In 1998, when Kelly Reinhart was just six-years old, she had an idea that would launch her into a kind of life that few children get to experience: that of a successful entrepreneur, inventor, and V.I.P.
It all started when Kelly’s parents asked her to draw a picture that represented an idea for a new product, just for fun. Kelly, after having seen cowboys wearing holsters in Westerns she had seen on TV, drew a picture of a person wearing a holster-like thigh pack, which she thought would be useful for carrying portable video games.
At just nine years old, Kelly served as the chairperson of TPak International, a company with nearly $1 million in orders for the thigh packs she designed. “I had no idea this was going to be such a success,” she said.
The thigh packs took off after Kelly’s parents had a prototype made, which they later developed into a design that could be mass-produced in China. Meanwhile, Kelly took the pack to school to do some marketing research by getting thoughts and reactions from her friends. Several improvements were made before the Reinharts patented the design in 1998 and sold them at a flea market. Gradually they realized there was quite a lot of interest in the thigh packs, especially after they were asked to supply orders of 20,000 to 100,000 pieces after presenting them at trade shows in Atlantic City and Las Vegas.
Kelly even talked about her product and her future plans with the likes of Massachusetts Congressman John Tierney and Pentagon officials, including the Secretary of the Army. She even met the then President Bush between meetings.
“I met with [The Pentagon] to see if the army can use my invention for military purposes,” said Kelly. “They liked my idea so much, they set up an appointment with special operations at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. I flew down there and met with many military professionals. They are looking into giving me a research and development contract.”
Kelly attended college classes at Merrimack College, which gave her a special grant to attend classes for free. In addition, she started a foundation for kids who wish to pursue their dreams, called the Kelly Reinhart Education Initiative, and she’s also authored a book, “This Little Pack Goes to the Market,” which she hopes will help kids to realize that “every idea is a good idea.”
“The advice I can give to other kids is let their parents know or an adult that they have an idea,” Kelly said. “If the adult does not pursue anything with it, then put the idea in a folder for a later day until old enough to bring up again or when they know who to approach.”
The Thigh Pack didn’t continue manufacturing in the end, but Kelly has gone on to be an inspiration for many young inventors, proving that invention can happen at any age.
Twelve-year-old Kelly had this to say about success: "I don't think it's how much money you make. I think it's how much you've accomplished in life."