Local Business

Get a Grip

Locally-invented garden tool provides leverage for green thumbs.

Stiefvater grew up in the Black Forest region of Germany and immigrated to Canada 36 years ago. Typically for him (if the story of Ocean Resort is indicative), his transplantation to this country was a matter of following his instincts, looking out for opportunity, and letting life take him for a ride.

“A friend and I wanted to spend up to six months in North America. We went to the American Consulate and the Canadian Consulate. The Canadian visa came through first, so we went to Canada. At the time we had no preference but now I’m really glad I ended up in Canada,” he says. Instead of going home to Germany after six months, Stiefvater stayed put. His girlfriend from Germany came to join him, and before long the two had settled, got married, and were raising a family.

Back then, Stiefvater had no interest in spirituality or meditation. “I suppose I grew up as a Catholic,” he says, without much conviction. “I knew there was a God somewhere but it was not of interest.” He laughs.

God, as traditionally defined by mainstream religion, still doesn’t interest him much. “I don’t belong to any religion or organization. I believe everyone is on their own path,” he says. Freedom, salvation, enlightenment—it all comes from within, he says.

“All I want to do here at Ocean Resort is offer people an experience of stillness, of the quiet place within. When people are able to connect, we feel more whole, more complete, more accepting of ourselves. We’re doing such a good job of criticizing ourselves to death. But really, we have everything we need, right now, in this moment.”

Nothing makes Stiefvater happier than hearing that Ocean Resort has helped someone wake up to this liberating truth.

“Last night we heard from a man who has been coming once a week now for about four months to our Conscious Wednesdays. He told us he’s realized something very profound—that he’s just fine the way he is now. He used to worry and be anxious. Now he’s let go of that. He’s enjoying being in the here, in the now,” says Stiefvater.

Stiefvater’s sense of accomplishment is plain to read in his eyes as he looks around the well-manicured grounds of Ocean Resort. He has successfully made the journey from a shiver along the spine to the establishment of a sophisticated business and the realization of a vision. But most gratifying of all, he says, are these sorts of testimonials from clients.

“I love to witness people waking up to their inner world,” says Stiefvater.

For more information visit the Ocean Resort web site.

Inventor Paul Carr shows off his Y-Grip garden tool.

Inventor Paul Carr shows off his Y-Grip garden tool.

Photo by Boomer Jerritt

What passes for soil in Comox too often proves to be a challenge for even the most intrepid and energetic of gardeners. And it was in striking a bit of ubiquitous hardpan that Paul Carr was hit with an inspiration.

Adding to the mix of that inspiration was the fact he had just come home from some mountain biking. Yes, web
sometimes it’s all about synchronicity.

“I was in the outside garden and I needed to plant some bulbs, health care
” says Carr. “It was a new bed and hadn’t really been cultivated yet. I grabbed a trowel and I found I couldn’t dig. I couldn’t get the tool in the ground. I concluded that the conventional trowel was kind of a stupid tool because you can’t apply any force to it.”

With considerable background as a mechanic, nurse
Carr decided he could improve on the time-honored trowel configuration by adding an element that would permit the gardener to apply some genuine force, rather than just prying back on the blade, which often results in bending it, and sometimes breaking it.

“I’d just come home from mountain biking and I thought I had an old bike bar-end, which I did,” he says. “I figured if I attached that to the trowel, in a Y, it would provide a handle that I could put my full weight on rather than just the strength of my wrist. I tried it and it worked like a charm. Rather than prying back, which we normally do with a trowel, I could apply my weight and then turn the trowel in the ground.”

Thus, in rudimentary form, was born the ergonomic Y-Grip Garden Tool.

“No sooner was that done that I wondered if it would be a marketable item,” he says. “I knew improvements were needed on the prototype, but with some refinements it might prove to be just the thing for other gardeners.”

He sent along his prototype to Lee Valley Tools—a large national distributor and merchandiser of tools of all types—and inquired if they felt there would be a market for the item.

“They suggested there was no market for such a thing,” Carr says. “But, I wasn’t disheartened. I just decided I would set out on my own and refine what I had. That was eight years ago.”

Rather than being random about the thing, Carr decided to meticulously follow the rules of marketing, since he knew if the Y-Grip was actually going to fly in the marketplace, he had to have done his homework in terms of patenting, developing a business plan and being realistic about his now pet project.

“The hardest bit of information for me to swallow is that 90 per cent of new products on the market are destined to fail, and there are so many ways a project can fail,” he says. “I was determined to avoid the pitfalls. And I can honestly say that to have gotten his far is a success.”

In that context, he says, the venture has paid off sufficiently that Carr and his wife, Bonnie, will come out of it breaking even.

Now that he has an inventory of 10,000 Y-Grips to release to the public, Carr says that marketing hasn’t always been an easy road, but it’s getting there. The Y-Grip is currently available in approximately two dozen garden shops from the Comox Valley to Regina. And a brief story in the Times-Colonist last spring gave the product the sort of exposure they needed to get the item moving.

The product you’ll find on the market today is slightly different from—and much better than—the prototype. Carr initially tried an aluminum blade with a plastic handle covering a steel core. But the aluminum wasn’t strong enough for the tasks demanded, and the steel core handle was too hard on the hands.

One Response to Get a Grip

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