Did you know the MY PILLOW guy, Michael J. Lindell was addicted to cocaine, crack cocaine, and alcohol in the early stages of starting his company? He’s estimated to be worth $300 million. He didn’t let anything stop him. Nor should you.
So many people have a EUREKA moment and think “Holy Sh**! I have the next million dollar idea!” Then they quickly research the process of inventing and become overwhelmed at all the ways they *might* need to spend money to make it to market. Unfortunately, this fear stops many people dead in their tracks.
Don’t you be one of them! If you truly believe you have a great idea, you owe it to yourself to take the first (low cost) steps to find out. I’m going to walk you through the basics so you have a clear understanding of what to do, and when to do it, and the beauty is, your out of pocket costs will likely be under $100 dollars.
First, lets confront some Common myths:
- You can protect your idea by mailing it to yourself (in an actual envelope) - NO.
- You’ll need to pony up the dough for an expensive patent attorney to file a patent - NO.
- My invention is a million dollar idea! Certainty ideas some are, and some might be only $50,000 dollar ideas, or anywhere else on the spectrum. It’s important to know the size of your potential market and be realistic.
- My only option is a licensing deal with a big company- NO.
When I started manufacturing my first product (in the hardware industry), I had very little savings. I had a degree in fine art, and I had made a living as a professional drummer (for the rock band London), so basically, I had very little knowledge of business. I tried to license my idea, and was rejected again and again. It never occurred to me that starting my own company to manufacture my own idea, was an option. Thankfully, I found an AMAZING mentor in the manufacturing field who inspired me, and saved me from making a lot of costly mistakes.
The point is, if I could do it, there’s no reason you can’t do it, and if you hit any speed bumps, I’m here to guide you- starting with 6 ways to kickstart your momentum, for under $100...
- Do Your Market Research
Step one, before you run out and file a patent, do your market research. This means, you become super knowledgeable in the field of your invention. Let’s say your idea is a cat toy. You would do a Google image search. In the search bar you would Google variations of your idea (i..e cat toy, toys for cats, feather cat toys, awesome cat toys, etc.). Click around on image links and search popular stores. All this research is done in order to give you an idea of what’s out there, and what does well on the market.
(YOUR COST = $0).
Realistically, there are probably a ton of patents filed on cat toys, and after you get your arms around the image search, you’ll want to do your own patent search at: www.uspto.gov The trick here is to use the detailed PDF instructions for doing your own search which you can download here: https://www.uspto.gov/patentsearch.pdf
By doing your Google search, and patent search, you’ll become an expert in your market, discover what works and what doesn’t, and perhaps, be inspired to tweak your idea to add extra value that your competitors lack. (YOUR COST = $0)
- Prototype It (crude model, for proof of concept)
Prototyping is proving that your idea can work in the real world. Some ideas are more challenging to prototype than others, so keep your creative hat on, and don’t worry too much about what it looks like. Again, the goal here is to simply prove that it works. The materials you’ll use to construct your prototype, can be anything from paper, clay, cardboard, epoxy, resin, parts and pieces scavenged from anywhere, etc..
Going back to the cat toy example, you might find feathers, yarn, fishing line, bells, etc. Stores such as Home Depot, Michaels Crafts, Fabric stores, etc. can be huge sources of inspiration. This stage of development can be a real eye-opener, because you’ll likely discover aspects of your idea that you didn’t think of, and/or be inspired to add even more value to it. (YOUR COST = $0 - $30 + -)
- File Your $65 Provisional Patent Application (PPA)
You can write and file a PPA on your own for $65. This type of patent protects your idea with patent pending status for 12 months, so don’t file it until you are truly ready to take action on your idea. What that means is you are ready (within that year) to reach out to companies to license your product, figure out how to manufacture it, or put it up a crowdfunding website etc.
NOTE: Before the end of twelve months, you’ll need to file a Utility Patent and that will cost $3,000 or more (depending on your patent attorney and other factors), but the good news is, you’re only filing a utility patent if your idea has already taken off, or If you’ve licensed to a company. For details on how to write and file your PPA (it’s quite simple), visit: https://www.uspto.gov/patents-getting-started (YOUR COST = $65)
- Get Others to Fund It
Thankfully, it’s 2020, and there are many ways to raise money for your cool ideas. By this stage, you’ve already filed your Provisional Patent Application, so you have patent pending status, so you’ll need to write a business plan on the cost of actually manufacturing your idea. This is an area where you’ll need some expert advice, because your success depends on having enough margin/profit with each sale, and knowing what your margins will be when you get into higher volumes. It’s always best to allow yourself more margin to begin with, because you can always lower your price if needed, but it’s very difficult to raise your price after the fact . A great thing about new innovation, is the free press and excitement you can foster when you launch.
Here are a few places to consider raising funds for your idea: Kickstarter, RocketHub, GoFundMe, AngelList, Indiegogo, Charitable, Seed & Spark, and AngelList. There are many more, those are just a handful of popular platforms to get you started (YOUR COST = $0)
- Invest Your Time and Energy
It costs you nothing to believe in your idea and everything not too. Inventing is not a get rich quick game. That’s what Vegas is for :p Belief mixed with hard work is the way to find market success… any success really. Just like a professional basketball player who practices for hours a day, you too must put in the time and energy.
You will learn things that people who just throw money around to make stuff happen don’t learn. You become skilled in your market, understand the nuances of selling, figure out what works and what doesn’t and have your hands in the clay at every point of the journey. You’re the quarterback and you’re making all the calls. (YOUR COST = $0)
- Free Resources (don’t waste them!)
In the digital age, all information is at your fingertips. There are great blogs (like this one), podcasts, YouTube Channels, and books that will give you information for free. If your goal is to make money off of your idea, it’s important to know about the process. I post a new blog every Tuesday. Feel free to subscribe to receive the latest article in your email in-box (YOUR COST = $0).
Note: when searching anything related to inventing do it “incognito”. There are a lot of nice people wanting to help, however, there are also a lot of Invention Marketing Firms who really want to stroke your ego until you give them all your cash. I won’t dive into it here, but if you want to learn more about it check out my article titled: Invention Marketing Firms: Friend or Foe?
There’s a funny saying, “How do you eat an elephant?”...”One bite at a time.” So take your first bite into your journey and enjoy taking control of your destiny.