Create and sell your own product: From idea to market

Light bulbFind out how to ensure that your idea or invention will lead to a marketable product.

Founder of She’s Ingenious Cally Robson suggests caution, “Don’t rush in! Computer aided drawings (CAD) won’t help sell your idea to anyone, contrary to claims made by some services advertising on the web, and they often aren’t technical enough to be useful towards a manufacturing prototype.” She continues, “Do as much prototyping of your design yourself first – fabbing sites like Ponoko.com or Shapeways.com can be useful.” If you need to create a prototype. Kane Kramer of the British Inventors Society advises, “Depending on its complexity, you may find a large company that will join in, providing the patent application is in place, to assist with your prototype. Or, you might invest £5000 or £10000 yourself to create a prototype. You may need more than one prototype to move towards your marketable product. Sometimes you may need to make prototypes in order to be certain what you need to patent. If you need external assistance you can sign a NDA with that prototype maker.”

Alongside creating your prototype you should also carry out market research. This will tell you if your idea can turn into something that people will pay for. You need to do this without exposing your ideas. Cally Robson advises, “Ask people about the problem they have that your solution is addressing. You will learn a lot without giving anything away. Ask your clients, or in small face-to face groups or relevant forums on the web where your target market is likely to hang out.” On top of this, Robson advises that you should check out the potential profitability of your product, “Get a ball park figure on manufacturing costs similar items at different production runs (say 500 and 5000). Online supplier sites like Alibaba.com can be really useful. Multiply the unit cost by 6 to 8 to get estimates of the retail price you’d need to sell at to make enough money to cover margins for retailers, distributors and your costs. If no-one seems likely to buy at those prices, it’s unlikely you’ll have a profitable product concept.”

The next steps will vary depending on you and your expertise. Kane Kramer says, “One inventor might already be in business, be able to get the product manufactured and go to market.  Or, you might have a great idea but know nothing about running a business, and not be keen to start manufacturing. If this applies to you, look at the British Inventors Society, a kind of ‘self help club’ which is free to join. There are inventors clubs all over the country. If you can get to a club, you’ll find a mix of people, from doctors to engineers to artists, but everyone has an affinity as an inventor. You’ll be able to sort out confidentiality agreements so you can discuss your ideas. Clubs like this help you tap into the network of all the services that surround inventions. For example, you could get recommendations for factories that can help with prototypes. On the other hand, you’ll also learn about how to avoid unscrupulous invention brokers who charge for worthless reports. A lot of these clubs are linked to universities and enterprise agencies, so if you have a great new idea there is the ability to find a friendly way in to the support you need. It means important inventions won’t get missed.” Cally Robson says, “Tap into experience. There is no set process in designing and commercialising a new product and it can be fraught with expensive mistakes. Other product innovators are often too busy to pass on all everything they’ve learned, so make use of online groups, and free resources like the  British Library’s Business & IP Centre every step of the way.”

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