By C. Jayden Smith
The mind of a true inventor never stops creating, thinking, or identifying potential in everything they see, and that’s certainly the case with one San Clemente resident.
Bob Sandelman, 77, has released a modernized and electronic version of a creation he patented in 1978—a crossword calendar. As of Tuesday, Oct. 18, he was looking for large-scale support on his Kickstarter campaign.
Always a fan of puzzles, calendars, clocks, and differing cultures’ methods of keeping time, the decorated Navy man created his original calendar following a series of other short-lived inventions that included a postcard system to remind service members of important dates regarding their loved ones and a version of Sudoku also involving dates.
“I invented, in 1974, just this idea of a perpetual calendar that would look like a crossword puzzle (and) would have three-letter abbreviations for every month of year, and every day of the week, and all of the numbers went from one to 31,” Sandelman said.
The calendar had to be taken off its mounting place on a wall each day so people could move the indicating strips behind the characters to show a different date, but the idea never took off commercially.
However, Sandelman was ecstatic to finally achieve his dream of earning a patent and started his lengthy marketing career that included a 33-year run of his own market research company, Sandelman & Associates.
About a year ago, however, his nearly half-century-old creation resurfaced after he saw an ad for QLOCKTWO, a German-made word clock. The device varied from Sandelman’s new products in that it only read horizontally, used one LED color, and changed every five minutes instead of every minute.
“It kind of proved to me that it was possible for a company to make an electronic version of my crossword calendar,” he said. “I knew the technology was there, because I saw that this company had used similar technology to make their clocks.”
Sandelman researched to find a Chinese manufacturer that could develop a prototype of his idea that included a differing grid layout and more colors, and along the way, realized that he could create a crossword clock, as well.
During the design process, he also achieved his goal of ensuring every character in the grid would be used at least once a day or once a year, as opposed to similar products that have unused filler characters.
After working with the manufacturer to tinker with the products and eventually settle on what he liked, Sandelman’s next steps were to order samples and see if he could fund his own business of selling the clocks and calendars with a Kickstarter campaign.
“I was a little bit familiar with Kickstarter, because I’ve supported some campaigns as a backer,” he said, adding: “So, I did quite a bit of work to figure out how (to do this) and what’s involved. I signed up for an online Masterclass all about how you launch on Kickstarter.”
The comprehensive course taught him about product design, fulfilling shipments, and processing payments, among other lessons, which set up Sandelman for the next step—finding a product photographer and videographer, earning a business license, and putting his marketing experience to use to promote his new products on social media.
He eventually found more than 1,000 people willing to receive product updates over email and said he will continue to advertise to bring more people to his campaign.
Sandelman will promise the first 50 supporters of both the clock and the calendar that they will receive their product with free shipping by Christmas, and he hopes his campaign will give him seed funding to send the devices to the other supporters and for a larger production scale.
“What crowdfunding does is it gives you a chance to know that a certain amount of money is going to come in,” he said. “You set your goal to have enough money so that you can fulfill the orders of the people who want to back it, but you don’t have to fulfill them immediately.”
The researching and advertising process, albeit tedious for him and the other involved parties, was an enjoyable learning experience, according to Sandelman. Through the support of his wife of almost 54 years, Bev, his two children and his five grandchildren, he has been able to pursue his passions of numbers, words, and slogans and see the process come to fruition.
“I was a classic kid and then adult who was always looking for something new to create,” Sandelman said. “I’ve always liked to make things and build things.”
C. Jayden Smith
C. Jayden Smith graduated from Dana Hills High in 2018 before pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in digital and broadcast journalism from the University of North Texas. After graduating in December 2020, he reported for the Salina Journal in Salina, Kansas. Jayden loves college football and bothering his black lab named Shadow.
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