Children Flee No More

Tutu finds an ingenious way to keep children from getting lost

By Léo Azambuja

It was the summer of 2002 when Charleen Tinao came up with an idea to prevent her three-year-old grandson from getting lost in busy places. Not that Molokai is a busy place, but Tinao’s daughter and her husband were planning to travel off island. So Tinao manufactured a vest that could be worn by the toddler and attached to his mom’s waist via a three-foot leash.

The idea proved to be helpful. When the little toddler grew out of the vest, his sister started using it. But Tinao, always a resourceful lady, was not happy with it. So she picked up an ornate Hawaiian print and made a new vest for her grand daughter. In the following years she continued making vests each of her grandchildren, improving the design five times.

In April 2005, Tinao attended a Business Summit Workshop on Molokai, headed by Barbara Haliniak. Tinao walked into the workshop with her grand daughter, who was using the vest. “Everyone just stared,” Tinao said. “I knew I made an impression.”

Tinao was advised to patent her invention before someone else would. This is when Annette Pauole Ahakuelo came into the picture. Pauole Ahakuelo runs the Kuha`o Business Center (KBC), which provides entrepreneur training, gave Tinao the business expertise she needed to rise to the next level. “KBC provided great incentive and confidence for me to become an inventor and entrepreneur,” Tinao said.

But the hard work was just beginning. Tinao applied for a patent in October 2006. Nearly two years later, in August 2007, the United States Commission of Patents finally approved her patent of a “child safety-vest.”

“I am an official inventor,” she proudly said.

While waiting for the patent approval, Tinao found a company in California willing to manufacture her invention. She also registered the name “Safe-T-Tot, LLC,” as her own company.

At that time, her son Jonathan was living and working in New York. He believed in his mother’s vision and dropped everything to move to Hawaii to help the family business take off.

Tinao realized the company in California was too far away to deal with, and reworked the business plan. She is currently working with a manufacturing company on Maui. If things works out, “Safe-T-Tot, LLC” will soon own the manufacturing company.

Tinao said her friends are excited about her idea, and they think she’ll probably make a good amount of money from it. But Tinao said she’s not thinking about money. Her main concern is to provide a product that will help keep children from getting lost or hurt.

The vest comes in eight fabric designs, and in three sizes; small, medium and large. They fit children from 2 to 5-years-old. Tinao said the children love to wear the vest because they are colorful. KBC will display the vests Monday, September 17. For more information please call KBC at (808) 660-0004.

Tinao said that if anyone comes up with an idea they believe could be successful, they should look into patenting it. The process is lengthy, but can be rewarding. If you want to contact Tinao to get some advice on patenting, or to get a hold of some child safety-vests, she said she is more than willing to help. Tinao can be reached at (808) 553-3259.


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