This undated photograph provided by Lisa Wiles shows a Tennessee fan wearing a pom-pom skirt called the Fan-e-Shaker in Knoxville. (AP Photo/Lisa Wiles handout via Knoxville News Sentinel)
KNOXVILLE — Lisa Wiles was six weeks into her maternity leave when she saw Smokey, the University of Tennessee's mascot, wearing pom-pom pants.
The image sparked an idea that developed into a patented design for Fan-e Shaker, an adjustable pom-pom skirt that aims to shake up school spirit.
"The idea came to me and I thought, I need to do this," Wiles, 34, recalled. "It's for the ultimate fan."
Three years in the making, the product is now available for sale on eBay and at local retailer Bliss. Soon, it will be sold on Wiles' e-commerce website and at an expanded selection of retail stores.
Designed to provide flexibility and fun, the Fan-e Shaker is sold with 16 snaps of pompoms that can be traded out for different colors to support fans' favorite teams. Additional single pompoms are sold separately.
It's a product that Wiles admits has come a long way since her initial prototype, which used Gorilla Tape and key rings to hold the pompoms. The first time she wore it to a UT football game, Wiles and her husband, Chad, knew they were onto something.
"My husband said, 'We've got to do something with this. We can't get to point A to point B without getting bombarded,'" said Wiles, a former UT soccer player who works as a senior loan officer for Mortgage Investors Group.
She decided to use a mesh material for the belt, snaps to interchange pompoms and Velcro for making it size adjustable. But Wiles envisions an array of potential possibilities with different attachments.
"There's plenty of room to grow this and make it bigger," she said.
Scott Schimmel of Bliss, which tries to support as many local and regional products as possible, just picked up the product, which he called multidimensional.
"If a product made or designed locally has that kind of uniqueness, it sets your store apart. This is extremely unique. We've never seen anything like it. It's got a lot of potential. She's just getting into a few colors, but by simply adding other things that you can snap on to the belt, it can evolve into something else," he said.
Wiles developed the Fan-e Shaker under the company Wiles Things Inc. "because you never know what inventions are in me."
Fifteen years ago, Lisa Wiles was inspired with an idea to take the straps off flip flops and interchange them with different designs.
Having just graduated from the University of Tennessee and trying to start her career, Wiles said she decided not to pursue it.
"Somebody took that idea and did something with it," she said. "That could have been my thing. I thought, 'I'm not going to let this one go.'"
Now with systems in place, Wiles said the process to develop future products will be easier going forward.
"There's a big learning curve, but at the end of the day, we got to the finish line," she said. "You can't let your ideas get away."
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