Invention carries Lenz family along for the ride

Wed, 11/11/2009 - 9:37am
By: The Citizen

Invention carries Lenz family along for the ride

Darryl Lenz, a Peachtree City resident, has been a flight attendant with American Airlines for 25 years. She and her family fly a lot and anyone who travels frequently looks for things to make getting through the airport and on to a plane easier. When Lenz’s son, Dawson, was two, she had him straddle the luggage from time to time while she pulled it. That one action gave her the idea attaching a chair to the rollaboard luggage. Her husband, Randy, asked if she was sure no one had thought of that before. She looked into it, realized that it had yet to be invented and, after eight months of talking about it, bought some children’s lawn chairs and built their first prototype.

“It was a big question of how we were going to attach it,” Darryl said. “I suggested tying it and soon enough we were zooming Dawson around the living room.”

Building a finished prototype took roughly another year and the couple sat on it (no pun intended) while they debated whether they wanted to invest the time and money into the product. Finally, Lenz suggested taking it to the airport on a trip to St. Louis. She put her daughter, Kendall, in the chair and had her husband and son walk behind and watch the reactions. The results were very positive.

“People told us we’d be millionaires, pointed to the kids while they were riding through the terminal or down the aisle of the plane,” said Lenz, who allowed her co-workers to try the products out with their kids. They all came back with similar reports. The Lenz’s decided to take the leap and go for a patent, which added another year to the increasingly long process, which had started way back in 1995. A patent attorney told them that they had a two percent chance of getting the product out of the patent office. Lenz firmly stated that they would be part of that two percent and they were.

Lenz admitted they dragged their feet a bit through the early part of the process, but soon they found a company in Miami, the Taiwan Trade Commission, which gave them the names of companies that produced children’s beach chairs or luggage. Lenz contacted 80 companies and heard back from one. Within a year, with many back and forths with the company, a finished prototype was done and ready to be taken to trade shows.

“We had a contract in our hands after our first trade show, companies were all over us, and then 9/11 happened,” Lenz said. “The company said they still loved the product but wanted to wait two years before bringing it out. We had too much invested in this already, so we decided to do it on our own.”

Ride On Carry On started out slowly with Lenz selling them to other flight attendants and pilots. Next came a lot of PR as radio and television programs came calling. Since rolling (no pun intended) the product out, it has been featured on “Good Morning America,” Home Shopping Network,” “The Today Show,” and most recently, on last week’s episode of “The Doctors” on ABC. Each time the Ride On Carry On shows up on tv, there is a boost in sales.

“Our sales grow every month and we’re very popular in Europe,” Lenz said, adding that they recently sent out 1,000 chairs to both the United Kingdom and Dubai.

Lenz admits that it has been an extremely long process.

“We were deep in debt before we even sold one chair,” Lenz stated. “But now we’re in the green.”

The hope now is to find a national retailer that will take on the product and give it a huge marketing push. It has been 14 years since Lenz and her husband took the idea and made the product and it is continually winning people over. It appears in the One Step Ahead catalog, has a five star review and is one of the most reviewed products. Ride On Carry On fits any rolling suitcase, can seat a child up to five years old or 40 pounds and the padded headrest converts to a traytable for eating or playing while waiting.

“We’ve sold 30,000 chairs and never had a return,” Lenz said. The chair has passed all safety inspections in the United States and Europe, and Lenz and her husband hand check each chair before it gets shipped out.

“It has been a really fun ride,” said Lenz. She added that the days were really long when her kids, now 15 and 11, were small with nights working on shipping chairs and answering e-mails starting at 10 p.m. and lasting until 2 a.m., but the lessons they have learned along the way about inventions and self-owned businesses have been invaluable. Licensing companies have tried to steal the idea and others have claimed they had the idea first, but the Lenz’s have an excellent patent that gives them really good protection. Lenz’s advice to inventors is pay a professional to do your patent right.

Lenz is still a flight attendant, not swimming in money from the Ride On Carry On just yet, but appearances on shows like “The Doctors” or getting phone calls from Danny Bonaduce live on his radio show, put the name of the product out there. Each time someone sees it or hears about it, another order comes in and the pile of chairs in the basement gets a little bit lower.

For more information on Ride On Carry On, visit

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