Love and innovation: How relationships helped spark savvy solutions

Story highlights

  • Couples create products for their partners as a gesture of love
  • But when you go into business together, it's not always easy

(CNN)To develop a brilliant idea, maybe all you need is love.

Meet John Mikelich, Brad Soden, Chris Limburg and Mike Tepedino. They may not know each other personally, but they all have something in common: They created a product for their partners as the ultimate gesture of love.
Whether it was inventing an all-terrain wheelchair or programming a mobile app, these men have set the bar high in modern-day romance.
    Jamie's To Do
    John and Jamie Mikelich

    Los Angeles
    When a programmer falls in love with a to-do list fanatic, good ideas are bound to come about.
    For John and Jamie Mikelich, that idea was the "Jamie's To Do" app.
    John was busing tables and making video games when he picked up on Jamie's complaints about other productivity apps. He decided to program one for her and took a few months to whip up something she'd like.
    "It's not out of character for him to do something like this for me. I'm very lucky," Jamie says.
    John didn't think the end result was that impressive, but Jamie loved it -- and so have customers of Apple's app store.
    Clean, feminine and simple, "Jamie's To Do" compartmentalizes tasks into various areas of your life, like work and home.
    Now, two years after its inception, John works on the app full time and Jamie weighs in on decisions outside of her day job in fund-raising and events. The happily married couple call the app a "perfect marriage of our strengths," but they admit that setting ground rules was useful in the success of their business. "Communication is the key. Things will happen," John says. "And then and you talk it out."
    Tankchair
    Brad and Liz Soden

    Parker, Arizona
    Liz Soden thought her freedom was gone when a car accident left her paralyzed from the waist down.
    Before the accident, she worked as a bus driver and volunteer sheriff and enjoyed spending time outdoors with her then-boyfriend Brad.
    "When I woke up paralyzed, it was devastating," Liz says. "I told Brad to go find someone normal."
    Instead, while Liz was still in the hospital, Brad got down on one knee and proposed.
    Three years later, Liz still lamented her limited mobility. "We were ready to go on our camping trip and she cried and said, 'Go on without me.' I just found that unacceptable," Brad remembers. That's when a lightbulb went off.
    Brad realized the simple build of Liz's wheelchair was keeping her from doing the things that she loved. At the time, there wasn't a high-tech product on the market like the one he envisioned, and he was almost bankrupt. But once he started working on a new device for Liz, he couldn't stop.
    "I came up with my own programming by taking existing technologies from wheelchairs and changing them the way I wanted," Brad says. He saved every spare dollar he made as a plumber and designed a product that was perfect for Liz. "The only person that believed in me was my wife," Brad says.
    After two years of hard work and dedication, Tankchair was born.
    Its rubber track system is designed for all weather conditions and terrains. It's also powerful enough to lift someone into a full standing position and transport them through water, mud, and snowy mountains -- all done with a simple joystick.
    That gesture of love has Liz back to doing many of her favorite things, while Brad continues refining his invention to serve an audience beyond his wife, including wounded military veterans.
    Pacific Rim Eyewear
    Chris and Sally Limburg

    Greeneville, Tennessee
    Chris and Sally Limburg never planned on going into the retail business, but one desperate hunt to find sunglasses changed everything.
    Sally was born with a lower nose bridge, and finding sunglasses that fit her face was never easy -- but her husband Chris wasn't ready to give up.
    Eager to find a solution for his wife, he connected with a company that helped design, prototype and produce specialty sunglasses for people with different facial shapes.
    In March 2015, the Limburgs launched Pacific Rim Eyewear.
    Pacific Rim sunglasses are designed for men and women with lower nose bridges, but conveniently fit a variety of facial shapes. "I have a low bridge because I am Chinese," Sally says. "But after a while you realize there's a lot of people who have low nose bridges."
    Chris deals with the day-to-day operations of Pacific Rim, while Sally designs new prototypes. The mom-to-be hopes Pacific Rim will expand beyond Amazon and Michelle Farmer boutiques.
    "We've been getting a lot of good advice, but there's been a lot of ups and downs," Chris admits. Sally finds comfort in knowing that they are still in the early stages of starting a new business. Being patient is key.
    "RIM stands for rest in motion. For me, it reflects how we feel. It's important to take some time to remember who you are, where you came from and where you want to go. Sometimes we are so caught up in work that we forget just to enjoy the simple things in life," Sally says. "It's OK to rest."
    Garlic Restaurant
    Mike and Diane Tepedino

    Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
    It was young love and a leap of faith for Mike and Diane Tepedino. For some couples, that combination is a recipe for disaster, but in their case it was a recipe for success.
    Six years ago, they met at a bar where Diane was a bartender and Mike was a bouncer. Their chemistry was instant.
    Four years into dating, Mike and Diane decided to go into business for themselves, snapping up two bar spaces, including the venue where they met.
    "We might as well take a risk and see what happens," Diane remembers saying.
    "I was cooking and busing tables. We worked all of the positions, changed menu items, and came up with daily specials," Mike adds. In just four months' time, they paid off the restaurants in full, making double the money they had originally anticipated.
    But in their fifth year of dating, Mike and Diane broke up. Diane was ready to get engaged and Mike wasn't willing to make that commitment. "She moved to Brooklyn and worked in New York City. I literally went into depression," Mike says. It didn't take him long to figure out that he'd made a mistake.
    After getting back together, the couple decided it was time to add marriage -- and a new challenge -- to their plate.
    They opened their dream restaurant, Garlic, which has a New American fusion menu that reflects their tastes. In a short time, Garlic has already proven to be a success, with lines out the door on weekends.
    What's the key to their success? Mike and Diane stay in constant communication with each other, bouncing new ideas back and forth. "To see my wife in a high-end position doing what she does, it's attractive," Mike says. "Nobody is lazy here. I find (working together) very natural and easy for us. We say it all the time -- we are so lucky, we can't imagine things not being this way."