WILLMAR, Minn. — The spark of inspiration can happen at any time and be caused by the smallest of things. For Steve Vossen and Julie Vossen-Henslin of Willmar, it was the 2 inches of shampoo left in the bottle after the pump stopped working.
"I used to cut the bottle off," Vossen said.
At first, trying to solve the problem was just an idea, nothing concrete. Then the husband and wife team started thinking about it a bit more seriously.
"It continued to bother us," Vossen-Henslin said.
What eventually came from the inspiration was Verso-Cap, a patent-pending, bottle-cap invention that allows consumers to use every drop of product from their pump bottles, such as large shampoo containers or hand soap. The Vossens sell their new invention in a three-pack, a cap to fit small, medium and large bottles.
"We haven't found a bottle they won't work with," Vossen-Henslin said.
Verso-Cap isn't the first time they have created something and marketed it. They own Ductcap and KZ Sales, both of which manufacture duct work coverings.
"We've been doing it for 15 years now," Vossen said.
It was because of their experience and success with Ductcap that they knew they could do it again with Verso-Cap.
When they first started brainstorming, the couple looked at ways to change the bottle itself, but realized that was too big of a project.
"It would have been far too expensive to redesign all the bottles," Vossen-Henslin said.
Instead they focused on creating a new cap that would allow people to squeeze the remaining product out of the bottle without the use of the pump.
Even that was a big challenge, since bottles can have different neck sizes and thread patterns. Instead of being able to invent a one-size-fits-all top, the Vossens created three different sizes. They also needed to find the right design and material to use.
"I think we had about five failures," Vossen said.
The first step in bringing Verso-Cap to life was creating the prototype. They turned to John Wells of Wellstronics3D, a 3D-printing operation in Inver Grove Heights.
Once they finally landed on a design that worked, which allowed the product to be squeezed out but not leak out when not in use, it was on to the next step. They brought the schematics to H&S Specialties Inc., a Glenwood company that creates products using custom, precision injection molds.
Funding the injection mold step of the process was a learning experience. It costs more than $15,000 to create the mold for the product. At first they attempted a Kickstarter campaign but ultimately financed it themselves.
The first 1,000 Verso-Cap sets came off the manufacturing line this past August.
So far the Vossens have sold the Verso-Cap at a few arts and crafts fairs, as well as online at www.verso-cap.com. Word has started to spread and they are getting return customers. In 2020 they're already lined up to participate in shows in Duluth and in Shakopee. Vossen-Henslin also plans to increase their marketing.
"Next year, by Christmas, we'll be able to hit that hard," Vossen-Henslin said,
The goal is to expand the product's reach nationwide. They would also like to see the product in salons and other beauty companies.
"I think we could see some decent growth," Vossen said.
Everything having to do with the Verso-Cap from its invention to its packaging is done right in Minnesota. The couple's patent attorney is in the Twin Cities and students at Willmar Public Schools complete the packaging process. And like any good Minnesotan, they have a certain 12-day get-together in their sights.
"Eventually we would like to get into the State Fair," Vossen-Henslin said.