You’ve got a great idea. You’ve come up with a revolutionary new product that will make millions. All your friends tell you they love it and they’ll buy it. You contacted the Help For Inventors group you saw advertised on television and they’re telling you it’s the best thing they’ve ever seen and it will sell like hot cakes, especially when you do the infomercial. You’ve gotten your patent and all you need to do is find someone to manufacture it. Shouldn’t be a problem, this is a gold mine. Anyone would be a fool not to jump on your bandwagon.
So you find a plastic molding injection firm and you talk to the person in charge. If you happen to call Continental Plastics of Florida, it would be my sister Amy. And it’s her job to stomp all over your dream. She even posted an inventors' FAQ on her website, but it doesn’t keep the inventors from calling to pitch their great ideas.
The truth is that it’s damn near impossible to persuade people to part with their money for something they don’t buy on a regular basis.
Think about all the Kay-Tel commercials you’ve seen (It slices! It dices! It julliennes!) Did you buy any of that stuff? No, of course you didn’t. You didn’t need it. Or want it. You went right on chopping your vegies with a knife, like always. And when was the last time you bought anything you saw on an informecial?
Amy tells me of the inventors she deals with all day long. Like the sippy cup lady. She had come up with a plastic shelf for storing sippy cups. Apparently that’s a huge problem. Sippy cups all over the place. Her little shelf provided a handy place to store ten cups.
There was a time when we had sippy cups at our house, although I think it was just one or two. Looking at photographs of my daughter, there was always one sitting on the kitchen table. Sippy cup storage was obviously not a priority for me. The kitchen table worked just fine.
When Amy explained that Continental Plastics was not interested in producing the shelf because there was no market for it, the woman was incredulous. Up until that phone call, she’d only received praise and encouragement for her idea. No one had ever told her that people wouldn’t want to buy it.
Bringing an invention to the masses takes a huge amount of time and money. Watch Oprah and you’ll see stay-at-home moms who are millionaires now because of one great little invention. But they’re the exception. That’s why they’re on Oprah. I’d like to see Oprah inteview one of the thousands, if not millions, of people who lost $100,000 or more on some great little invention that nobody wanted to buy.
It’s been said during the California Gold Rush that the only people who got rich were the merchants who sold supplies to the miners. And it’s the same for inventors The real money in inventions comes in providing services to the inventor, like the patent lawyers, the inventor’s assistance groups, the infomercial production companies. Just as the shop keeper in California didn’t care whether the miner struck gold with the pick axe he'd sold him, none of these service providers has any stake in your product taking off. They make just as much money if you fail miserably.
So if you think you've got a great idea, by all means follow your dream. But don't bet the farm on it.