No more dropped toys
Tonya Perry and Danielle Hurd got tired of picking up and replacing the toys their babies dropped on the floor.

So they invented the "Lil' Hand Band," a universal toy holder that can be attached to a baby's wrist, a car seat or a stroller. The device, made of cotton, keeps a grip on toys with a Velcro closure.

Hurd, of Lindley, and Perry, of Painted Post, met after their husbands became hunting buddies. Hurd has an 18-month-old son and Perry has three children, ranging in age from 3 to 7 years old.

They entered the Lil' Hand Band in Oprah's Big Idea Contest, a competition to pick 10 outstanding entrepreneurs who will appear on "The Oprah Winfrey Show." The show's audience will pick a winner, who will appear on the QVC home-shopping channel to sell the winning product.

The women found out last week that their product nearly made it onto the show but wasn't chosen. The winning inventions will be featured on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" at 4 p.m. today on WETM-TV.

"We tested the first prototype one year ago with (Hurd's son) Ethan," Perry said. "We threw him in the car and drove to Bass Pro Shops near Waterloo."

Ethan played with the same toy for the entire trip.

"It was awesome," Perry said.

Apparently other people think the Lil' Hand Band is awesome, too.

"We have sold over 60 two-pack baskets since the end of October," said Perry, who has an assembly line set up in her home. The partners recently launched a Web site for the product, www.feelinspirations. com.

The idea for the toy holder came from constantly picking up toys off a dirty floor and having to search for a clean toy as a replacement.

"We figured if we were experiencing these problems, then other parents probably were too," Hurd said.

Lil' Hand Band is sold in the Twin Tiers at Beyond Baskets, 88 W. Market St., and Imagine That, 86 W. Market St., both in Corning, and at Peggy's Candies, at 82 Main St. in Wellsboro.

Jen Coon, who works at Imagine That, said she uses the device with her 9-month-old daughter.

"I love the Lil' Hand Band," she said. "It can be attached to my baby girl or her stroller or anywhere. I never have to worry about her toys falling on the dirty floor, and then have her put it back in her mouth."

Perry and Hurd hope to expand their fledgling business, which they call F.E.E.L. Inspirations. The initials are the first letters of their children's names.

"We've had contacts with manufacturers and the (Corning Community College Small) Business Development Center," Perry said.

From start to finish, if no fabric has been cut in advance, it takes about an hour to make a Lil' Hand Band, Perry said. The two-pack sells for $12 and the single band for $6.95.

Hurd, a special education teacher at Horseheads High School, said coming up with a prototype was simple, but tweaking the product was more complicated.

"Having my son use it, we did the trial and error from there," she said. "The elastic was pretty long and he was smacking himself in the face." Perry said the toy holder is appropriate for children up to 1 year old.

"After that, they figure out the Velcro," she said.

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