"So, What do you do?" - Frater Benny Bliss
Oftentimes, we find ourselves being introduced to someone new at a social gathering. These situations are always interesting, sometimes exciting, occasionally surprising—and often begin with a simple question, “So, what do you do?”
In celebration of this societal staple of socializing, we are asking TKE Nation “What do you do?” For our collegiate members, career trajectory is a large part of what draws them to groups and organizations on campus. As one of the largest fraternities in North America, TKE claims a wide range of careers and more success stories than we can count! We want to share some of those stories with you.
On a semi-regular basis, or as frequently as we come across Tekes with an interesting career path, we will publish a “So, what do you do?” article. If you, or a Teke whom you know, has made a big splash in their professional life, please submit them to us at Headquarters. TKE strives to create Better Men for a Better World and we want to hear from them. Submissions can be emailed to TKEOGC@TKE.ORG with the subject “So, what do you do?”
Benny Bliss has previously worked in the education industry providing solutions for classrooms everywhere. However, after seeing a need that was not being met by any current product, Frater Bliss became an inventor. His main product is the Magnetic Bliss hook system. Originally designed to attach to an acoustical tile system in the classroom, the hooks are also useful in other industries and applications.
We asked Benny to tell us more about himself and what it’s like to be an inventor.
TKE HQ: You have been very vocal about your membership in TKE. Even using the TKE flag during your promotional spots. What can you tell us about the TKE and Benny Bliss story?
BB: I attended school at Auburn University. At Beta-Lambda, I met people from all walks of life and from all over the country. Many of the business and leadership skills that I have today were developed through my TKE experience. I served as Rush Chairman, Public Service Chairman & IFC Delegate. I currently serve as president of the Board of Directors of the Housing Corporation and on the Board of Advisors.
TKE HQ: What are some of your favorite TKE moments?
BB: Meeting Frater Ronald Reagan and receiving a handwritten letter from him about an upcoming leadership conference was the highlight. Communicating with Frater Danny Thomas was pretty cool too. I have also met many alumni throughout the years at various functions where TKE comes into the conversation.
TKE HQ: That is quite the list of notable Tekes. So, we are all curious, what prompted you create a product like Magnetic Bliss?
BB: While working with educators across the country and training them on the latest technology for the classroom, I noticed that they were hanging banners, flags, mobiles and the like from their acoustical tile ceilings with bent gem clips, wire, string, fishing line & tape. They were putting chairs on top of tables to reach their ceiling. I thought that there had to be an easier way...a safer way.
TKE HQ: So, you identified a need and decided to create a product? Weren’t there already magnetic hooks available?
BB: While there are lots of magnetic hooks out there...I basically built a better mousetrap. Each magnetic hook will support up to five pounds of weight and the telescoping installation tool extends to forty inches in length. There is also a bonus, thread-on, magnetic pickup tip included.
TKE HQ: What is it like to take an idea like this from paper to production?
BB: It is a long process of taking something from an idea to full production. My journey took years and at quite a cost. Finding a manufacturer overseas was a challenge, but after hundreds of emails, I found the perfect partner.
TKE HQ: I imagine that could be a challenge. Did you have previous experience with this type of work? Any background in product design?
BB: I did have experience with private labeled products through my former employer. However, I had a limited knowledge of product design. I was fortunate to have colleagues that helped along the way with things like graphic design.
TKE HQ: Sounds like you were fortunate to know a graphic designer.
BB: My graphic designer, Sandi Gillum, was the creative force in designing the packaging. For years, she would take my pencil drawings for email blasts and mold them into works of art. She knew how my mind works and always added her creative touch for added improvement.
TKE HQ: How did you navigate the patenting process?
BB: That is an expensive nightmare and very costly to protect. A simple design change can alter your product and render a patent useless.
TKE HQ: I imagine that could be challenging to keep your ideas protected. Any advice for others who have an idea and just aren’t sure what to do?
BB: Do your homework and never give up on chasing your dreams. If you have others that can help you financially, let them help. A little bit of something is worth more than a whole lot of nothing. Like most ideas, they do not get past the idea stage. I felt and still feel that my product has a place in the market and one day, I will find the backing to make it happen. In the meantime, I keep chasing my dream.
TKE HQ: Is this invention your sole business now, or are you only working on it as a “side gig”?
BB: Magnetic Bliss is my primary focus, but I also have other things that I do to earn money.
TKE HQ: What was your end goal for this product when you started? What is it now?
BB: Magnetic Bliss could be the next Post It Note or Liquid Paper. Almost everything is in place, I just need a little help in getting this rocket off the launch pad. The product, the manufacturer and the desire. Now I am looking to build a team that compliments my strengths and weaknesses.
TKE HQ: Would you recommend others take the inventors path?
BB: It definitely takes a special person...one with persistence, tenacity and the willingness to sacrifice everything to make it happen. If you are married, make sure that you have a supportive spouse.
TKE HQ: Good advice. Can you provide us with a “day in the life” snapshot of what it is like to do this type of work?
BB: My life is a little different from most as I live in paradise...two blocks off the beach on the Alabama Gulf Coast. My life is full of beautiful sunrises, sunsets and the best food in the world. Aside from this, my day is like any other day for others. I process orders, seek out investment and creative ways to market with a limited budget.
TKE HQ: How much time do you spend on marketing in order to keep people aware of it?
BB: Just like when I was an undergraduate with TKE...RUSH NEVER ENDS!!! I am always marketing Magnetic Bliss. I usually have samples in my pocket to show people how they can use it. You just never know when you are going to meet that person that "gets it" and wants to be a part of your journey.
TKE HQ: Is it still all you, or do you hire others to promote it?
BB: For now, it is primarily all me. I have a computer guy that assists with technical stuff that I need help with. Should I find the right investment partner, I would like to establish an entrepreneurial program for young people looking to start their own business one day.
TKE HQ: That is interesting, how would that work?
BB: They would work part-time while going to school, getting school credit, earning an income for the hours worked, learning all facets of Magnetic Bliss business operations that could help them when they own their own business. A portion of the proceeds from each sale would be earmarked for a scholarship fund to help those students in the program to help offset their tuition costs. Depending on sales, it could be a small amount or if Magnetic Bliss takes off...a larger share, if not all of their tuition, could be paid.
TKE HQ: Sounds like a very charitable idea and would be a great goal if it really takes off.
BB: If it was a huge success in the marketplace, I would establish additional scholarships for military families. Having three nephews serving in the Marines at the present time, I see the financial burden of raising families and serving our country.
TKE HQ: Definitely a noble cause. Where can TKE Nation find out more about your invention?
BB: Magnetic Bliss can be found online at www.magneticbliss.com.