The following article was written by Kristin, CEO of InMotion Albums. InMotion is one of Product QuickStart’s clients, and we’ve delighted in being a part of their journey from idea to product launch. Kristin’s article (reblogged with permission) offers a fantastic narrative of the steps that she and her company have been through to bring this idea to the market. This is a great read for anyone thinking of launching a new company around a product idea!
What We’ve Learned Inventing, Developing, and Preparing to Sell a Consumer Electronics Product
What is the new product?
The consumer electronics product we are developing is a never before seen print and digital touch and feel book anyone can use to showcase and store all of their print and digital memories together without a computer or other device.
How did I think of the idea?
I thought of the product two years ago while standing in my daughter’s nursery reflecting on the volumes of unorganized recorded memories I had collected since her birth. Standing idle nearly daydreaming in my own thoughts oscillating from one idea to the next, I clearly recall centering my attention to imagining a better way to store all the printed photos, digital images, and videos I had collected over her life and mine.
I wanted a real book for the memories, not just a computer or tablet. I wanted the touch and feel book to house all of my memories of her, including her small keepsakes, printed photos, and videos. The book would include both pages for printed photos and a small display with custom software for videos and digital images.
In the moment, I knew that the pages would somehow need to communicate with the software and digital display as well. With some type of sensor making the two communicate, I would be able to have the pages and the digital content sync together. I imagined it must all work together to make the book function like, well, an organized book.
Can we market this product?
In those moments, I imagined all the ways I could use the album, what problems it would solve, and to whom I would sell it. I thought about what it would take to make it, and what it would take to sell it.
Armed with an idea that could become a revolutionary new consumer electronics product, and armed with support from my best friend and husband, we chose to pursue the business of making and selling a consumer electronics product now called InMotion Albums.
How did we begin product development? What was our first step?
After all, all I really had was an idea. We had zero funding and no connections into product development. Now what?
I put the most comfortable office chair I could find in front of my computer, and I got to work. I researched into the early morning hours week after week, I asked hundreds of prepared questions, worked with a patent attorney, hired vendors, and the effort goes on.
After twenty-seven months, here are seven lessons we can share from our product development journey:
Step 1: Write a Super Short Business Plan
If you are thinking about a new and useful product that solves a festering problem, then your idea may have merit. Unfortunately, some problems are too expensive to solve. Take a weekend to write a mini business plan. It will help you better assess whether your venture will be worthwhile. And, I also learned later that my mini plan was useful for seeking funding.
In your plan, think about the product in the market place.
- How will you market and sell it?
- Who will buy it?
- How much will it cost you? How much will it cost your customer?
- How will you find funding?
Ask for help
Seek out advice from product development companies. Product QuickStart at www.productquickstart.com is a full scale product development company that offers consultations and idea audits to help you decide whether your idea is worth pursuing. Simply have all parties sign a non-disclosure agreement, and let them help you make a better decision.
Step 2: Patent Search
If after completing your mini business plan and pursuing professional advice, you still wish to pursue the next step, then you may need to conduct a patent search. It’s true that tens of thousands of products are sold without patents, but remember you don’t want to invest in making a product that someone else has already patented!
There are a number of ways to conduct the search. A common and valuable way to handle any patent related work is to simply contact and hire a patent attorney. The fees can run from $900 to $1000.
Of course, the search results are not likely to come back a simple yes or no. There will be multiple patents that sit close to or directly on your idea. The patent attorney should include a report with the results that shows your likelihood of being rewarded a patent. From there, you can discuss with your attorney whether it makes sense to move forward in filing a patent.
Step 3. Write a Complete Business Plan
Once you decide to move forward with the business, the next step is to incorporate your short business plan into a full plan. If you do not have a business plan template, then buy one. Your plan will be a critical key to success when seeking funding from investors. Plus, your plan will keep you on track, help you communicate better with your vendors, allow you to better flesh out critical components of your potential business, and help you develop your sales pitch.
Step 4. It’s Time to Find Money
Did you know? In the start-up world, funding is not all about money. Instead, investors focus their funding decisions on YOU.
Put yourself in an investor’s shoes. Imagine if someone asked you for money to develop a new product. You, the investor, would be concerned about who is running the company, how the money will be spent, and whether they have a fierce work ethic and savvy business skills. The focus then is less about how much the start-up will cost, and more about whether the Co-Founder(s) will run a successful business and provide return on investment.
Seeking investment funds from family can be a slippery slope.
It’s worth mentioning that asking for money from family can go both ways for the Co-Founder(s). Your family knows you. If you lack fundamental entrepreneurial skills, then it is likely your family will know. They will find ways to avoid investing with you, or they will simply say no.
On the other hand, where your family has watched your skills and education development for years and even decades, where they see success in your potential and your idea, they may be the first to help and the best to work for.
Step 5: Hire Right
Depending on the product you make and the business plan you write, you will need to hire the right vendors. Carefully planning and researching which groups you hire is critical to your success. In our case, I researched into the early morning hours for weeks sending emails, asking questions, and requesting calls. I was determined to find the right vendors to work for our business.
After all, your vendors will put turbo power into your venture. Your vendors also have the power to ground your efforts with crippling delays.
We’ve found it’s not uncommon to have as many as five vendors on our payroll at one time. Which company you hire will depend on what you are making. In our case, a few of our vendors included web design, marketing, product development, software engineering, and 1099 employees mining leads.
Step 6: Manage Your Time
Hire right, but hire fast
At some point and soon, you must choose vendors to work on your product and business. Avoid waiting for a referral from a friend or colleague for every vendor you need to hire. There are better and faster ways to find the help you need. For example, set up calls, ask the vendor questions, engage with them looking for their merit and red flags. Sitting idle waiting for someone who knows someone to email you means wasting time and money.
Never stop working.
Never wait and lean on social media and your friends to lift up your business. Instead, hire help immediately to mine leads and other information you can use to send information when you have the product.
Consider hiring motivated vets or college graduates to collect information about businesses that may see a need for your product.
If you’re not selling to a business, then consider retailers that will sell your product. Prepare retailer sheets with all information you need to submit when it comes time to present your product. For example, Target uses RangeMe.com to find new products. Take time to create an account and familiarize yourself with the site and process. Then, move onto the next retailer.
Step 7: Expect to Contribute in Development
You know more than you think you know.
When I researched and chose vendors to carry out the actual product development including software engineering, I did not expect to contribute much given I am not an electrical engineer or software engineer. I was wrong, and in fact we contribute and participate in various complicated efforts each and every week.
In a nutshell,
If you have a dream to make and sell your own manufactured product, then our family at InMotion Albums invites you to give it a try by writing a mini business plan. That’s your first step! Try thinking the product and the sales through, search around on the Internet, and see where it takes you! If you’re interested in the work, and you don’t have an education or work experience in business, then perhaps we have inspired you to take business classes at your local university. Take your first step, you never know where it will take you.
We hope you found our seven keys to success interesting and useful!
From all of us at InMotion Albums, we invite you to sign up to receive the first video demo of our revolutionary albums. Sign up here.
Learn more about InMotion Albums here: http://www.inmotionalbums.com/