Inventor’s Journey

My journey as an inventor bringing my Fobbie gift wrapping product to market.

The Importance of Trade Shows for Inventions and Products

Posted on | September 26, 2009 | No Comments

One of the most important pieces of advice I got from my inventor mentor was to find out when and where the next trade show in my industry was, and go there.

That same year I flew to New York to attend the National Stationary Show. I was overwhelmed with the hugeness of it all. I walked the floor for two days soaking in as much information as I could. I looked at what products were out there that I would be competing with. What size booths were offered and how different companies decorated and arranged their products and information. Did they give away products or catalogs and take orders, or just chat with you. The show also had an area where manufacturers and service providers could help you with your products. I collected three bags of information and had to buy another suitcase to get it all home!

Two years later I knew I needed to have a booth of my own. Being a small start up with a small budget, I used my resources carefully. I did have the advantage of being a graphic designer, so I was able to design my catalog, order sheets and posters myself. I found the best prices for printing at my local Staples store. Because my product is in gift wrapping I chose to have lots of examples of how you could wrap with my product. My booth consisted of two tables with my display and an area that I could demonstrate how it worked. I adorned the walls with posters. Everyone that visited received a free Fobbie of their choice and a catalog, but not until they gave me their business card. This is very important, you’ll want to send a “thank you for visiting my booth” email or letter later. Write notes about your visit with them on the back of their business card or on a tablet of paper you keep handy. Some shows offer a hand held scanner you rent that scans their name badge. It has all their info on it. At the end of the show you get a document file with all their information. You can also look at websites that sell or rent trade show displays. Sometimes the show’s website may have guidelines, ideas, or pictures of what other companies have done.

It’s important that you have some support staff with you. You’ll need to take a break from time to time to wander the show, network and eat! Trade shows can be an expensive venture. Besides the expense of the booth you’ll have to deal with paying extra for everything. Add some padding to your carpet, $100, an extra chair $30, electrical outlets, lights, etc., prices will vary but expect these costs to add up. Also, don’t forget shipping. They can be very particular about how and when things arrive and who your shipper is. It’s a good idea to plan way ahead if possible. Request information about the show, get a calendar and start figuring out when things need to be done. I missed some important dates that ended up costing me more than if I had been better prepared.

Be sure to take advantage of opportunities your show offers. You can get mailing lists ahead of time to send out to businesses that will be attending the show. Have a special offer for them when they bring your postcard to your booth. You can advertise in the show’s directory. There are media areas where you can have a stack of your media kits that the press can pick up and learn about you. I had several come visit my booth for interviews. Check and see if there is a bulletin board that you can post a card that you are looking for representatives for your product. If there are any contests for “new products” make sure you get entered. Sometimes there are demonstration areas where you can demo your product, usually for a price. Also, take advantage of networking parties, you never know who you will meet. I made several great contacts and friends.

My experience ended up being life changing for me and my product. I entered the best new product competition in my category and won. This created a lot of traffic to my booth. Small shops, large retailers, and media, came by to learn more or interview me. I was covered in several of the industry’s magazines, an online video, and blogs. I was approached by a couple of companies for licensing and recently signed an agreement with one of the industry’s leaders, Berwick Offray. I also made great contacts on the manufacturing side. You never know what can happen so you need to get involved and be open to all the possible opportunities.

I’ve known other inventor’s who make prototypes of their products and a brochure and then go to a trade show and walk the floor. They find the big hitters in their industry and either chat with representatives or make an appointment to talk with one about their product. Remember not to barge in when they are talking to possible customers, watch and wait until they are free before you approach them. I know one inventor who ended up getting lucky and had the chance to talk with the President of the company he wanted to try to license with.

Check out the Trade Show Directory website at: www.tsnn.com to look for a trade show in your industry. It could be the big break you need.

Toy and Game Inventor Event Conference

Posted on | September 7, 2009 | No Comments

On November 19th and 20th at Navy Pier in Chicago, you can meet, mingle and learn from the industry’s top executives in manufacturing (Hasbro and others), retail (ToysRUs and others), marketing (Richard Gill and others), consultants (Richard Gottlieb and others) and media (Playthings and others) from here and abroad. Last year licensing and retail deals were consummated. www.tagie.net

Rio Grande Game Competition The Chicago Toy and Game Fair www.chitag.com is hosting a design competition for Rio Grande Games. Jay Tummelson, owner of Rio Grande Games, will be sitting down privately with each finalist selected and reviewing their prototypes at the Chicago Toy and Game Fair. Mr. Tummelson has committed to publishing at least one of the games presented to him. He will also provide each designer with his advice and expertise on improving their designs for publication. For more information, visit http://chitag.com/ctgg/RG_contest_09.htm

Articles on Licensing

Posted on | August 29, 2009 | No Comments

I’ve just added a new page full of articles about licensing and marketing by Harvey Reese, who writes for Inventor’s Digest and is the author of How to License Your Million Dollar Idea. They are full of important information that can guide you in the process and hopefully prevent any faux pas.

