By David Falchek The Times-Tribune, Scranton, Pa.
Scranton native, inventor and entrepreneur Kim Meckwood and her product, the Click & Carry, will try to impress investors and the audience in the premier of the Food Network's new "Shark Tank"-style show, "Food Fortunes," on Monday at 10 p.m.
Aside from a few appearances on QVC, this will be the television debut for the gadget that makes lugging multiple bags -- such as grocery or shopping bags -- easy, even hands-free.
Now based in California, Ms. Meckwood was offered the spot on "Food Fortunes" last November, when she attended a casting call for "Shark Tank" in Los Angeles.
The casting director, who knew her from her past attempts to get on the popular "Shark Tank," took her aside and shared with her the premise of "Food Fortunes," which he was also working on, in which a panel of investors would hear pitches from product developers.
In a new twist, members of the audience would be given the food product or gadget, and vote on whether they would buy and use it. Ms. Meckwood was somewhat torn.
The show focuses on food items and food gadgets, and the Click & Carry, while a gadget, isn't used in food preparation or serving. She would have to forgo her goal of being a "Shark Tank" contestant and reaching its network audience of 10 million. But with the Food Network, she would find a more targeted audience of 400,000 people who love food and love to shop.
"The casting director told me that 40,000 people were trying to get on 'Shark Tank,'" she said, justifying her decision to go with the sure thing. "I wasn't sure how the Click & Carry would fit in, buy they wanted it on the show."
The "Food Fortunes" premier was recorded in January. Ms. Meckwood is forbidden by the rules of the show to discuss specifics of how her appearance, or other competitors', turned out.
But she is able to talk about the experience, which was somewhat grueling. She was on stage for an hour and 15 minutes, making her presentation, answering probing questions from the panel, and hearing from people in the audience.
Of course, after editing, her segment on the show will be much shorter.
"Food Fortunes," with its audience participation, offers a different twist on the competitive reality show concept.
"When I was on stage, I could hear the clicking," she said. "I knew people were trying it."
When surveyed, 93 percent said they would purchase Click & Carry, she recalled.
However, when the $7.99 price tag was announced, one of the audience members changed his mind and the survey was made again by gender. Then 75 percent of males said they would purchase it, but 96 percent of females.
That reinforced Ms. Meckwood's understanding of her market -- moms who are shopping often, urban dwellers with long walks to get groceries to the kitchen, and seniors. When men shop, she said, they don't want to seem like carrying bags is a problem.
But when men see the ability of the Click & Carry to do other things, such as easily carry paint cans, they are often sold on it, she said.
The West Scranton grad and former Miss Invader for the school, lived in a second story walk up on the West Coast, irked by lugging grocery bags, when the idea for Click & Carry came to her in a dream.
It took her three years and all her savings to get it designed, prototyped and manufactured. She sold them at fairs and picked up wholesale orders here and there from stores such as World Kitchen and learned the process of pitching products to chain stores.
Since then, she's been featured on QVC and is carried by Ralphs, a West Coast supermarket chain and recently by the Container Stores.
She's waiting to hear back from Bi-Lo Holdings, which operates Winn Dixie and Harry's. She has a shot in Bed, Bath & Beyond. She hopes to put the Click & Carry before buyers of Target and Walgreens.