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Ian MacDonald & Evian Macmillan

Location: Port Coquitlam, BC

Award: Innovation Award

Category: Industry

Year: 2004

Innovation:

Solved the No. 1 problem of diners everywhere — wobbly restaurant tables. Table Shox are self adjusting hydraulic glides or "table feet" that prevent tipsy tables. Read the News Release and Media Backgrounder for additional information

News Release

TABLE SHOX Automatically Eliminate Wobbly Tables

B.C. innovators of tiny 'shock absorbers' win $10,000 Manning Award

Calgary, AB (September 7, 2004) - TABLE SHOX are fully automatic, self-adjusting hydraulic gliders or shock absorbers that simply replace a table's existing manual gliders or "table feet." When installed, TABLE SHOX instantly eliminate a problem that plagues diners everywhere — wobbly restaurant tables.

Inventor Ian MacDonald and business partner Evian Macmillan, both with FundaMetal Designs Inc. of Port Coquitlam, B.C., have won a prestigious $10,000 Manning Innovation Award for their elegant and inexpensive remedy to this age-old problem.

MacDonald, a creative designer and entrepreneur, got the idea for his invention while waiting for a flight. He was relaxing in the airport lounge when a wobbly table spilled his drink over the front of his pants. "So a few minutes later, here I am on the plane and I'm wet where I don't really want to be wet," recalls MacDonald, General Manager and CEO of FundaMetal Designs (www.tableshox.com). During his flight, he sketched the concept that would put an end to wobbly restaurant tables.

Wobbly tables are considered an even bigger complaint in restaurants than the food, says company President Macmillan, who spent over seven years in the hospitality industry prior to joining TABLE SHOX. Not only do tipsy tables distract diners and servers, people jam everything from matchbooks to sugar packets to unsightly napkins under one or more table legs to try to stop the wobble.

Patented TABLE SHOX is a much better solution. Once installed, the table's weight compresses all of the tiny shock absorbers on the table legs except where a leg is sitting on a lower part of the floor. The shock absorbers expand to fill in this gap and — voila! — no more grabbing for your glass of wine from a table that's not on the level. The device works automatically even if the table is moved.

"TABLE SHOX totally eliminates the headache of a wobbly table," Macmillan says.

"We love it. No matter where you put the tables or how you move the tables, they'll always be level and straight," says Scott Jaeger, who operates The Pear Tree restaurant in Burnaby, B.C.

TABLE SHOX won "Best of Show" award at the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show in New York City in November 2002, an event that included more than 1,800 products on display.

Since the company's incorporation in 2001, the product is now in use across the entire spectrum of restaurants, from fast-food chains and university cafeterias to fine-dining establishments. Customers include the giant Subway franchise, Walt Disney World and Keg Restaurants Ltd. in Canada. TABLE SHOX also has been featured in media reports on CNN and in BC Business Magazine.

The company is currently shipping about 50,000 to 80,000 individual units a month (or about 15,000 to 20,000 four-legged tables) to distributors and manufacturers in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Puerto Rico, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, with plans to distribute in Europe.

Since 1982, the annual Manning Awards program (www.manningawards.ca) has encouraged and rewarded leading Canadian innovators with more than $3 million in prize money. This year's four major winners, being announced throughout September, will share a total of $145,000. All will be honoured at the annual gala awards dinner Oct. 1 in Vancouver.

For more information about the award-winning TABLE SHOX, please contact Ian MacDonald or Evian Macmillan at (604)-941-9961 or email: ian@tableshox.com or evian@tableshox.com.

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

Media Backgrounder

$10,000 Manning Innovation Award

Ian MacDonald and Evian Macmillan, TABLE

Businessman Ian MacDonald had just sat down for a drink before catching a flight from Chicago's O'Hare airport back to Vancouver. Suddenly his table wobbled, spilling his drink all over the front of his pants. Of course, he'd already checked his baggage.

"So a few minutes later, here I am on the plane and I'm wet where I don't really want to be wet," MacDonald recalls. "And I'm a little bit angry and embarrassed." He decided then and there to put an end to wobbly restaurant tables.

Wobbly tables cause headaches for diners and restaurant owners worldwide and is considered the No. 1 complaint at restaurants, says Evian Macmillan, who spent over seven years in the hospitality industry prior to joining MacDonald in developing and marketing a solution called TABLE SHOX. "I know restaurant owners that spend 15 to 20 minutes every day cutting corks from wine bottles into different thicknesses to then stick underneath tables," Macmillan says.

Diners also do their level best — so to speak — to keep the table steady. They jam everything from matchbook covers to sugar packets to napkins under one or more table legs to try to stop the table tilt. Not only are these stop-gaps temporary at best, they're unhygienic, unsightly and spoil the décor.

