How many times have you come up with a great idea but had no clue how to implement it? Southold native Sam Notaro, 28, has recently discovered just how difficult, yet rewarding, it is to create his own product.
Along with his business partner and father, Frank, he has formed a company called Simplifii Design.
The father-son duo now has two successful products under their belts — simpliframe and simpliseam — that are geared toward people in construction who want to save time and make a job easier.
It started with a book of ideas. Frank, who’s been an architect on the North Fork for over 35 years, said he has over 100 ideas written down in a book. He credits his son for getting those ideas off the drawing board and into production.
“It most likely would not have progressed the way it did without Sam,” he said.
Sam has always had the mind of an inventor, his father said. Growing up in a house with an architect and a physician as parents, he has always been surrounded by physics. In 2011, he earned a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. But instead of pursuing a Ph.D., as he’d envisioned, he told his father he wanted to help him develop his inventions. They formed the company in 2012.
“This is where my passion is,” Sam said.
At the time, Frank Notaro had already slowly been getting the process started by buying some equipment necessary to develop prototypes.
Their first product, simpliframe, debuted about a year and a half ago. The idea behind simpliframe was to make it faster and easier to create enclosures for things like support columns, soffits, water and waste lines, cabling and wiring and more. The system’s interlocking plastic components snap together and lock onto surfaces to frame out enclosures of various sizes, eliminating the need to measure and cut wood framing. Once secured in place, they can be covered and drilled into like traditional framing.
Sam, who now lives in Riverhead, is the one who does a lot of the running around — “doing most of the leg-work” as his father said — to get the product out there. Watermill Building Supply is one of the businesses that carry simpliframe.
Their second product, simpliseam, launched in March. This product is an add-on for a spackling blade that gives it a curved edge, designed to eliminate the need for sanding after applying spackle.
Sam said the idea came about when Robert Kacperski, a longtime painter and friend of his father, asked if they could create a curved spackle blade. He said this is an easier way to spackle and he would often take new blades and file them down the middle to create a curvature.
Frank said their newly formed company would not have the ability or finances to manufacture a whole spackling blade, but he came up with the idea for an add-on that do the same trick.
They debuted simpliseam at this year’s JLC Live residential construction show this year and sold out 500 pieces in just a few hours, the partners said.
“You can have your least skilled guy snap this on and become a whiz in no time,” Sam said. Although the idea is relatively simple, he said it took him about six months to perfect the curve, which allows for just the right amount of spackle to be applied. The design of simpliseam allows the spackle to dry perfectly flat, he said.
This product got so much attention at the show that the distributor Northeast Wholesale approached Sam and expressed interest in working with him. The Notaros are now working with the distributor’s team of salespeople to market simpliseam. Through a connection Sam made over the years, he was even able to get simpliseam manufactured in China.
“It started slow, but now it’s getting exciting,” Frank said.
The pair will soon release an improved version of their first product, simpliframe, which they call simpliframe 2.0. This product will be cheaper and will be able to accommodate a wider range of interior column diameters and span larger distances, Sam said. They also have about three other inventions in development.
Sam said his father has been a huge inspiration, but also acknowledged one of his professors, Burt Swersey, as someone who told him to go after his dreams.
“Without his backing, I would still just have a book full of inventions,” Sam said. He said most people don’t realize the effort, time and money it takes to turn an idea into an actual product.
“It’s a struggle, but it’s just perseverance … and luck,” he said. He had moments when he thought to himself that living at home with three engineering degrees and making no money was rough, but he knew it would be worth it in the end.
The slow start is now finally beginning to pay off. Sam says this is the first year the business will start to turn a profit. He thinks these products have been successful because the ideas are based on his father’s first-hand experience in what would help make a person’s job a bit easier.
“If you can make a product that fills a need, that saves people some ache or some pain in some way, then that’s a marketable product,” Sam said.
Top photo: Sam Notaro, the 28-year-old inventor with the company Simpliframe, which he created with his father. (Credit: Krysten Massa, August 2016)