As a patent attorney here in Buffalo, New York I am constantly amazed at how inventors from all over the country come up with ideas in their heads and turn those ideas into actual products.
Recently I spoke with a client regarding his journey as an inventor. I asked him if he would share with my readers here on this blog about lessons he learned as an inventor.
Here is a synopsis of the questions and answers from that interview:
Can you give us a little background about yourself and specifically tell us how you decided you wanted to be an inventor and manufacturer of products?
I was born and raised in Buffalo, NY. After graduating from Kensington High School there were an abundance of relatively high paying, low skill labor-intensive jobs that were available. As a young kid fresh out of school that was right up my alley.
However, after being in the labor market for years without a college degree I decided that a higher education is essential for an less labor-intensive, healthier, and prosperous life. So, I obtained a Bachelor’s Degree from Medaille College.
I never planned to become an inventor; but I often wished that I could invent something. My wife sparked an idea when she came to me and said
“they need to make something for the arm to hold a cell phone.”
She had no pockets on her clothing and was tired of holding the phone in her hand. And from that point on I started experimenting with all kinds of elastic material and Velcro.
And the Cellband was born.
But that was only the beginning, I had to figure out how to manufacture, market and distribute my product.
And everything I was doing I was learning from scratch.To this day I am always trying to improve everything I do.
How did you find a manufacturer? How do you find distributors for your product?
Finding a Manufacturer is really easy. I usually go on to alibaba.com, find a similar product to mine, and usually they can make it at a cost well below my wholesale price.
Finding a distributor can be just as hard or harder than finding a retailer. I never have pursued a distributor because of the 5-20% charge for carrying a product and my current retailer involvement. A distributor can be found by joining an industry association such as naw.org and attending trade shows.
What are some of things you learned the hard way and what would you do differently to avoid those problems in the future? What in general would you do differently if you had to do it over again?
I’m not sure what you mean about the hard way but I taught myself how to master the web, pound the pavement for an independent retailer, and I am always continuing to improve the product in the school of hard knocks.
I believe right from the beginning an inventor should have a website for their product and be active in promoting it. This will immediately let you know if people like the concept.
Three things you will learn by selling the product in a small retail outlet:
- You will find out if it can sell enough to take it to the next level.
- You will be able to clean-up problems such as weak packaging, non-effective point of purchase displays, and
- You will find out your price point.
If I could do one thing all over I would have continued to improve the product at all stages.
Can you put together a checklist of things a new inventor of the product should know and do?
- Research the market to see if there is a demand for your product.
- Find a manufacturer who can make your product at a price that you can profit selling wholesale, and retailers can markup at least 250% – 1000%
- Gather Funds
- File a patent: Wrist band device holder (.PDF)
- Market your product
- Improve your product at every turn
- Register your trademark Cellband (PDF)
What were the most difficult things you had to overcome to produce a product?
Finding the right material after months of searching was the most difficult thing to overcome in producing my product.
What were the things you enjoyed the most about getting a product manufactured and marketed and distributed?
Being involved in all the aspects of bringing a product from idea to retail to the customers hands was very interesting and fun to watch.
Did you get a feeling of accomplishment when people started to actually buy and use your product?
Repeat customer, repeat orders from retailers are the things that I live for. Knowing that somebody wants it, somebody’s buying it and somebody’s using it confirms my wife’s curiosity.
What were some of the psychological challenges to stay focused and persistent in your quest to bring your product to market?
Getting through to the buyers of mass merchandisers is a task that we are able to withstand.
When buyers and merchandisers say “no to our product”, we are not discouraged because we know we have the best sports armband used for carrying cell/smartphones.
What are some of the marketing techniques you use to get your product noticed and sold on others webpages? Can you provide links that would be helpful for other inventors.
Setting up a Facebook, Twitter page is key to getting link hits. A blog is good. Try Linksmanager.com
Is there anything that you would like to share that I didn’t ask regarding the process of taking an idea from your head and moving it to the point where it’s an actual product for sale?
I understand that taking a product from idea to the masses is not perfect science. It is mostly Art.
Do you have any partners and how well do you work together?
We have partners and Sales Reps who we have found at this link: http://www.manufacturers-representatives.com
Thank you very much Carl for these great answers I’m sure they will be beneficial to inventors.
Here is Carl’s contact information:
Carl Kennedy, Owner "The CellBand" Universal Wrist, Forearm, Hand Cell Phone/ipod Holder www.cellband.com
Skype Name: carl4414211
Toll Free 1-877-592-2263
Toll Free fax 1-877-291-5801