New Dimensions

Fitness equipment inventor

Dean Tornabene is the co-inventor with Charles Perez of some of the best-selling gadgets ever pushed by infomercials, including the AB Rocker and the Bun and Thigh Sculptor. His inventions over the past four years have generated more than $300 million in retail sales and direct-response TV combined.

Tornabene, a former Mr. America who has established himself as a health and fitness guru, has quite an impressive background, but his inventing skills go far beyond simply cashing in on his good looks and name recognition. Tornabene also knows how to create a distinctive product-one with the potential to find space on retail shelves and become a smash hit, not just another deadbeat collecting dust in a corner of Wal-Mart.

Tornabene's first inventions came about when he was a teenager growing up in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania. His family couldn't afford expensive fitness equipment, so Tornabene created his own products. At 22, Tornabene moved to Los Angeles and gradually realized that the general public needed more than just exercise to keep in top shape. Hence, Herbal Technologies Inc. was born, a company that sells two of the most popular herbal supplements, Fat Fighting System and Metasystem.

Over the past four years, Tornabene has again turned to fitness equipment, co-inventing the AB Rocker and the Bun and Thigh Sculptor. All have been featured on direct-response TV, and now he's taking yet another stride forward: In 1999, Tornabene signed an exclusive marketing and sales contract with National Boston Medical Inc., parent company of Infotopia, to produce a minimum of 12 new infomercial products over the next four years. The newest product to be featured is the Body Rocker.

Daniel Hoyng, president, chairman and CEO of Infotopia, notes the significance of the deal: "Retail sales are even more important than direct-response sales. To keep a product on retailers' shelves, it's important to have a branding strategy that consumers can recognize."

Don Debelak ( is a new-business marketing consultant who has been introducing new products for more than 20 years. He is the author of Bringing Your Product to Market (John Wiley & Sons, $19.95, 800-225-5945).

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This article was originally published in the April 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: New Dimensions.

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