The Clippie® Story


Joan SturdyI have always been an inventor. I think I inherited it from my father who in 1963 put a simple switch on the end of a piece of speaker wire to the back of the TV and created the first mute button ... we called it "the blab-off".

In 1977 I was travelling through the interior of British Columbia with my daughter and I said "someone should invent something that folds down from the wall so people can change babies on it" ... somebody did.
In 1983 I said "someone should invent a coffee cup lid that has a perforation so you can peel it back and drink coffee on the go" ... somebody did.
In 1986 I was teaching pre-school, and I remarked "somebody should invent shoes that children can wear on the pool deck so they won't slip" ... somebody did!
So this time, I'm the somebody! I was watching the TV show "Judging Amy", where Tyne Daly played a social worker who was always having to deal with her glasses. One day she looked up at her boss and she hung her glasses on her lapel. "I need what she has!", I exclaimed to whoever was nearby.
I looked in my mother's estate jewellery and found a circular art-deco brooch with a beautiful broadleaf design. I was managing a group home at the time, so I started wearing it at work. It worked so well, I commissioned a goldsmith to do a line of designer silver and gold brooches, which are still available at
The problem was that they only worked for well-dressed women ... not for leisure, men or young people.
WeI sat down in front of the fire and brainstormed what we needed. My husband made the first prototypes in Dec 2005 at the kitchen table, with scissors and a candle.
It took a lot of trial and error to get the Clippie to where it is today. I knew nothing about plastic, nothing about manufacturing, and nothing about business.
I tried to have it punch-cut out of re-cycled plastic, but it didn't work. The edges were too sharp. Then I tried laser cutting. Eventually I got onto a learning curve about molds, injection molding and all the ins and outs of plastics ... I learned more about plastics than I ever wanted to know!
Suffice to say that 2 1/2 years later, The Dragons in The Dragons' Den said that they thought it was one of the best products they had seen on the show! Yes, I actually did it and yes I was nervous. When I got to the CBC studio, one of the producers came up with the brainy idea that "you could use one of our runners!" The CBC staff loved them, but for various reasons the shoot didn't work and that, I think, is why the worst-case scenario played out ... it didn't even get aired.
The bottom line for the Dragons was that I should go to China...After Kevin (the mean guy) said that I should go to China, Jim (the nice guy who owns Boston Pizza) asked me how they were made. I told him the story of them being made in part by people with intellectual disabilities at the Community Living Association in Salmon Arm, and also in part by contractors in their own homes at their kitchen tables... they still said I should go to China.
It was encouraging, because they liked it a lot ... they "liked me, liked the product, but it was not an invention they were willing to back at this time." I think the profit margin isn't big enough for them ... it takes a lot of Clippies to make the kind of money they like to make. So I continue to market without the big launch, having success both in the retail sector and in the promotional products industry. It looks wonderful with a logo, a saying or a symbol on it. Almost everytime I present it, people are agog ... they can't believe what a good idea it is, and how simple it is. Everybody knows somebody who has lost a pair of sunglasses, or who is always looking for their readers. For those folks ... this one's for you.