Scott Kaufmann remembers the exact day and time he changed professions from golf professional and golf-course designer to inventor.
“Like most inventions, it came to me accidentally,” said the Matthews resident. “I was thinking about something that was more function over form and woke up at 3:30 a.m. on Feb. 5, 2011.”
Kaufmann had been reading Napoleon Hill’s bestseller “Think and Grow Rich” before bedtime. “That started a dumb-downed journey of learning about provisional patents and starting to look for money,” he said.
His first investor came the following day in the most unlikely of places: the gym.
“You know how you work out next to people day after day but you never get to know those folks? I knew one guy drove a really nice car and thought, ‘I am going to approach him today and introduce myself.’ He seemed a likely candidate, ” said Kaufmann, adding that Jeff, his new gym buddy, turned out to be a patent attorney.
“In all of my 46 years, I have never met a patent attorney, and here I’ve been working out next to one for more than two years.”
Kaufmann recruited 11 stockholders to provide startup money to design, research and build a prototype of an unusual hard-maple, hollowed-out cutting board that when flipped revealed a background of glass mosaic tiles, a magnetic strip and three to five stainless-steel knives, depending on the board’s size. He received patent approval for the cutting board design Dec. 12.
Operating under the name Affero, which means “to carry or turn over” in Latin, it took Kaufmann three days to make a prototype using “inferior tools,” he said.
He now makes each board by hand and packages them in a manufacturing warehouse/office in Matthews. His wife, Jennifer Willis, handles marketing and arranges appearances at major housewares and kitchen trade shows.
“They are meant to be displayed upright on a kitchen counter as a space-saving tool,” said Kaufmann, a self-proclaimed Food Network junkie. “It eliminates the need for a wooden knife block, which can be unsanitary, and it also frees up space that a large, flat butcher block-type wooden cutting board might use on a counter.”
The largest board in the collection is a hard-maple oval that is 8 inches wide,16.5 inches high and 3 inches thick. Customers have two choices of tile and receive a five-piece cutlery set “hidden” under the board. It is Kaufmann’s best seller, at $389.99, and he will take custom tile orders to match a user’s kitchen decor.
There is also a hard-maple rectangle board with three knives and six tile options for $259.99. The smallest board is made of acacia wood and features no tiles and three knives for $149.99.
Wood cutting-board care is vital, notes Kaufmann, reminding users to not cut raw meat or chicken on a wooden board. Clean each board with a warm/soapy cloth.
“Never, ever run a wooden board under water or immerse it,” said Kaufmann.
Honing cutting boards is far different from Kaufmann’s business start as a public accountant in his home state of Indiana. After a few years of accountant work – and at the envy of co-workers – he quit his job and moved to Myrtle Beach to accept a position as a golf pro.
Five years later, he became involved in the development of Emerald Lake Golf Course in Matthews, designing the course. After that project and his move to Charlotte, he worked as a housing developer and real estate agent.
“Because of the collapse of the real estate market, I began redefining myself as an inventor,” he said. “I started to realize I could visualize things that maybe the average person can’t see.”
Kaufmann said he has six other patents pending. On his desk sits a motto he borrowed from IKEA: “Look behind. Look below. Look under. There is always some unused space to discover.”
Conroy: 704-358-5353; Twitter: @ConroyKathleen
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