Louis Foreman says it often. "Everybody has a great idea. The problem is most people never really follow through on that idea."
But the CEO of Charlotte-based Enventys LLC, which helps inventors turn concepts into products, isn't most people. He holds nine patents for technologies behind such products as orthopedic braces, fabrics that adjust to hot and cold weather and bulletproof vests. His latest big idea is Everyday Edisons, a reality television show that debuts April 25 on Public Broadcasting Service. He's an executive producer.
Unlike American Inventors, a similar show broadcast on ABC last year, there is no competition among inventors and no voting by a television audience. Instead, the show follows 12 inventors as they work with industrial designers, engineers, patent lawyers, marketers and others.
Much of what Everyday Edisons will show is the work done by Enventys, which he started in 2001. Among the company's products are a safety helmet for pole vaulters, a glovelike device stroke victims can use in rehabilitation and a mechanical pet guinea pig. While Foreman enjoys working with neophytes and the show consumes much of his energy these days, Enventys gets 80% of its revenue from consumer-product companies.
Foreman, 39, won't disclose sales for the 38-employee company. He says compensation is tied to performance, with Enventys usually getting equity in a client company or royalties from sales of products it nurtures. "That creates discipline. If we have skin in the game on the projects we take on, we can't say yes to...