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Malcolm Jefferson

Location: Ottawa, ON

Award: Innovation Award

Category: Consumer Product

Year: 2002


Invented the Centric-Safe Haven bicycle child carrier, which enhances safety and makes cycling a shared experience by placing the child securely in the carrier in front of the adult rider. Read the News Release and Media Backgrounder for additional information.

News Release

Revolutionary Bicycle Child Carrier Offers Safe, Shared Ride;

Carpenter's invention wins prestigious Manning Innovation Award

Calgary, AB - The Centric-Safe Haven™ bicycle child carrier is a revolutionary design that enhances the safety and cycling enjoyment for both the adult rider and the young passenger. The inventor of this increasingly popular recreational product, professional carpenter Malcolm Jefferson of Ottawa, Ont., has won a prestigious $10,000 Manning Innovation Award.

Jefferson, 52, built his first prototype carrier out of wood 15 years ago in his carpenter's workshop. An avid cyclist, he wanted to enjoy bicycling with his then-toddler son, Devon. But after an upsetting experience with a rear-mounted carrier, young Devon firmly refused to be put back into it.

Jefferson's prototype carrier placed the child securely in front of the rider, between the handlebars and seat. It was an instant hit with everyone, from Devon to a delighted Mountie!

But it took Jefferson years of effort before he was able to mass-produce his patented invention.

"The more someone would say, 'You can't do it,' the more I'd do it," Jefferson says.

Jefferson has won the $10,000 Manning Innovation Award sponsored by The Edper Foundation. Since 1982, the Manning Awards program has recognized leading Canadian innovators with more than $2.9 million in prize money. This year's four winners will share a total of $145,000.

Jefferson's innovation offers several advantages over the conventional rear-mounted child carrier.

The child sits protected between the rider's arms and is visible at all times. The rider is not thrown off-balance by sudden movements behind his back. The carrier's design protects the child's arms and legs from reaching the wheels. Most important, the child's needs can be seen, heard and taken care of.

Ottawa father Adrian Pierce, who bicycles with his young daughter and son, says his Centric-Safe Haven carrier makes the outings "a shared experience. The kids really enjoy it because they're up front and they can see what's going on. And I love it, because I can actually talk with them as we go along."

The Centric-Safe Haven carrier is an entirely made-in-Canada invention, involving eight different Canadian firms in its manufacture. This year, major retail chains and bicycle dealers in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. carried the product.

"Customer response has been great, "says Stefan Bortolussi, Category Analyst for Bicycles at Canadian Tire. "In just one season, Centric-Safe Haven's carrier is the No. 2 best-seller in Canadian Tire stores across Canada, compared with all the traditional carriers."

Centric Safe-Haven is currently negotiating a licensing agreement with a major children's brand, to expand sales internationally in 2003.

The Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation will announce all four of this year's award recipients, including the $100,000 Manning Principal Award, throughout September prior to the annual awards gala Oct. 4 in Ottawa.

For more information about the award-winning Centric-Safe Haven bicycle child carrier, please call 1-800-803-6934 or visit www.centric-safehaven.com For media inquires, contact Lori Gadzala, South River Partners, at (613)-220-2249 or email: lorig@southriverpartners.com

For more information about the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation, contact Donald Park, Executive Director, at (403)-645-8288 or e-mail: Don.Park@encana.com

Media Backgrounder

$10,000 Manning Innovation Award Sponsored by The Edper Foundation Malcolm Jefferson, Centric-Safe Haven Bicycle Child Carrier

Malcolm Jefferson's first bicycle ride with his little son Devon was almost their last.

Stuck behind his father in a conventional rear-mounted bicycle child carrier, the toddler wailed inconsolably. After Jefferson stopped to comfort him, a teary-eyed Devon absolutely refused to be placed into the seat again. So dad had to carry his son and push the bike two kilometres home.

Jefferson, an avid cyclist and a carpenter who built log homes and boats, knew he had to come up with something better than that rear carrier if he and Devon were going to enjoy riding together.

In his workshops in Ottawa, Ont. and Cantley, Que., he built Devon a wooden carrier with places for the boy's hands and feet. The carrier attached to the crossbar at the front of the bike.

Now, instead of seeing nothing but his father's back, the lad enjoyed a front-row view, enclosed in the safety of his father's arms and with the opportunity to interact during the ride.

"We went out riding and he loved it," Jefferson recalls.

So did a lot of other people, as it turned out.

Jefferson and Devon were riding one day on Parliament Hill in Ottawa when an RCMP car, siren blaring and lights flashing, pulled the pair over. Out from the car popped a grinning Mountie.

"He said, 'Where in heck did you get that?! It has got to be the best idea!'" Jefferson says.

That was in 1987. The young carpenter realized he had something that people would pay money for. But it would take another 14 years of hard "peddling" to turn his idea into a viable business.

