An Interview with Byron and Melody Swetland
By Mary Bellis
What are Tekno Bubbles? They are "a liquid bubble solution that includes a sufficient amount of a surface active agent to form bubbles and a sufficient amount of a fluorescent agent to provide illumination of the bubbles when viewed in the dark and under an external source of invisible ultraviolet or infrared radiation." In layman's terms, Tekno Bubbles are the greatest trip toy ever patented -- a variation on the old-fashioned blowing bubbles. Tekno Bubbles look and act like the normal blowing bubbles under regular lighting, yet unlike any other bubbles in the world, Tekno Bubbles glow under ultra violet or black lights and come in an amazing assortment of colors including Tekno gold or ocean blue, with different scents such as chocolate, cappuccino or raspberry. They are the brain child of Byron and Melody Swetland, the husband and wife team (now joined by son, Enoch) who have invented a number of novelty and toy items, the latest being Tekno Bubbles manufactured in Germany and marketed on a worldwide basis.
Q: Can you give us a brief history of yourselves as inventors?
A: I guess it started over 20 years ago when I first came up with the idea of putting scripture verses on white stones after reading the verse, "...To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it." Revelation 2:17
After this came many more ideas over the years, some wacky and some quite technical. It has been a slow process, but I began to notice that both my wife and son were voicing their ideas to me, and before I knew it, we seemed to be taking it to the next level of following through on them seriously. It's a wonderful thing to have your loved ones share ideas and see something take shape and then actually have it sell on an international basis! I wouldn't trade working together with them for anything!! We are a very close and loving family.
Q: I heard that you (Byron) are the inventor of the 'leg stuck in a car door' gag item but that you decided to withdraw the product from the market. Is that true?
A: Yes, that is true. We noticed that although 99% of everyone that saw 'The Leg' really loved the idea; it wasn't until an elderly woman said she didn't find it funny that the thought of offending anyone first crossed our minds. It was at that point that we started thinking about those that had lost a limb and immediately decided to totally scrap the project. People will always be more important to us than money.
Q: How did your inventing of Tekno Bubbles become a team effort? Does the family frequently collaborate?
A: We do now! Tekno Bubbles was a great project for all of us to get involved in because our son (Enoch) is the perfect age (21) to go out and test it within the target market we were going after. My wife (Melody) was the one that first got the idea after seeing a bottle of regular bubbles in our kitchen cabinet and said, "Wouldn't it be neat to have bubbles that glowed in the dark?" (not realizing someone already held a patent on glow in the dark bubbles), and it was me (Byron) that was literally praying for an answer during my 3:00 AM early morning walk when "BLACK LIGHT BUBBLES!!" leaped into my brain. My wife and I did the research, and our son concentrated on the marketing along with the look and feel of the product. We are always bouncing ideas off each other now... It's very exciting!
Q: There always seems to be an interesting story behind every invention. What's the scoop on Tekno Bubbles?
A: We all truly believe it's a miracle that we were able to come up with a formula that actually works, and works extremely well and is loved all over the world. I (Byron) am a high school dropout and never liked chemistry. At one point when working with one of the chemical companies they said to me, "Byron, we know you have something very special here because our chemists have been working on this same idea for 3 years and couldn't come up with the answer!" I personally believe we all have certain God-given talents and abilities, and one of mine is the ability to do research and development. The other point that really hits home is that I have a wonderful wife and son that are behind me 100%. I almost gave up several times, but they were the strong ones and pushed me to continue on. It hasn't been easy, and it's still no ride in the park, but we continue to take one step at a time and help each other as we press on towards the mark.
Q: Who named Tekno Bubbles and does it have a connection to techno/rave music?
A: I (Byron) came up with the name. We (Byron, Melody & Enoch) were all sitting around trying to come up with the name one evening when after about 30 names later I said, "How about TEKNO BUBBLES?" We all agreed that it just sounded right! Our son, Enoch, came up with the font that is used. As far as the music and raves, we now know that it fits perfectly! Some things you just can't plan.
Q: Will you continue to create products aimed at a similar market?
A: Yes, we are working on other things even now.
Q: Any sage advice to our aspiring inventors?
A: Research and develop your ideas as if your life depended on it. Write everything down, especially your ideas when you get them; you'd be surprised how many ideas will be lost if you don't write them down. Don't be afraid to fail. Failing is a good thing; it teaches you humility and keeps things in perspective. Don't be afraid to succeed. With ten thousand failures, you may come across one success that will change your life and the life of others, so don't give up. Never give up! Never, never, never, never give up!
Q: The smiley face on your Tekno Bubbles logo seems to have a devilish grin on his face, what's up with that? Did he get some soap in his eye?
A: His name is 'TEKNO', and when I was drawing him, I was thinking "TEKNO BUBBLES, these ain't your little sister's bubbles!" So, within about 3 minutes I had it... A bubble with an attitude! We plan to use him on several other items we are presently working on. We have already had many requests for t-shirts and other products with him on them.
US patent #5961894 for black light bubbles was issued to inventors Byron and Melody Swetland on October 5, 1999.
"Bubbles are formed for entertainment and decorative purposes utilizing a liquid solution that includes a sufficient amount of a surface active agent to form the bubbles and a sufficient amount of a fluorescent agent to provide illumination of the bubbles when viewed in the dark and under an external source of invisible ultraviolet or infrared radiation, such as a black light. The bubble solution is a pre-mixed, non-toxic solution that includes the surface-active agent, or soap, to provide formation of the bubble and a fluorescent agent such as Radiant.RTM. fluorescent pigment dispersions to react to the illumination under the external source of invisible ultraviolet or infrared radiation such as a black light. Alternatively, the solution may be spread on a surface in decorative designs to be illuminated with the black light."
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