping system.  As electricity costs have gone up over the past years, pump manufacturers have worked to come up with more efficient pumps that had variable speeds to size the power requirement to the need, as many pool pumps cost up to 80¢ per hour to run.  These pumps have tended to be expensive, difficult to program and generally not put into service till the existing pump needed to be replaced.  Lonny’s concept ( was to add a second pump that would run most of the time to re-circulate the pool water.  Adding capital to reduce operating expense was a novel idea in the swimming pool business and Lonnie’s invention has a financial return of 60-70% which pays back the initial investment in less than two years and gives the homeowner a dramatically reduced bill from then on.  At 3¢ per hour, the Lanai Pool Pump is likely to be well received.

In this era of rising energy costs and dependence on mid East oil, the concept of energy efficiency is a compelling one that resonates not only here in Carmel Valley and California (where there are 1 million residential pools) but also around the world.  Reducing your electric bill by $125-150 per month is also an appealing proposition wherever you are.

Entrepreneurs like Lonnie are what America needs more of.  Not only is he making his product in San Diego and putting Americans back to work, but the money that pool owners can save on their electric bill will hopefully find its way to restaurants in Carmel Valley where the next entrepreneurial venture may being planned at the next table….

Carmel Valley San Diego Community | Michael SickMike Sick is an independent marketing consultant that has worked businesses and clients around the world from his home office in Carmel Valley since 2003.  Having worked with over 50 businesses in a cross section of industries, Mike will write about tips and tricks learned along the way to help you grow or start your business.  Prior to starting his business, Mike was a migrant marketing worker that traveled around the country as a corporate marketing executive.  He has worked for many well known brands including Jack In The Box, Pearle Vision and Arby’s where he was a Marketing VP.  Having worked with a number of inventors, Mike was inspired to invent his own product, a body surfing paddle called the Surf-Grip.  So now even a trip to the beach has a business angle!  A long time volunteer with Connect Springboard, Mike will also introduce San Diego start-ups and Carmel Valley entrepreneurs in his column.  The Sickness is the belief you can get better every day.  Go for it!


Carmel Valley San Diego Community | RIDE Cyclery Encinitas

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