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September 2, 2014

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Ingenious and invented here—it’s the Heel Coaster, baby

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At work or at play, it’s always a good time to put your feet up with a Heel Coaster—the best thing to come out of Las Vegas since that beer machine that fills glasses from the bottom.

If there’s one thing that universally ruins a good kickback session, it’s the feel of your heel bone grinding into the surface of your coffee table. Maybe you grab a pillow or a sweatshirt to stuff underneath. Maybe you train the dog to stand really still. Regardless, it’s never as easy or comfortable as it should be to take a load off your feet.

David Kellen had enough. He went to the local craft store, bought some molding clay and started playing with it while he watched TV. Once the clay was perfectly shaped to his heel, such that the weight of his leg was neutralized while his heel and ankle were fully supported, he took it to his dad, a retired engineer. They experimented with foams until they had the ideal density, and Kellen had to decide how far he wanted to take his invention.

Heel Coaster Demo

“At first it was just something fun to work on,” says the 36-year-old UNLV graduate, whose day job is in the finance realm of real estate development. But the more he showed the Heel Coaster to his friends, the more confident he felt that there was a real niche for such a “practical novelty.” And not just for couch potatoes. Kellen mentioned therapeutic uses for diabetics, pregnant women and runners with intense soreness in their tootsies. “The beautiful thing about our product is that it works,” Kellen says.

He started Googling, seeing what else was out there in the way of cushioning propped-up feet. The only thing he found was a big, ottoman-like device that cost up to $50. He figured if he could price his 6-inch coaster under $20 and give it some style with designer covers (ranging from hand-shaped leather to polka dot fabric), he and his wife Marysol might have a real shot at a startup. All they needed was a website and manufacturers who would work with them on small-batch orders.

They got lucky on the first one. Local photographer Jared McMillen agreed to invest his creativity in the venture. McMillen’s wife Trish got involved with the web design, social media and PR, and a rogue company was born. They named it Big Silly Creations, and Kellen says if the Heel Coaster takes off, there is more to come in the way of Vegas-based practical novelties.

After a lengthy and discouraging search, they found a manufacturer in Maine that was willing to let them provide the aluminum molds themselves at a fraction of the cost and to make a batch of just 1,000 Heel Coasters to start. A local seamstress makes the covers, except for the leather ones, which are lovingly crafted by Kellen’s father. Right now they have four covers in stock, though they’d like to start a Cover-of-the-Month to drive traffic to the website, which currently is the only outlet for buyers. Kellen entered the product in a contest that would put it on Walmart shelves, though he says there are a ton of entries, most of them from big, established companies (first-round voting is open through April 3, so click here to show your love for these local innovators).

He has also applied to be a contestant on Shark Tank, a show that features famous rich people throwing their capital at good ideas. And he’s hoping to shop the Heel Coaster at First Friday, though he’s awaiting approval for that. Eventually, Kellen would like to go through licensing with college and pro sports teams so the covers could bear their custom colors and logos, and the same goes for Strip properties that might want to brand a bunch of promotional Heel Coasters to give to clients and guests. He has sent the specs to big retailers ranging from QVC to Urban Outfitters, but Big Silly Creations is just in its infancy, so there’s no telling who will bite.

If you haven’t tried one (and chances are you haven’t), the Heel Coaster is supportive yet soft, with brushed fabric on the bottom that allows for easy repositioning. It’s big enough to rest both feet on either lip of the heel cup but small enough to slip into a purse so you can take it to work (woot for desk-lounging). The original costs $14.95. Designer covers are an additional $9.95 or $29.95 for the handcrafted leather. It’s one of those inventions you see and think, ‘well, of course.’ But we have Kellen to thank for realizing this everyday American dream of comfort.

“Once you try it,” Kellen says, “you can’t imagine putting your feet up without it.”

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