Biz: Bad back hatches new product

Ever thought you had a great idea for a business or invention? Ever let the thought pass without acting on it? Don’t be ashamed—you have a lot of company.

Egg-cellent idea: Borne of a back ailment, the Three Minute Egg yoga prop is the brainchild of Asheville’s Jason Scholder. Photo by Jonathan Welch

But Jason Scholder of Asheville doesn’t belong to that club.

“It’s always been a … dream of mine to invent something,” he reveals. “I always felt how cool would it be to invent something and have everybody use it. And then it all happened quite accidentally.”

That “accident” is the patent-pending Three Minute Egg. Not the incredible, edible kind—this egg is a yoga prop, which Scholder is now selling in sets of two ($35) or four eggs ($65) with the express purpose of helping users maintain proper alignment while performing yoga, as well as Pilates, Gyrotonic exercises or those prescribed by chiropractors or physical therapists. Not up on your yoga poses? No worries. Scholder, a filmmaker and furniture maker by trade, has produced a $12 DVD showing how to incorporate the eggs into common yoga routines.

Originally from New York, Scholder lived in California before coming to Asheville. He credits the egg’s genesis to his often-debilitating back ailment. A buddy turned him on to a product called a “heart block,” a wooden device used by yogis through the ages to open up the heart chakra. Scholder decided to give it a try.

“I lay on it and the vertebrae in my back went ‘pop, pop, pop.’ It felt really good,” he says. “I was driving to his house like twice a day just to lay on this thing for 30 seconds, so I could feel better.”

Being handy with wood, Scholder decided to make his own. Because of the gadget’s odd shape—it resembles a two-legged dinosaur with a long, arching neck (think brontosaurus)—there were pieces of wood left over, including one that resembled what would become the Three Minute Egg (which is actually more oval than truly egg-shaped, but never mind).

“So I just lay down over this egg instead of the heart block, and the egg actually did everything, pretty much, that the heart block did,” he recalls. “But it was much smaller and much easier to make. Since I’m always looking for legitimate, cool ways to make money that I would care about, I thought these eggs would be a lot easier to reproduce than the heart blocks.”

That inspiration eventually led to a meeting with a friend’s father who worked for Procter & Gamble and often traveled to China. Told that producing the heavy wooden items there and shipping them back would be cost-prohibitive, Scholder settled on a dense foam—especially after some users of the wooden prototypes complained that they were too hard. A Chinese manufacturer now makes the eggs, though Scholder says he intends to find an American firm to take over production.

Although there is great debate in yoga circles about the use of props, Scholder says the product isn’t necessarily meant to make yoga easier (and thus less effective), but simply to help users maintain the proper alignment, which is vital not only in yoga but also in rehabilitative and other forms of exercise. In addition, says Scholder, the eggs help users stimulate muscle groups that would otherwise be highly unlikely to get a workout.

Part of the product’s beauty, the inventor maintains, is that it isn’t just for yoga. As someone who initially used props for a bad back, Scholder says he’s gratified that growing numbers of chiropractors and physical therapists are incorporating the eggs into their practice, though the real profit potential probably remains tied to the booming, billion-dollar yoga industry.

“It’s way more versatile than I intended,” Scholder says about his brainchild. “I just wanted to have something to lay over and stretch my back.”

In the past year, Scholder says he’s moved hundreds of units through his Web site, trade shows and word of mouth. His ultimate goal is to attract investors and grow the company as much as possible before eventually selling it.

Told by friends, businesspeople and others that he has a million-dollar idea, Scholder says his plan is actually to make many millions—not out of greed but so he can indulge his passion for filmmaking. His Asheville-based company, Reel Change Films, also has an office in Los Angeles.

Appropriately, Scholder is now working on Walking the Path, a spiritual documentary that he says will include interviews with some of the world’s foremost spiritual teachers and scholars.

Meanwhile, there’s another, perhaps less apparent link between the Three Minute Egg and Scholder’s pet film project: Both, he notes, represent a melding of the physical and the spiritual—and both involve making things that serve others.

“With the Three Minute Egg, I created something because of my own needs, and it’s something that can really help people. It helped me, and everyone who owns them really likes them, and it seems like it can really help them too. I feel obligated to get the Three Minute Egg to market. … I feel it’s a product that has value, and because it has value I want to make sure it gets out to the world,” he says. “I don’t just want to make money—I want to make something that has meaning.”

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