During a heavy snow storm in the mid 90’s, Howie Rosenshine, in waist high snow, was shoveling his driveway. As he sang “Look Down” from Les Miserables to himself, a metaphorical lightbulb hovered above his head. He was struck by an aha moment: Rosenshine had just discovered his inspiration for a new ergonomic shovel — a product he’d eventually called the Shovelution.
This is not the story of an overnight success. The Shovelution is the result of incredible diligence and patience. Instead of expecting immediate returns, Rosenshine translated his moment of insight into a process of continuous product improvement that ultimately led him to an intelligent solution.
Rosenshine explains his methodical approach to his highly successful shovel accessory: “My favorite inventors are the Wright Brothers, who in spite of being universally well known for the airplane, are vastly under-appreciated for the depths of their insight. In particular, they understood that before they could successfully invent the airplane, they would first have to invent (define) successful heavier than air flight.”
“Similarly, before you can successfully invent a truly functional auxiliary shovel handle, you need to understand and define shoveling in the first place. If you think that this is simple and/or obvious that would put you in the company of well over 100 years of unsuccessful auxiliary shovel handle attempts.”
Rosenshine breaks down his process simply: “Shoveling involves three distinct actions. 1) digging (or scraping in the case of a snow shovel), 2) lifting, and 3) throwing. A successful auxiliary shovel handle must make as many as possible better (at least one of the three) and equally importantly mustn’t make any of them worse. Other designs, fail to meet these criteria. In fact the ubiquitous “bent handled” snow shovels fail as well, though they are better than the other failures. Once you do that, you are in a position to evaluate designs and prototypes methodically until you finally get to something that truly works.”
Along the way, Rosenshine joined NextFab where he worked out the design for his game-changing product. Following this process Rosenshine believes that he did “get to something that truly works.” But big questions still remained. How could he convince potential customers that it works when there is a 100+ year history of failed attempts? How could he show that the product wasn’t just a gimmick, another failed attempt ,or just too wacky to be practical? And how could he convince himself that he was on the right path?
During NextFab’s show-and-tell events, Rosenshine would display the latest version of an injection-molded handle or describe the spring loading capabilities of the device. Numerous iterations were handed out and sold to members and several interested parties, but finding the right market, distribution method, and marketing methods seemed elusive. Yet Rosenshine continued to chip away at the project.
After several years of development, Rosenshine finally started to suspect that he was onto something. “I sent an early prototype to human factors expert Andy Freivalds, Professor of Industrial Engineering at Penn State who has been evaluating snow shovels for over 30 years. When I found out that he continued to use the prototype season after season to clear his snow, I suppose that was pretty good corroboration.”
At the beginning of 2016, Rosenshine’s project picked up some serious steam when Popular Mechanics declared the Shovelution the “Best New Tool: The Snow Shovel Add-On That’ll Save Your Back.” Then only a few weeks later, Technical.ly Philly picked up the story as well. That’s when things really started to take off. Rosenshine says, “an agent, who works with Snow Joe saw the Technical.ly article and contacted me, which ultimately led to the licensing agreement with Snow Joe.”