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IU Northwest student’s entrepreneurial spirit sparkles in the region

Darnelius Hill’s invention, The Jewel WasherTM, available for purchase in 2012

Tuesday May 08, 2012


What started out as a mindless, daily household chore of loading the dishwasher turned into a million-dollar idea for Indiana University Northwest student Darnelius Hill. In 2009, Hill, a junior studying sociology, was going about the business of tidying his home when the idea hit him, he said, like a ton of bricks, or gold and platinum, in this case.

Hill, 30, has more than five years of experience in the jewelry business as a certified gemologist. Working for a local, independent jewelry store got him to thinking that there probably was “an easier way for customers to clean their jewelry.”

He found that easier way. Hill’s entrepreneurial spirit led him down a winding path of prototypes and patents until, recently, he decided on his final product: The Jewel WasherTM.

The product, Hill said, is truly as simple as the name sounds. Any piece of metal jewelry, with the exception of watches, can be loaded into the small, blue dishwasher-safe plastic container that fits onto the top shelf of a dishwasher. The container has very small holes that allow water to pass through, but, more importantly, they enable a build-up and release of steam, which helps to bring one’s jewels back to their original pristine condition.

“No special detergent is necessary,” Hill explained. “Just add The Jewel WasherTM with your dirty pans, cups and plates, and within one wash cycle, you’ll have clean dishes and jewelry.”

Entrepreneurial spirit

Hill’s entrepreneurial spirit has sparkled throughout Northwest Indiana and beyond.

His invention claimed first prize in late March when he pitched it against 1,000 other products as part of The Big Sell Entrepreneurs in Action competition, a program developed by Purdue University Calumet and its Center for Entrepreneurship Success, in cooperation with the Hammond Development Corp. and the city of Hammond.

“We beat out all sorts of other inventions, including medical devices, and ideas from as far away as China and Australia,” Hill said.

Hill credited his first-place victory to the simplicity of his product.

“This works because our jewelry is like silverware; it’s stainless steel. Gold, platinum and other precious metals are more durable than steel. The temperate range for those metals to melt is higher than steel.”

Hill said that the majority of today’s most successful inventions have simple solutions. Consider, for example, the enormous popularity of the Snuggie®, or better yet, Silly Bandz®.

Hill’s entrepreneurial spirit stems from his late father, who like Hill, took a simple approach to solving his problems.

“A lot of people go through their whole life not even knowing what a patent is, how it works, and what intellectual property is,” Hill said. “My dad showing me what a patent is at age 7 actually led me to create this (The Jewel WasherTM).”

Paying forward that same entrepreneurial spirit, Hill, a single father of three, recently brought the patent process to life to a local, Gary kindergarten class through The Jewel WasherTM for Kids program. He had each student color a picture of The Jewel WasherTM. The backside of the paper defined the patent process in a context young children would understand.  The student with the best and most creative coloring of The Jewel WasherTM was awarded a $100 cash prize.

The journey from prototype to patent has helped Hill to remember his father, and to serve as a mentor, educator and inspiration to local children and entrepreneurs.

“I want people to know that things come out of this area (Northwest Indiana), and in fact, good things -- great things -- come out of the region,” Hill said.

The JewelWasherTM is currently in production and will be available for purchase in 2012. Orders have already been made by local, independent jewelry stores, and consumers will be able to purchase the product online, or through mail orders, in the coming weeks.

Hill said he hopes to see the product carried globally by mass retailers such as Wal-Mart or Target fairly soon.

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