After formerly-retired local Dan Weatherly, 71, learned that happiness for him isn’t merely reveling in past accomplishments, in recent years he has checked off a lifetime bucket list item: Patenting an original idea.
Weatherly can be found set up among vendors at local events like Bridge Street LIVE! and the Farmer’s Market amazing passerby’s with the wildly simple yet effective idea he calls Tap-Its. At first glance, it just looks like a screw, but there’s more than meets the eye.
“Do you use pump bottle hand lotion?” Weatherly asks as he resounds his standard pitch. “Yeah, everybody uses pump bottle hand lotion. Well what happens when you get to the last pump? Well usually what you do is you unscrew the top … turn it over and start the beatings. And you beat it to death. *Or* you can use the Tap-Its.”
Tap-Its is a specially designed screw that can easily be screwed into the bottom of any nearly-empty plastic bottle of lotion, helping you use up the last of its contents with ease in the days and weeks to come. Like many inventions, Tap-Its is something to make life just a little easier.
But while it seems simple and easy, it took Weatherly most of his life before reaching this patentable idea. His first attempt was at the age of nine.
“I had my mother, because I was nine, type me a letter to the Department of Navy, and I described in very much detail how to use drones, and what the benefits were and how to launch them … and I was 9 so that was about ’60. It took a little bit of time, but they finally started using drones,” he said, laughing.
And over the years other ideas came to him that he thought were sure winners; and they were, but for someone else who had gotten there first, previously patenting them. So kudos to those who had the notion first of things like a cooler that pushes hot air from your garage, or a caddy to hold a generator on the back of an electric car to give drivers peace of mind when traveling long distances.
“I’ve always tried to live my life and make decisions based on a good story. A lot of people kind of stumble through life. I’ve tried to navigate my life so it’d be a good story at the end, because that’s all you have is a good story. And I’ve got lots of stories — good ones,” he said, laughing. “And having a patent is just one of them.”
Born and raised in San Francisco, Weatherly retired and left the Bay Area for a life of rural living in Eufaula, Oklahoma, at the age of 50.
“I will never even consider retiring again, because that is just close to death,” he said. “It’s just you do nothing. The fun part is you do nothing, but how long can you do nothing?”
Weatherly explains most people’s lives go through "different and very specific sections."
“There’s the breeding section … and then it’ll start to come to accumulation, when we try to accumulate things and money and then after you’ve accumulated a certain amount. Then you’re going to have the distribution time — the older time — when you hopefully, if you’ve been reasonably successful, have enough money to live comfortably when you no longer want or have to work.”
He says he’s never been on this track, and it’s never interested him.
“The only time I’ve stopped is when I retired, and that’s the only time I really stopped and it was horrible. I lived in a beautiful home overlooking a gorgeous lake, and I became a professional weed eater and tree cutter-downer, and that’s all I did for four years.”
After those four “golden” years, Weatherly decided retirement wasn’t for him, and he came out to move back to California — this time to Newport Beach — where he would purchase and learn how to sail a 70-foot sailboat.
Once he was done sailing and living in California, he found Hot Springs.
“When you live on the coast, you can’t imagine there’s anything of real value between the flyover states, I mean you really can’t,” Weatherly said. “And when I started to see how beautiful it was here … I said what a charming little kind of a unique historical town on a lake, and it’s beautiful.”
His move to Hot Springs was nearly three years ago.
“I now live a very quiet life, which is fine because I’ve lived a very busy life, which is good,” Weatherly said.
And in that newfound quiet life, he has managed to check off the lifelong bucket list item of obtaining a U.S. Patent through his creation of Tap-Its.
“I just realized, I was opening up a bottle, the bottom of it, with a knife, and I was just holding it tight and having to squirt it out, and I said, ‘Hey.’ That was the genesis of Tap-It’s. And then from there I had to figure out how to make a product that wouldn’t leak.”
Weatherly started showing the product at public events over a year ago .
“Up until then it was friends and family, and friends and family will like anything because they’re friends and family,” he said. “So, it really wasn’t a good indication. When I went to my first fair and I demonstrated it … and I squeeze that bottle, people — they’re eyes would get big and they would just be — like I did a magic trick.
“And so I came home from that first fair and I call my daughter and I said, ‘this really is a winner.’”
Weatherly said the reception he has gotten from the public leads him to believe Tap-Its will one day be worth small millions.
“When you can close 60% of the people you pitch on a brand new product, brand new category — brand new product, brand new category — it’s not a better mousetrap, it’s the first time they saw the mousetrap. They didn’t even understand what it was,” he said. “When you can close that many people, that means they give you money, they give you money right there, it’s not like, ‘oh, I like the idea,’ they just gave you money. That’s kind of unheard of in sales. It’s like an amazing closing percentage with a brand new product and a brand new thing.”
At the age of 71, as Weatherly navigates his newest journey of pitching and selling his idea past the stage of its patenting, he says even if in the end it doesn’t make those small millions, he will still look at Tap-Its as a success because he has done the one thing he set out to do: He has obtained the long-desired U.S. Patent.