While many people enjoy wrapping presents, getting the paper unrolled, holding it still, and cutting it to the proper size is not so easy! Bryan Perla has invented a clever device that holds the paper roll in place and makes a clean cut, avoiding those choppy edges and rips that make the job look seriously amateur.
Adversity may not be a requirement for becoming a successful entrepreneur. But sometimes struggling with personal difficulties provides life lessons that help create one. This was certainly the case for Perla, currently a junior at Stanford University. Born with dyslexia, his early years in public school were frustrating. Because he was good with numbers, his struggle with reading was often attributed to him being lazy. It wasn’t until he was admitted to Carroll School in the 4th grade that he began to understand his difficulty and to learn accommodations that could help him be successful.
In a May 15, 2018 podcast on “Dyslexia is Our Superpower,” Perla told Gibby Booth that finding different ways to view things is really important, and admitted that learning to figure out the best ways to accommodate his dyslexia is basically the same skill that he applies to his inventions.
Perla had always been interested in inventing, but when he was a senior at the Winchendon School in Massachusetts, he participated in ColLAB where he designed a prototype for a device that helps cut wrapping paper. After going through different models he created one that satisfied him. The three characteristics he considered most important for his invention were: Easy, Lightweight, and Fast. Thus the name of his invention: Little ELF!
The Little Elf cutting tool is a flexible tube that slides up to the middle of a roll of wrapping paper. After pulling out the desired length of paper, the user slides it back to the end of the roll and the paper is allowed to fall into the portion of the tool that contains the cutting blade. As the user slides the Little Elf back along the roll, it makes a clean cut edge. One reviewer characterized the Little Elf as “a letter opener designed for tubes of wrapping paper.” (Chris Gonzalez, Tools & Toys review, 5/28/18)
Despite the fact that Perla had just entered college and was busy with academics and sports, he decided to pursue development of Little Elf. Using social media to create interest in the Little Elf cutting tool, Perla obtained assistance from some of his dorm mates and produced a video in his room! A Kickstarter campaign was initiated in April 2018 with the goal of raising $18,750. Interest in the Little Elf was overwhelming, and the goal was reached in less than two weeks. When the campaign ended after 45 days, a total of $130,125 had been pledged by over 4,000 backers!
With evidence that his product could be a success, Perla located a manufacturer in St. Louis, Missouri, and established a website and Facebook Page. Perla continued to refine his design, tweaking and testing over 80 variations. Over the next year he experienced setbacks in manufacturing and had to extend deadlines for getting the product to his Kickstarter backers. Perla worked hard to keep everyone up to date on progress, and responded as best he could to all the comments and ideas that were shared by the Kickstarter community. Currently Little Elf is sold on Amazon and in the Container Store, as well as through the website.
Despite setbacks and the continued hard work necessary to bring a product to market, Perla continues to use the concepts and skills he learned back in school to keep motivated and on task. Shortly after the initiation of the Kickstarter campaign, Perla told Sean Duncan, Head of the Winchendon School/Brooklyn, that he was well aware that no matter how hard he worked and no matter how good his invention might be that it could fail. But, he said, he still would have received a tremendous education in product development, patenting, raising money and advertising. (Winchendon Website, February 5, 2018).
The most important thing in life, he says, is to never be afraid of failure.