Jack Rees said the idea was so simple he should have thought of it sooner.
One winter day Rees watched his wife slide plastic grocery bags over her car's windshield wipers to prevent ice from building up on them.
"And so I started to do the same thing, but plastic bags didn't fit on my [vehicle's] wipers," he said.
So instead, Rees, a 59-year-old retired postal worker from Moon, bought some fabric from a local store to craft his own wiper cover — and Wiper Sleeve was born.
"Think of it as a sleeve that you would slide up over your arm, but instead, you put it on your wiper," Rees said. "It's a very simple product."
The Wiper Sleeve is now one of more than 4,000 products in the running in Walmart's Get on the Shelf competition. Contestants submitted videos of their inventions, which range from wood laminate repair kits to a device that inventors say will remedy lower back pain, and the public can vote for their favorite products via Facebook or text message.
The winning products will be sold on Walmart.com and featured in select Walmart locations. Finalists for the competition will be announced April 11.
"This is an easy-to-use product that prevents ice and snow from building up on your windshield wiper blades," said Rees in a homemade advertisement for the competition that he shot in one take with friends. Motorists can use the sleeves while parked at home or at work, the video boasts.
"It's sort of like American Idol," Rees said of the Get on the Shelf competition. "People compete from all over the country. It's nationwide."
The Wiper Sleeve is Rees' first foray into product invention. The product now has a patent pending and Rees is in talks with a Kansas firm that is looking to get orders for the sleeve from vendors.
Rees said he hoped the Wiper Sleeve's decidedly practical use would catch the eye of Get on the Shelf voters, but he's also hoping to muster some local support to make it into the contest's finalist round. It's his dream to see the product sold on Walmart shelves, he said.
"I'm up against businesses [in the competition]; it's not just private people," he said. "It's small business who I'm sure are telling their customers about it. Which is intimidating, because [with the Wiper Sleeve] it's just me."