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Insurance executive driven by the spirit of innovation

Posted On: Jan. 21, 2007 12:00 AM CST

WOODLAND HILLS, Calif.—Whether selling property/casualty coverage to small commercial clients or removing staples, Erwin Cheldin tries to find a better way.

That spirit drove Mr. Cheldin, who founded Cheldin Insurance Agency in 1953, to establish Crusader Insurance Co. in 1976.

He said he founded Crusader to answer "the real needs of the customers and independent agents and brokers by offering phone quotes, extended hours, two-day policy issuance and responsive underwriting with no volume commitments."

Mr. Cheldin now is chairman of the board of the Woodland Hills, Calif.-based insurer.

That spirit also prompts him to try to improve common products to make them easier and more efficient, earning several patents in the process, mostly for office-related products.

One of his most popular products is the "Erkie"—his nickname—that combines a staple remover with pliers to remove a staple more efficiently.

Mr. Cheldin said the idea came to him one day, after years of removing half a staple with a standard staple remover and then searching for pliers to remove the other half. His idea combined both tools into one. He made a prototype of the gadget his kitchen and then patented the product and found a manufacturer to produce it.

He subsequently created different versions of Erkies, including some with razor-sharp letter openers. Marketing companiesÝsellÝErkies as a promotional product to clients, whoÝtypicallyÝimprint their namesÝon the remover's flat surface.

Mr. Cheldin said he comes by his knack naturally and inventing "must be in the genes." Both his father and grandfather were interested in inventions, and his father holds several patents related to photographic papers and processes, he said.