In 1990, Brian Barnwell, a lifelong friend who would become a business partner, invested in the innovation. Jefferson was able to take time off from his other carpentry work. He spent nine months handcrafting 100 of his wooden bicycle child carriers.

Next year, at the Stittsville flea market - the largest in the Ottawa area - all 100 units sold faster than cold lemonade on a hot summer day.

Jefferson wrote down the names of every person who bought a carrier. Next spring, he contacted 30 of them. He got back 27 letters, all from satisfied customers extolling the virtues of his invention and thanking him for making cycling such a great family experience.

In 1994, Jefferson met Terence Back, a retired engineer. Over the next three years, the pair laboured to refine the carrier so it could be competitively mass-produced in Canada.

"We worked basically night and day on redesigning and bringing our tooling costs down, making it a product that could come out of a factory," Jefferson says.

The budding entrepreneur tried to obtain small-business grants or loans from government. However, government agencies wanted him to borrow millions of dollars to buy machinery and set up a factory, Jefferson says. He didn't want to bury himself in debt to turn out a seasonal product.

To keep going, Jefferson sold everything he had of value, and he moved from the country into a small bachelor apar™ent in downtown Ottawa.

Jefferson credits his parents, his brothers and sisters, and his business partners for helping him get through those years of struggle. The encouraging words of his satisfied customers from the Stittsville flea market also buoyed him. "A lot of times I'd re-read their letters."

"Everyone believed in the project. At times, I didn't know how I was going to do it."

Finally, after five years of going essentially without income, Jefferson had a finished product that he felt confident to take to the market.

He, Brian Barnwell and Terence Black formed the company, Centric-Safe Haven, to produce and market the product. Brian's brother, Grant Barnwell, also came onboard. Grant raised just over $2 million in a private share offering, enough to pay for the first large production run of the Centric-Safe Haven bicycle child carrier for the 2001-2002 season.

Key to the Centric-Safe Haven carrier is an expandable, telescoping steel bar that mounts the carrier to the handlebar tube and seat post of nearly any bicycle, including men's, women's, mountain and Y-frame bikes. Both ends of the steel bar are fitted with sizing collars, with plastic spacers that ensure the bar is snugly attached.

"It fits on, I'd say, 99 per cent of the bikes that are out there," Jefferson says.

The body of the carrier is made of injection-molded plastic, with a padded foam seat and enclosed foot beds that protect the child's feet. A padded pedestal armrest gives the youngster a comfortable place to rest his or her hands and, if a nap is in order, his or her head. A security harness, with adjustable shoulder straps and waist strap, ensures the child stays securely seated.

The child, instead of "disappearing" into a back seat, is visible at all times by the rider. Bicycle balance is improved, since the front and back wheels equally share the child's weight. And the child's arms and legs cannot reach the wheels. Most important, the adult and child can communicate easily.

MET Ltd. Engineering Consultants in Georgia, which conducted an independent engineering analysis of the Centric-Safe Haven bicycle child carrier, concluded: "The overall assessment was that the front-mounted carrier system was a significant improvement in safety, ease of use, and parent/child satisfaction compared with the common rear-mounted carrier."

Mother Rena LaFleur says she has fallen while using the conventional rear-mounted carrier, because of a child's sudden movement. But with Jefferson's carrier, she says, "I felt fully in control of my bike at all times, and even more importantly, I felt able to ensure my children's safety at all times."

The Centric-Safe Haven innovation has been conceived, designed and manufactured in Canada. The company has employed eight different Canadian firms to help make its carrier.

This year, major retail chains and bicycle dealers in Canada, the U.S. and the U.K. carried the product. Centric-Safe Haven is currently negotiating a licensing agreement with a major children's brand to expand sales internationally in 2003.

Arnold Kamler, President of Kent International, the fourth-largest supplier of bicycles in the U.S., predicts: "We think this (product) will change the way parents take their kids on bike rides . . ."

Meanwhile, the carpenter - now vice-president of a multi-million-dollar company - still lives in his downtown bachelor apar™ent, although he plans to build his own log home and workshop in the country some day. For now, any spare time in his busy, typical 17-hour workday is spent cycling with his two grandchildren, who of course each have their own Centric-Safe Haven carrier.

His advice for entrepreneurs? "Believe in what you're doing, because you have to give up a lot."

And has the ride been worth it? Jefferson says he was out rollerblading recently on the Ottawa River Parkway and saw six of his bicycle child carriers go by. "That's a nice feeling."

The Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation

This year, Manning Innovation Awards presents $145,000 in prize money distributed among four leading Canadian innovators, as well as $20,000 among eight Canada-Wide Science Fair winners. Since 1982, the Foundation has awarded over $2.9 million to recognize Canadian innovators.

Media contacts (photos available):

Lori Gadzala

South River Partners

Phone: (613)-220-2249

email: lorig@southriverpartners.com

Website: www.centric-safehaven.com

Donald Park, Executive Director

Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation

Phone: (403)-645-8288

Website: www.manningawards.ca