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Inventors pitch for infomercial glory

Top Dog Direct founder Bill McAlister has mined some promising product pitches.Photos by David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Boston was the site of yet another business pitch contest Thursday.

But wait, there’s more!

This wasn’t your typical Shark Tank knockoff featuring a bunch of high-tech whiz kids attempting to woo venture capitalists with their disruptive, gamified mobile apps. This was a stream of about 20 amateur inventors convinced that their product is the next as-seen-on-TV sensation. Winning ideas would have a chance to be featured in one of those loud infomercials that dot cable TV channels.

There was the 9-minute Marinator, the Pooch Bagz for cleaning up dog poop and, of course, a fitness contraption guaranteed to give you six-pack abs.


There were even some inventions so brilliant that their creators wouldn’t talk about them publicly, lest some copycat steal the idea.

George Chandler of Hansen came with nothing but a vision in his head and a pen in his hand. He used a college-ruled notepad to sketch out something for the three-member judging panel that onlookers couldn’t see.

What did he draw on that page?

“I can’t tell you that,” Chandler said. “The judges said it was pretty good.”

The pitch contest was sponsored by Top Dog Direct of Trevose, Pa., the company behind familiar infomercial products Mighty Putty and Ding King. Like those TV spots, the competition was no elaborate production. Top Dog set up a booth at the Small Business Expo at the Hynes Convention Center. There was no stage and no microphone, but no fee either — not even shipping and handling.

It doesn’t take a fancy setup to discover a big seller, said founder Bill McAlister, an Acton native. McAlister travels the world, attending trade shows, in search of what he calls “unique things that make your life easier.”

Pitch contests are his newest scouting strategy. The first one in Philadelphia in March yielded the BeActive brace for relieving back pain, which is already on TV and in stores. Of the 20 or so pitches, McAlister said a few were promising enough to follow up with their inventors.


Callum Borchers can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.