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by Drew Hasselback - National Post

Brad Merritt thinks he's come up with the perfect business - but he's not quite ready to give up his night job.

As bass player for the Canadian rock band 54•40, Mr. Merritt has for 20 years enjoyed a level of success-most musicians only dream of. Five of the band's last albums have gone platinum, meaning they have sold in excess of l00,000 units.

But Mr. Merritt has never been able to shake his interest in business. And now the 40-year-old rock star thinks he has come up with an invention that will help him achieve that dream.

Years of touring exposed Mr. Merritt, a self-confessed caffeine addict, to cup after cup of bad coffee at greasy roadside cafes and cheap motels. Early on, he gave up on coffee shops and started making his own coffee with a French press. This created a new problem, however: The French press doesn't keep the coffee warm for very long. So Mr. Merritt set out to invent some sort of an insulator that would allow the press, or Bodum as it is called by aficionados, retain heat.

Mr. Merritt experimented with several homemade solutions, such as wrapping tea towels around his Bodum or sticking two oven mitts to it using a rubber band. He finally hired a seamstress to stitch together a jacket out of the fabric Solaft that would fit snuggly around the Bodum.

After experimenting with eight prototypes, Mr. Merritt says he finally invented an insulator that works. He calls it the Decent Coffee Cosy.

"My entrepreneurial spirit kicked in," he says. "I solved my problem, and now I want to reach the world, and I'm doing that through"

Having solved his personal problem, Mr. Merritt then put his mind to a possible business plan. During the band's last concert tour, he sketched out a marketing plan, then decided to throw his hat in the business ring.

He's set up a small office at his home in Tswassen, B.C., just south of Vancouver, and had a Web site built to pitch his product on the Internet.

The business ramped up earlier this year. So far, he's been selling about three units a day (a one litre cosy sells for $16 and a 1.5 litre sells for $18), but he expects sales will pick up enough to make a return on his investment by the end of the year. Even so, he says 54•40 has no immediate plans to quit the music business any time soon.

"There's room in my life for both things. The 54•40 thing has not slowed down one iota. We're more popular, making more money, doing more dates, than we ever have before."

Mr. Merritt says he's invested $15,000 in, as he calls his business. That might not seem like a lot to a successful rock musician, but he insists that his income is a lot more modest than one might think.

"We do OK. Most musicians consider success giving up a day job. We haven't had to work one of those in nine years. We make a decent living. We live like most Canadians."

Which means that will be the musician's first day job in almost a decade. If he's lucky, he'll not have to give it up.

Financial Post

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