GUNTER — It was while watching his daughters play on an inflatable water slide that the idea came to him.
“I was watching the kids play — 40- of 50-pound kids jumping up in the air and landing on the devise and the deflection, how much it was giving was pretty minimal,” said Gunter resident Michael Siciliano. Why can’t a similar technique be used to protect vehicles from hail?
Now, four years later, Siciliano said he hopes the Hail Protector is just six months away from the market.
“It has all the aspect of a traditional car cover, … and it drapes over the car just like a normal car cover, but in this case it has two layers,” he explained. The cover cinches around the wheels and straps under the car, then four remote-operated blowers fill the second layer with a cushion of air that Siciliano says can protect a car from up to softball-sized hail.
The self-described stay-at-home dad said the product went through several years of development, but in June 2011 it was ready. Siciliano said, “this prototype now really exceeded our expectations.” It was then that he decided it was time to quit his job as an electrical engineer and work on the Hail Protector full time.
When asked if he’s ever regretted that decision, Siciliano said, no, adding simply, “It works.” He said when the product goes to the market it will cost consumers less than the average insurance deductibles and will be on-par with many premium car covers. “It just makes sense to keep pursuing it until we bring it to market.”
The invention and Siciliano, and his wife Zanetta, were recently featured on the History Channel series “Invention USA.” During the show, the host fired ice at a car covered with the Hail Protector from an air cannon at 80 miles per hour. Since then, Siciliano said, the investor interest has grown.
“I don’t know that I ever thought I’d be an entrepreneur, but now that I’m here, I’m not surprised,” Siciliano said.
He explained that growing up, his father provided inspiration. “If there’s something the house needed, he tried to create it versus just going out and buying it. So I always had that example at home.”
Siciliano said his career, where he learned how to work with manufacturers to bring a product to market, has also helped him. It “just made sense for me to put those two things together,” he said. But Siciliano said he thinks everybody has a bit of an inventor inside of them.
“Everybody’s got those ideas and anybody can act on them,” he said. “It’s a long process and it’s not easy.” Still, Siciliano seems optimistic about the future.
“It’s great that it’s a family affair. My wife’s involved in the business. My kids (Siena, 10; Sophia, 8) are involved to the extent that a 10- or an 8-year-old can be involved. They see all the different parts of being an entrepreneur. It’s been a life lesson for them,” he said. “It’s been a great experience, and at some point it will have a financial benefit.”
For more information about the Hail Protector, visit www.hailprotector.com.