Bamberg native Corey Cooper lays out photos then thumbs through a portfolio dedicated to his newly patented invention: a multi-purpose medicine/exercise ball officially named the CARVE-Ball.

Cooper speaks with passion and excitement about is invention, describing it as the "gateway to the future of sports fitness."

"It is basically a complete gym in a bag," he said in a recent interview. "It is something for everyone. I wanted to come up with the idea that not only Mom and Dad can use it, but two kids playing two separate sports can, too. And not only them, but Grandma, too."

Cooper said his medicine ball, which is about 40 percent complete, is unique. Unlike other medicine balls, which are solid balls often used for exercise, rehabilitation and strength training, the CARVE-Ball is several medicine balls rolled into one, he said.

For instance, the ball can be slammed, pushed, thrown, lifted, increased or decreased by weight, and has attachments that make it the only fitness equipment you need, he said.

The ball will come in rubber, leather and nylon, enabling it to move easier or harder on different surfaces, such as sand, pavement, gym floors and grass.

The ball can weigh from a minimum of five pounds to a maximum of 360 pounds based on specified need.

And its benefits don't stop there, Cooper noted.

He said the CARVE-Ball can compete against many of the common pieces of equipment used today in training and fitness, including the running parachute, the leather medicine ball, the weight vest, ab workout resistance bands, vertimax running machines and squats with straight bar on rack.

While the majority of the equipment out there is designed to work on a particular body part, the CARVE-Ball will be able to address each body part through the various attachments, Cooper said.

He said the ball can even be used in water by a swimmer as resistance through the use of a waist belt.

Cooper has recently received his patent for the CARVE-Ball and hopes to see it in stores by the summer of 2018.

How it all began

A Bamberg native, Cooper, 47, who is the son of current Orangeburg County Council Vice Chairwoman Janie Cooper-Smith, moved to Orangeburg at the age of 4. He went Marshall Elementary and then Orangeburg-Wilkinson High.

As a child growing up, he said he was like any other kid with an interest in playing sports like football and basketball.

It was not until his junior year in high school that his interests changed to spreadsheets and accounting, Cooper said.

"It was something that came naturally to me," he said. "It was one of those courses that I really did not have to study for really hard."

While at DeVry Institute of Technology in Atlanta earning his Bachelor of Science in accounting, his friend, Keith, would "always come up with crazy ideas" and planted the seed in him about creating something, Cooper said.

"One thing I learned is what I wanted to do in life," he said, adding that he once heard someone say, 'Those who do not have goals are destined to work for those who do."

After graduating from college, Cooper went to work at Morgan Stanley as a stockbroker.

"As a stockbroker, you get to see other people that made inventions that are now bringing their companies to market," he said. "I started studying other entrepreneurs and executives."

An idea blossoms

Cooper said invention ideas began to form in his mind, such as the creation of a new gym shoe and an item that would prevent ring around the collar in clothing.

After researching these ideas, he discovered that others had already beaten him to it. This all changed one day when he was at the gym, Cooper said.

"I noticed there were three different medicine balls," he said. "I looked at all three of them and was like, you know, instead of having three different balls and three different prices for three separate items, you can have one ball that can do all three of those."

Cooper said he began to conceptualzie the ball and talked to others about what they liked and needed. He went to the U.S. patent office and found out there was really nothing like what he was thinking about on the market.

One his friend's drew the ball that fit in with Cooper's vision, and that drawing became the final design for the CARVE-Ball.

Cooper said that in addition to funding, another challenge was finding a name for his ball.

"I even looked in the dictionary," he said, explaining that he remembered there was an inventor back in the day by the name of George Washington Carver. He said wanted to use the inventor's last name but felt he should shortened the name to "Carva."

"It sounded like larva; I didn't want to be attached to an insect," Cooper said.

He said he settled on CARVE because his goal is that the ball will help people carve or sculpt their bodies through its use.

In 2012, Cooper began applying for his patent application and received a letter about eight months later that his patent was being reviewed.

He said he called the man who was reviewing his patent and was told his product was about 30 percent complete.

"He kind of crushed me," Cooper said.

The reviewer recommended he talk to a patent lawyer to complete a patent application.

The revised application was filed in 2013 and then it was a matter of "wait and see," Cooper said.

"A couple of months went by, a couple of (more) months went by," Cooper said, noting that the process went on for a few years until earlier this year, when Cooper received a letter from the U.S. patent trade office.

""It said your patent has been approved and you will be issued a patent 4 July," he said. "Now I am waiting for a red seal. That red seal is like, 'Congratulations, you have a U.S. patent invention."

The next step

"It is not retail-ready," he said of the CARVE-Ball. "I want it to have the highest amount of quality that fitness equipment can have."

Cooper said he needs about $50,000 more to get the product ready for marketing distribution and manufacturing. Thus far, he has invested about $20,000.

In order to raise money, he is planning to enter into various pitch contests similar to Shark Tank.

"Hopefully, the first one will work and I won't need a second one," he said.

Cooper said he has an aggressive marketing plan that will include online, door-to-door, direct mailing and trade shows, as well as showing his product in gyms and hotels.

The future

Cooper said he is excited about the future and receives his inspiration from Amazon.

"Amazon speaks three different languages, and it is one company that can dominate three separate industries," he said. "Amazon can dominate retail, can dominate food, can dominate transportation. In 2040, I see myself speaking three different languages."

Cooper said he is looking for people to invest in his company in its infancy.

"The goal is to have people with a limited amount of money to be able to see the vision and have a way to prepare for retirement with a small amount of capital," he said.

Cooper said he realizes it could take about four years for the company to turn a profit.

Contact the writer: gzaleski@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5551. Follow on Twitter @ZaleskiTD.

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Business Reporter

Gene Zaleski is a reporter/staff writer with The Times and Democrat.

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