There are many people that tell me they have an idea for an invention or new product and don’t know what to do next. Whether it’s a kitchen gadget, animal toy, or novelty item it doesn’t really matter if you can’t make it come to fruition. In this article I go over some simple steps you can take if you have an idea for an invention and don’t know what to do.
As a general rule, the next step involves checking if your idea is already patented, making a prototype, and know where and how are you going to be selling your idea, among other steps that you will find below.
I can tell you from my own experience with my sister in law who was a baker and had to decorate pastry. She came to me with the problem of having to drizzle hot icing onto bakery. She would put on protective gloves and dip her fingers into the hot icing and then let the icing drip off her fingers over the pastry to give the drizzle effect. There had to be a better way.
Anyways, follow these steps after you get a good idea to work with. This is what most seasoned inventors usually do with their new ideas.
1. Research the market to see if your idea exists.
Have you searched the market to see if it exists? The best way is to check out retail stores, trade publications and the web by doing searches using keywords which describe your idea. No sense going forward if it is.
Go online and search under “Google Patents” or do a Google Image search, check out the USPTO and search for existing patents, check out catalogs and trade publications. What is out there? Is yours different? Will it sell?
There are many questions you may ask yourself about your idea. Can it be manufactured more cheaply, or is there an improvement such as better material or function? Does my product work faster than similar products out there? Is it safer? What about its design, does it look cooler? Is my product more efficient or reliable?
For the “Drizzler”, I checked Walmart and other big retailers to see if there was anything like this in the kitchen section. I contacted companies that made spatulas and kitchen gadgets, and it wasn’t there either. There was nothing like on the market that could be purchased to do the job. I came up with a design to make a hand held set of fingers with a handle to dip into the icing and then drizzle it over the pastry.
2. Make a simple prototype
For the Drizzler, I bought some plastic and cut a round disc out. I purchased quarter inch diameter plastic rods and then cut them to length. I drilled holes in the top plate and inserted and glued the quarter inch pins in place. Then I went to a hardware store and bought a stainless steel drawer handle and attached that to the top plate. It took me probably a day to make the prototype.
If it’s not feasible not make a prototype, get a good CAD 3-D rendered drawing.
3. Go to retail stores and see where this would be displayed in what area. Do your online research.
In my case, I knew this would be a B2B product.
4. File protection
What I do is file a Provisional Patent Application (PPA), which gives you patent pending status. You now have a year to market your product as patent-pending.
5. Make a one page Sell Sheet.
What are your product’s benefits? Features? Create a good sales pitch. Don’t forget your contact information!
“Deco Drizzler creates even and consistent drizzle patterns for donuts, coffee cakes, cookies and candies!
No longer use your fingers when applying pastry fondant, chocolate, or glazes to your baked goods! Easy-grip ergonomic design, made with food grade plastic, easy to clean and dishwasher safe.”
After steps 1–5, we went out to local bakeries and give them sample products to try. This way we could get direct feedback to see if it needed improvements or changes and see if they would use something like this. We also got a sense of what they would pay for it.
After a week I went back to the bakeries to retrieve my prototypes and get feedback. They wouldn’t give them back they were using them daily and loved the product. I knew I had a winner.
I improved the Sell Sheet with pictures along with the testimonials I received from the individuals who were using the product and began looking for someone to license it
6. Research options for licensing
Get the information of companies in that market and research their offices, manufacturing facilities, and contact information.
7. Make a list of potential companies. Get contact information for the marketing manager.
You want the marketing manager’s direct phone number. Try to get past the secretary.
I tell the marketing manager “My name is Gene Luoma, I’m a product developer. Are you open to ideas from outside product developers?”
If they say yes, I say “I have a product I believe would fit within your product line. Would you be interested in seeing what I have?
Then I ask for their email address and tell them I’ll send them some information and a sell sheet.
Sometimes they ask for a patent. I’ll say “A provisional patent application has been filed” and if that’s not good enough I move on.
8. Call and email the companies and give them the pitch of your new product.
If they never contact me back, I follow up after a couple of weeks. I don’t want to be a pest.
9. Sign a licensing agreement
Companies will pay you royalties per unit sold . Companies take all the risk.
You may say “license? But I want to make this myself!” Venturing requires design, marketing, manufacturing, advertising, shipping, receiving, billing, distribution, dealing with customer returns etc. You may realize a bigger profit margin, but the risk is lot greater. With licensing, it’s easier to get a product to market. You collect royalties with zero risk
10. Move onto your next idea.
I was successful in licensing the Drizzler with DecoPac, the largest supplier of cake decoration supplies in the world. This product has been on the market for several years and is still selling very well today.