INTERVIEW WITH PAUL WILHELM, Inventor
A Chef James, FoodReference.com exclusive interview with Paul Wilhelm, who developed the One Click Butter Cutter.
Chef James: What made you decide you develop the One Click Butter Cutter? Did you have any related education or experience developing products?
Paul Wilhelm: I have invented a few items in the past. Specialty woodworking tools. I had always felt it would be nice to have my own product to market and a useful affordable product would be best.
I do have an associate degree in Engineering Science, a BA in English and a BS in accounting.
One day in 1996 when I was getting some Butter out of the refrigerator I felt it would be nice if I could just reach in with one hand and grab a Butter Cutter and squeeze off a slice of butter before my muffin would cool. It seemed like it wouldn't be very difficult to make such a product.
I also figured that there must not already be such a product or I would have heard of it. I was wrong on both thoughts. With my experience now I might do a patent search but I didn't. I spent 5 years and made over 60 prototypes until I had one that worked well. Then I had to redesign it a couple of more times to make it possible to make it using molds.
I spent a year getting professional drawings made in order to avoid costly mold changes but numerous mold changes had to be made anyway.
I ended up dealing with a couple of companies, one first in the US and then one in China and then finally with a second one in China that was started by a former employee because the company wasn't responding quickly enough and finally gave up on getting the product made correctly.
Chef James: Did you have much cooking experience, at home or professionally?)
Paul Wilhelm: I do cook. My family has used the One Click Butter Cutter for a number of years. It works well and when developing it, when we didn't have one to use, (after a few months my home made prototypes would need maintenance or repair) we would miss it.
Chef James: If you had known from the beginning how long it would take, and the difficulties involved, would you still have proceeded?
Paul Wilhelm: If I were developing a similar product again it would take me half the time. I don't regret having spent the time making it because it has succeeded so well. It's fun solving the problems that are encountered in developing and inventing a product. This one does work well and has, I believe, evolved into a very useful and successful product but I have attempted other products and most often a successful outcome doesn't happen. I wouldn't want to encourage or discourage a person from developing a product. If it's a very simple product it probably is already patented and can probably be easily stolen. If it is a complicated product it takes a long time and quite a lot of money to make. If a person has the time and money to risk and interest they should try to develop their ideas.
Chef James: Do you have an amusing or interesting story about your experiences developing the One Click Butter Cutter to share with us?
Paul Wilhelm: I can't say that there are any particularly amusing things that resulted from my making the Butter Cutter. The original mold maker engraved it as the One "Cuck" Butter Cutter, maybe cuck means something in Chinese. Click probably doesn't. This could be amusing if it didn't mean a delay and that the mold had to be fixed.
Chef James: Is there anything else you can tell us about yourself, your career, or your experience that would be interesting or helpful to others who might consider developing a new or improved kitchen tool?
Paul Wilhelm: I have gotten to know many people and do things I would never have done if I hadn't gotten involved developing this product.
I went to a housewares show in Las Vegas this past May and met people who were interested in the Butter Cutter and I joined with a company ,CSA/RSA, that is fairly close to me and is letting me use their warehouse and who are also marketing the Butter Cutter. They were very good people to meet.
I also went to China this June and met all the people I had been emailing for the last several years. The flight started out with an 8 hour delay out of JFK airport and then a 14 hour flight to Beijing, a 6 hour delay since I had missed my connecting flight to Ningbo. About an hour further drive, which I made on a Sunday took me to what they call "Plastic City" where I met the mold maker and other people. Most of my time was spent in Ningbo with the person I had been dealing with. I spent 4 days in a good Hotel with him and an interpreter. We really accomplished a lot with further refinements. While the person I was dealing with could read and write English he couldn't speak or understand spoken English very well. It was a very arduous journey but it was very interesting and I felt I accomplished a lot and made some friends. I can understand the value of rulers of countries visiting each other.
Chef James: And finally, if you were stranded on a desert island for a year surviving on coconuts and seaweed, what would be the first meal you would like to eat after you were rescued.
Paul Wilhelm: If I were stranded on a desert island for a year I would naturally first want to eat some buttered Popcorn! Actually, a cheeseburger might be more the truth. I'll let you know if I ever find myself in such a position.