How the Nigerian who invented ‘NEPAless’ Pressing Iron almost gave up on it
When Ayokunle Adeniran wanted to meet his dad at a Nigerian airport in 2012, he was certainly in a hurry. Ayokunle got frustrated, however, when he could not press the shirt he wanted to wear, because of the power outage in his neighborhood. Rather than sulk over that frustration, Ayokunle decided to take some steps.
In 2015, many bloggers in Nigeria published the story that Ayokunle Adeniran had invented a ‘NEPAless’ (off-grid) pressing iron. In a recent interview with Outrepreneurs, Ayokunle discussed how he came about the idea for the pressing iron.
Continuing with the story of meeting his dad at the airport, he said, “The clothes I had planned to wear on that day had to be changed, because there was no way I could press them and that got me really upset. I thought, ‘in which other way could I make an impact in this field [Engineering]?’ That led to the idea of finding an alternative to the electric pressing iron.”
Since constant electricity supply is still a mirage in many parts of Africa, he designed the invention to run without grid electricity. A gas canister provides the energy needed to power the pressing iron. The name presently given to the invention came from ‘NEPA’, the abbreviation of a corporation in charge of electricity in Nigeria (the National Electric Power Authority), before it was privatized in 2011 and since the suffix ‘less’ in English Language means ‘without’, Ayokunle’s ‘NEPAless’ iron definitely works without the national grid. According to him, people will easily understand the solution is an alternative to the electric pressing iron.
For the Mechanical Engineering graduate who now resides in the United States, Nigeria still falls short of a culture that promotes innovation.
“Most of the work for this product was done in Nigeria. I did most of the work, when I used to live in Lagos. Here in the United States, there is more support for engineering work, design and product development.
“Back in Nigeria, I had to make every single piece of the parts by myself. In the US, there are already companies; all I need to do is to give them the specification of the tools I need and pay them the money needed to do them.”
At a time, he got tired and almost did not continue with the invention. It was only a sense of responsibility that made him not to allow his efforts to go to waste.
“This kind of work is very demanding. I just put everything aside and moved on with my life. I later went back to it, though.”
During this adventurous journey, Ayokunle learned that interest is critical to any accomplishment in life.
“Since when I was a child, I have always been interested in things like gadgets. Everything starts with an interest. When you know you are interested in solving problems, that interest makes you to go do research on how to solve the problems,” he said.
“Sometimes, being an inventor means you will fail many times, but you should be able to keep your work and track what you do. It is like you are doing a research document, anything you discover is something you can always build on to climb up the ladder.”
An incident left him with a sad memory, while he was seeking support for his invention in 2015. He had put up an online crowdfunding campaign to raise 20 million naira from Nigerians, but he was only able to raise 30 thousand naira. The same campaign was done in the US and he was able to raise 1,500 dollars. However, what really made him feel bad was the negative comments some Nigerians made, that he wanted to rip them off.
He buttressed the import of his experience with all soberness: “I honestly want people to support those who are sick or need help. The way Nigerians help people who want to go overseas for surgery is good, but they also need to support technology. They give to religious organizations and contribute money in church. That should also be done to inventors that come up with the things that can change lives. My point is if we support inventors, Nigeria will be a better place.
“Americans don’t need this NEPAless pressing iron, because there is no electricity problem there. If that was a product that could solve a major problem in the US, that campaign would have been more successful, but Nigeria didn’t support it. Some of these problems are localized and we should not expect someone from another country to solve them for us.”
He added that the gas-powered pressing iron is what he uses in his home in the United States. According to him, some modifications have been made to the earlier prototype, which make the gas canister to last fifteen times longer than when the first prototype was made.
Adeniran who is a research engineer in a US-based packaged-consumer product firm has these words for many Nigerians who might be wondering why his invention has not been mass-produced to meet their needs: “I have learnt and improved on some of those processes. I have answered some of the unknown questions. It is easy to blame the problem on the fact that I didn’t have enough money to mass-produce the product. It is not really about the money now, but sometimes it is about having the right strategy. If I had known what I know now, there was a possibility that I would have launched the product [into the market] earlier.”
Meanwhile, he has the plan to attract angel investors, not just for his ‘NEPAless’ pressing iron, but also for other inventions on which he is presently working, adding that the inventions are potential solutions to specific problems faced by Nigerians.
Are you an inventor, innovator or a product designer in Nigeria? Do you know a Nigerian who has developed a game-changing innovation or invention that could make life better? Outventors is not only a compendium of Nigerian and African inventors/innovators and their stories. It is also a gathering of momentum for inventors, innovators and product designers to meet mentors, contract manufacturers, investors and like minds, at upcoming Outventor Meetups, Outventor Forums and the Outventor 1.0 Summit coming up later this year. Inventors, Innovators and Designers interested in getting their stories out, seeking participation in Outventor events and/or actively looking for partnership and support to launch their prototypes into the market can fill this form.
Deji Aroloye47 Posts
a graduate of Linguistics and a staff writer at Outrepreneurs, Deji's forte includes tech, startups and innovations. Years back, Deji wrote on Entertainment and Lifestyle for a tabloid. If he wasn't a writer, Deji would be a photographer or teacher.