By the time MacDonald's flight touched down in Vancouver, he'd sketched the idea for a concept initially called "Leveler" and which evolved into TABLE SHOX.

TABLE SHOX, made of steel, polyurethane and non-skid, impact resistant-nylon, are mini-shock absorbers that simply replace the existing manual gliders or "table feet" on typical four-legged restaurant tables. Each TABLE SHOX unit has two internal chambers. Hydraulic fluid flows from one chamber to the other through a carefully designed balancing system, leveling the table.

"It looks like an extremely simple piece of hardware. And it is, once it's developed," MacDonald says. "But it's also a precision instrument."

Once installed, the weight of the table compresses all of the TABLE SHOX shock absorbers at the end of the table legs except where a table leg is sitting on a lower part of the floor. There, the shock absorbers will expand to fill in a gap of up to 5/16 of an inch and — voila! — no more grabbing for your glass of wine from a table that's not on the level.

"TABLE SHOX totally eliminates the headache of a wobbly table," Macmillan says.

Once the restaurant owner has simply hand-turned the TABLE SHOX units into the bottom of a table's legs, the tiny shock absorbers automatically and instantly level every table even if the tables are moved to other parts of the restaurant — indoors or outdoors.

Unlike some other solutions that depend on springs or other mechanical parts or adjustable glides to level a table, "TABLE SHOX is 100-per-cent automatic," MacDonald notes. "Once you install it on the table, you do nothing. It's the weight of the table that activates the mechanism."

MacDonald and Macmillan recruited Blago Lakic as chief mechanical engineer and Jennifer Van Dyke to assist with sales and marketing. In May 2001, the team took their handful of prototype TABLE SHOX units to the largest hospitality tradeshow in North America, the National Restaurant Association's Restaurant Show in Chicago.

"We had an overwhelming response from people in over 37 countries that were anxious for a wobbly table solution, including several orders based just on the prototypes," Macmillan says.

Backed by $250,000 raised by selling shares to private investors, family and friends, the entrepreneurs incorporated as FundaMetal Designs Inc. in June of 2001. The team convinced local restaurants to test their prototypes and, by the end of August 2001, TABLE SHOX had produced its first 5,000 units.

That September, TABLE SHOX captured 2nd place in the New Ventures British Columbia 2001 competition.

To increase their production and meet the volume demands of large distributors and manufacturers, MacDonald and Macmillan investigated overseas production facilities. In April of 2002, production began in China with the first shipment being sent that June.

In November 2002, TABLE SHOX captured the "Best Product" award in the Furniture & Fixtures category and went on to win "Best of Show" at the International Hotel/Motel & Restaurant Show in New York City, where more than 1,800 products were exhibited.

A month later, the company partnered with Foldcraft of Minnesota to supply TABLE SHOX with manufactured tables. Through Foldcraft, MacDonald and Macmillan and their team landed their largest national customer, Subway, with some 25,000 restaurants across North America. Patented TABLE SHOX is now in use across the entire spectrum of restaurant facilities, from fast-food places and university cafeterias to high-end, fine-dining establishments.

FundMetal Designs is currently shipping about 50,000 to 80,000 individual units a month (or about 15,000 to 20,000 four-legged tables) to distributors and manufacturers in counties that include Canada, the U.S., Mexico, Puerto Rico, Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. The company is also negotiating with distributors in Europe.

"We want to bring the product to market effectively, at a good price, and provide a good service along the way," Macmillan says.

The product sells to end users for US$10 for a set of four TABLE SHOX units — a lot less than a restaurant would pay for new linen for their tables. "It's an inexpensive solution to eliminate a problem that is on a lot of people's pet peeves list," he notes.

"TABLE SHOX is the single best thing we have ever bought for the restaurant," says Scott Arnold, manager of Dust's Cellar in Okemos, Michigan.

MacDonald and Macmillan and their team now have working prototypes for a heavier-duty version of TABLE SHOX for other applications, such as preventing a homeowner's wobbly clothes washer or dryer from "walking" across the laundry room floor.

TABLE SHOX has benefited from financial assistance from the federal Scientific Research and Experimental Development program, International Trade Canada's Program for Export Market Development, and the National Research Council's Industrial Research and Assistance Program.

The product's many customers include Subway, Walt Disney World and the Keg Restaurants of Canada, and the company has been featured in reports in media outlets that include CNN and BC Business Magazine.

"Winning the Manning Award is awesome. We're so happy about it," Macmillan says.

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 $3 million to recognize Canadian innovators.

Media contacts (photos available):

Ian MacDonald or Evian Macmillan

TABLE SHOX

Phone: (604)-941-9961

Email: ian@tableshox.com or

evian@tableshox.com

Website: www.tableshox.com

Donald Park, Executive Director

Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation

Phone: (403)-645-8288

Website: www.manningawards.ca