So you've got a great idea for a gadget or gizmo...
Dick De shows some odd things people invented. Did they think it would make them rich??
There's the Extenda-Fork for eating off someone else's plate. .....
Sunquirt, to keep you cool at the beach.
......And the Arm Alarm, a combination watch/horn designed so you could warn people to get out of your way as you roller skate.
I wonder if any of them was a 'million dollar idea'! (Somehow I think not.)
"The Rocky Road to Selling Your Invention." This was originally written for, and published by ETown.com, but the info is still valid.
SO YOU WANT TO BE A MILLIONAIRE!
A couple of times a month someone writes me, or stops me on the street to explain that they have an idea for an invention that will make millions! Some kind of gizmo or gadget that will set the world on fire. Or maybe put out a fire! Which is good, because a gentleman from QVC told me safety gadgets sell well. Would be inventors tell me that MY only job will be to find someone to produce their brainchild, and market it! Then we'll share the profits, 50/50.
If you love gadgets, it's possible you yourself have an 'award winning' invention kicking around in the back of your mind. Although I've never invented anything myself, I learned a lot about the "inventing process" back when I was on STEALS AND DEALS on CNBC. Every three or four months for 7 years, I did a "VIEWER'S INVENTIONS" spot. Viewers would send in their prototypes (provided they were patented), or their ready-for sale product, and I would show them on the air. Below each invention we would 'super' the place one could buy the gadget, or a contact number for the inventor. (For six years I was a judge for the Hammacher Schlemmer "Search For Invention" Contest. Unfortunately for the past few years Hammacher Schlemmer has decided not to have a "Search For Invention" Contest.
Over the years I've spoke to hundreds of inventors and I learned a lot. The most important thing I learned is that making money with an invention is a long, expensive, hard road! I'm not saying this to discourage the inventing mind, merely to prepare you, if that's the road you want to go down. Here are some of the 'potholes' on that road, average expense figures paid out by the majority of the people I spoke too. Getting patents and plans to fully protect your invention costs about $10,000. Building a fully working prototype -again, these are just averages, is another $10,000. Then you get into the really big expenses!
Suppose that after contacting company after company, sending samples, press kits, etc., you luck in, and a big retailer is going to carry your -- let's say your -'inflatable headphones'. (Hey, wait a minute! Inflatable headphones! I just made that up, but it could be a major winner! Think about it. A person has them stuffed in their shirt pocket, and when they're needed, just a few breaths of air, and they become full sized headphones! Tell you what. If anyone reading this wants to produce, market and sell them, I'll take only 25%, not 50%, for coming up with the idea!) Now let's get back to our scenario. You get a phone call saying X, Y, or Z Mart loves the idea of your inflatable headphones, and is going to carry them in all 300 stores. Yeah!! Success! But success comes at a big price. They'll carry them, but they many very well tell you have to guarantee them that you have at least 10,000 inflatable headphones ready to ship, in case it's a big hit.
So now you have to start manufacturing them at a production line rate. First thing you need is 'tooling'. That's paying a company to develop the machine that can turn out your inflatable headphones in large quantities. This is a big ticket item! The inventors I interviewed spent anywhere from $15,000 to $70,000 for tooling. With the tooling in place, hopefully you can turn out your inflatable headphones for a buck or two, but you'll need to sell a bunch of 'em to get back all those start-up and manufacturing costs! And you need to warehouse them, and maybe even pay to have them shipped around the country to various distribution points.
Oh yeah, I should mention you'll also need package design, logos, and someone to write and print the instruction sheets. That might be a low figure, like $5,000, because some of that you'll be able to do yourself. You should also allow a bit of money for publicity. This might only be a few thousand dollars. Publicity is different from advertising. Advertising runs into the tens of thousands of dollars.
For many, 'inventing fever' can have the same effect as playing a Las Vegas slot machine. "If I just spent another $5,000 or $10,000, I'll hit the big time!" More than one inventor told me that their gadget or gizmo becomes 'their baby', and once in a while 'the monkey on their back'. They wanted to see it succeed at any cost. Dozens took out mortgages on their homes, or borrowed money up to the limit on each of their credit cards. Or did both! They would see those late nite 'infomercials' and think "Wow! I could clean up if my product was on an infomercial". Well infomercials cost $50,000 and up to make, and then you have to buy the air time needed to show them. And again, you'll need to have product ready when the phones start (hopefully) ringing off the hook!
To cover all these expenses more than one inventor told me you should have a product that costs a buck or two to produce, but will sell FAST at about $15 or $20 a unit. Of course in your ads, you won't charge $15 or $20; you'll charge an "amazingly low" $14.99 or $19.99! There are no round dollar numbers in pricing. It seems to be a given, that you really need a huge mark-up, on a successful product to earn your BIG BUCKS because of all the start-up expenses involved.
By the way, no one I interviewed found a company that would advertise their product free in exchange for a share of the profits, or make a free infomercial in exchange for participation. It's not hopeless, but it is a long road to success. And a final word of advice. Be wary of those companies who advertise: "we want to market your invention!". They take your money and then send out letters to companies who most likely ignore them. You could written letters to the companies yourself. The BBB says it's hard to prosecute some of those "we can help you" companies, because by merely sending out letters mentioning your invention, is technically a form of marketing.
Meanwhile, think about producing and marketing my 'inflatable headphones', will you? I wanna be a millionaire too!