Dave Herbig created Badge Magic® in 2004, after a two-year search for a better way to attach badges to Scout uniforms.
Dave and his wife, Danita, have been involved in Scouting for many years. In the early 1960’s, Danita’s mother was living overseas. To give her children access to Scouting, Rose Marie Delimont became a leader of both Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts. Her son Duane became an Eagle Scout. Meanwhile, Dave was a Cub Scout in the late 1950’s and became a Boy Scout at about the time Danita and her siblings were Scouts.
This later led to Dave and Danita’s active interest in encouraging their son, Davis, to join Cub Scouts in 1995, and to participating themselves as leaders. Danita became a Den Leader and then the Committee Chair of Pack 629 in Bellevue, Washington. Dave took up the role of Assistant Cub Master. Davis has now moved on to Scout Troop 438 in Bellevue, where he is Senior Patrol Leader, and Dave continues his service as a merit badge counselor.
As a Scout leader, Dave saw constant displeasure with the need to sew badges on uniforms. “There was a lot of publicity about changing the way we said the Pledge of Allegiance and other issues, but Scouters never complained about that stuff. The only complaint I ever heard from Scouting parents was about sewing on the $#@*©! patches!” Dave also noticed that it sometimes took months for parents to sew badges on uniforms. He believed that this delay compromised the motivational aspect of receiving badges as rewards for advancement accomplishments.
Dave’s entrepreneurial background triggered an idea: If he could figure out a way to easily attach badges to uniforms – without sewing – it would be a great blessing to millions of Scouts and their parents. Then came the hard work!
He searched for product designers who could create what he needed. It had to work with the various uniform materials, be quick and easy to apply, yet withstand multiple launderings. The badges had to stick tenaciously, but at the same time be easy to remove when Badges of Rank needed to be changed or a growing child necessitated moving badges to a new shirt. A friend referred Dave to Chris Smith, an industrial designer with expertise in recreational clothing and equipment. Chris felt that a hot-melt adhesive could be used to create an “iron-on” badge product. After trying several formulations, Chris and Dave created a batch of test kits and gave them to some Scout families to try.
The early results were very encouraging, and they began in earnest to start their new company. However, as the reports came in from field trials, it became apparent that the approach did not work on some badges. Nylon thread on some council shoulder patches melted when the iron was used, and other badges that had a backing impervious to the hot-melt glue fell off in the wash.
"We were heartbroken,” says Dave, “but Chris and I persevered and tried new approaches.” After many trials, a new pressure-sensitive adhesive formulation was discovered that solved the problems inherent in the iron-on approach.
Chris also designed a unique dispensing system that allowed for quick and easy application of the adhesive to the back of the badges. Adhesive sheets were created with cutouts in the shapes of all the commonly used badges. Complete uniform kits were fabricated with cutouts for all required badges. Samples were tested and shown to Rich Williams of the Puget Sound Scout Shop in Seattle. He was very enthusiastic but wanted more testing. He helpfully provided Dave and Chris with samples of each of the various uniform materials. Dave conducted months of tests and washed and dried the samples a minimum of 40 cycles, including tests with bleach and fabric softeners. The adhesive held perfectly, even after 75 cycles!
Then came the tests for removing the badges. Dave had learned from cleaning sticky knives and scissors that Goof Off® removes glue. He tried it on a uniform and found that after 30 seconds, the badges could be slowly pulled from the material, leaving just a little residue. After washing the shirt, a new badge could be applied over the old spot.
Then came the ultimate test: the drycleaners! This worked even better, removing the adhesive without a trace. Now Scouts could recycle a complete uniform very easily! Just tell the drycleaner to clean the uniform in a laundry bag. The result: a clean shirt for a smaller Scout in one hand, and a pile of fresh badges ready to be used again in the other hand.
Next came the business issues. Patents were applied for and samples were prepared for inspection by the Supply Division of the Boy Scouts of America. The samples passed with flying colors and official uniform kits for Cubs, Webelos, Boy Scouts, and Leaders were created. The next step was to produce Badge Magic products in sufficient quantity to meet the needs of Scouters nationwide.
Dave commissioned Skills, Inc., of Seattle for the job. Skills employs handicapped workers who might otherwise be unable to find jobs, and trains them to perform assembly work like that needed to create the uniform kits. Skills took on the job of assembling the kits and provided new jobs for deserving workers. Dave regularly visits the production line. “It is very rewarding to see the mission and spirit of Scouting in action."
The BSA requires that products be made in America whenever possible. "But we went a step further, using these deserving workers instead of opting for automated machinery or overseas assembly. It’s been tremendously rewarding to see this idea blossom to benefit so many people.”
Indeed, even Badge Magic’s advisors come from Scouting backgrounds. “At first it was coincidental that everyone involved with the business came from a Scouting background. Even our attorneys and insurance agent and many of our suppliers are Scouts,” Dave said. “Now we insist on it whenever possible!"
In 2018, Badge Magic was purchased by Lighthouse for the Blind, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization headquartered in St. Louis, MO. The mission of Lighthouse for the Blind is to assist individuals who are legally blind maintain dignity and independence by making available employment, education and support services. 100% of Badge Magic products are now assembled and packaged by employees who are legally blind. Proceeds from the sales of Badge Magic products contribute towards funding 23 community outreach programs that benefit children who are blind in Missouri and Western Illinois. We thank you for supporting our mission!
Dave continues to be a consultant to Lighthouse for the Blind. He also assists his wife Danita, who has built one of the country's top stock photography agencies, Danita Delimont Stock Photography. Danita's agency is a leading provider of worldwide travel, nature and lifestyle images.
Another vision of Delimont, Herbig and Associates is the Performing Arts DVD series. Dave is involved in the design and production of these Digital Art Shows that showcase photo images of the world's finest nature and lifestyle photographers accompanied by inspired musicians.