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Entrepreneurs

Seems Like Everyone Has An Invention

That is how the commercial for one of the many companies that “help” you get your invention developed and sold starts. Though I have not used any of those companies, I have heard from many people that have. They spent a lot of money, and the results…….let’s just say that I heard a few of those people had yet to recoup any of the money that they spent with the “help” from those companies.

I am definitely not a professional inventor (unless one successful product makes me a PRO), but almost weekly I hand out free advice about inventions (you get what you pay for with me!) Last week Rosemary called to place an order for a Finders Key Purse®, and then asked to talk to me. Almost an hour later she thanked me and went on her way. I tell everyone that once they pass the first couple of steps to feel free to call again and we can go over more details. No one has ever called back. Is it that they don’t get to step one or two? Is it that they got tired of listening to me talk? Or were they successful with getting their invention launched?

So for those of you who are contemplating inventing something, here are my starting tips:

1. Don’t use one of “those companies” until you at least try it yourself.

2. Find a reputable patent lawyer (yes you do have to pay a lot, but it will be well worth it). Find out if the item that you think you want to invent already has a patent. Though you may not see it in the marketplace (and of course you think it is a brilliant idea because you thought of it), it still might have been patented. There are many reasons that people get a patent and never get the product to market (not a good idea, they ran out of money, they had no distribution plan, they just like inventing). This is called a patent search. Yes you can do it yourself, but I guarantee you that you will not be as thorough as the trained patent lawyer. Spend the money or you will spend a ton more if you get sued!

3. If you get the go ahead to make your product, put together a focus group. (Yes your friends and family all love your product, but see if strangers love it as much.) In your focus group, find out what these strangers would be willing to pay for your item. You don’t want to price yourself out of the market or make something where there is too little profit to make it worthwhile producing. Don’t be afraid that your group will steal your idea. Most people never get past step 1 – calling the patent lawyer.

Selling your invention is the hard part.  There is no right or wrong plan of attack, but there are several possibilities that you can think about.

1. There are two ways to license which might be right up your alley. Typically if you “license” your invention you don’t have to put out any money (except to make sure your patent goes through and to protect your patent once it is granted). The licensee usually makes the product, sells the product, and then gives you a royalty (that the two of you negotiate) on each piece sold.

You can license you product to a company that might love to have your product in their line. They sell similar items, and yours would fit right in. They already have distribution and are excited to have a new item to showcase.

Another way to license is to find a niche market, say Disney (good luck but it can happen). Your item is patent pending until the patent is granted, but a company like Disney would honor your “patent pending” status because the patent makes it YOURS exclusively, Disney would pay you a percentage of each piece that is sold. Sometimes they will decide to make it, or sometimes you could make it for them and sell it to them for a smaller profit than if you sold it wholesale.  Imagine Cinderella and Pinocchio on your new gadget. If you get that far, believe me, you will find interesting negotiations to be had, but that would be a HALLELUJAH moment.

Other licensing opportunities include sports, brands like Coca Cola or Coach, collegiate, and a multitude of other licenses.

2. Set up your own business and either become a distributor (you sell to wholesalers), or sell online, at parties, or other personal sales plans. Both of these ideas include spending a lot of money in inventory. The “kiss of death” in sales is running out of inventory, causing the consumers to lose faith in your business. Once you decide to open up your own avenues of sales, you will need to figure out who you will sell to (the end consumer or the retailer), and then decide how much to order, where you will stock it, what to charge, and making sure you comply with all of the state and federal rules and regulations about business and product safety.

At first this may seem daunting (I didn’t think much about it so I guess my “winging it” way allowed me to just DO IT) but it can be done and has been done a bunch.

Good luck with making your inspiration into a reality!

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