Fobbie brand licensed for distribution

Posted on | August 26, 2009 | No Comments

Many inventors invent with the sole purpose of getting their inventions licensed by a large company. I didn’t have that in mind at all. When I had my booth at the National Stationary Show in 2008 and won the best new product award, it got me a lot of attention. I was hoping to just get the product known and have some small retailers pick it up for their stores. To my surprise it caught the eye of some large companies. Not long after the show I started getting approached by some very well-known and established companies about the possibility of licensing my product to them. I hadn’t really been interested in going this route, but one email and some following discussions changed my mind.

When you invent a new way to gift wrap that showcases the use of beautiful ribbons, and the largest manufacturer in the world thinks their ribbons should go with it, it’s hard not to agree. So I’m very excited to say that Berwick Offray has licensed the Fobbie brand for distribution. I’m looking forward to working with them and their innovative ideas.

Casting Call: Kelly Ripa and TLC Want to See Your Inventions!

Posted on | June 14, 2009 | No Comments

Kelly Ripa

Kelly Ripa

Milojo Productions is now casting women with fabulous ideas and great personalities from across America for a new series on TLC to help you get your idea off the ground and into American homes. If you have a brilliant product and a working prototype, TLC and Kelly Ripa want to help you manufacture, market and sell it on the Home Shopping Network!

How to Apply
There are two ways to apply: Open call auditions have been scheduled in New York (June 9th and 10th), Dallas (June 18th and 19th), Los Angeles (June 21st and 22nd), and Chicago (June 25th and 26th). Bring your product invention and prepared pitch to the site, and if you are a match you will be granted a video interview! For more information, instructions and locations, visit the casting call site.

If you can’t make it to an open call, you may submit a video audition by mail or by uploading it to Milojo directly. Visit the video audition page to learn more about the requirements and get the link to submit your audition.

Requirements
• Women 18 and over who are US Citizens
• Must have a unique invention or product and a working prototype
• Great, outgoing personality and plenty of passion to back up your great product or invention!
• All applicants are subject to background check and standard television release forms

*Prohibited products: weapons, alcohol, dietary supplements, weight loss products, medical devices, and skin care products with aggressive claims.

ALL SUBMISSIONS MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY A SIGNED APPLICATION RELEASE VIA FAX OR US MAIL. APPLICANTS ATTENDING CASTING CALLS MAY DELIVER THEM IN PERSON.

Click on the following links to apply at either an open call or by video:

OPEN CASTING CALL INFORMATION
VIDEO SUBMISSION INFORMATION

Companies Looking for Inventions

Posted on | June 14, 2009 | No Comments

I stumbled upon the “inventors phonebook” website today and it said “First huge list of companies, investors, product scouts, licensing agents, and manufacturers reps for you to submit your invention ideas to!”. I was skeptical but downloaded the free resource. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised. It’s over 400 pages of companies, their websites, contact information and what they are looking for in a product submission. It’s a great place to start in getting ideas about what companies are looking for. You may even consider inventing a product just to meet their criteria.
http://www.inventorsphonebook.com/inventorsideas.html

Inventing Contests

Posted on | June 7, 2009 | No Comments

I just added a Contests page that I will try to keep updated with the lastest contests I hear about. There are so many opportunities these days. Most of these can be found at www.edisonnation.com, but I get various emails from people and other organizations that want the word out. I have to say I don’t endorse any of these companies, I’m just sharing the information for you to decide.

Liz Mrofka Interview, Inventing As A Career

Posted on | June 3, 2009 | No Comments

I was interviewed by Keeping it Real Colorado for a Career Spot on their television station. They wanted to show teens that inventing is an option as a career. They did a nice job. Watch the video. Inventor Career

Rules of Evidence for Inventor Notebook

Posted on | June 3, 2009 | No Comments

I saw this information in the Inventor’s Society of Florida’s newsletter. It’s valuable for new inventors to know. So I thought I’d post it.

Eric Waltmire published The Preservation Three Step: What Every Lawyer Should Know to Protect a Client’s Potentially Patentable Assets in the DuPage County Bar Association’s October 2008 edition of its legal journal, The Brief. The article is now available at www.dcbabrief.org/vol211008art4.html. The section on witnesses follows:
• Witnesses should regularly sign notebook entries.
• Choose witnesses that are impartial and not relatives or people that the inventor worked closely with on the invention.
• The witness must have the capability of understanding the invention.
• The witness is not required to understand the theory behind the invention, although such an understanding is a plus.
• The witness should read and understand the material that he or she is witnessing in the notebook.
• The witness should not be in poor health because the point of a witness is, in
part, to testify later, if needed, as to the facts that he or she witnessed.
• The following should appear above the witnesses’ signature and date: The
following undersigned, have witnessed, and agree not to disclose the above
confidential information.
• Obtaining two witnesses is preferred because it makes the inventor’s case
stronger.
• The inventor’s patent attorney should not be a witness because a patent attorney may not represent an inventor and also be a witness for the inventor.

Fobbie Product Debut’s in 1000+ Michaels Craft Stores

Posted on | May 31, 2009 | No Comments

Three designs available at Michaels

Three designs available at Michaels Craft Stores.

The day has finally come when I could walk into my local Michaels Craft Store and buy a Fobbie! What a long process. It all started with Brenda my sales rep telling me that they had presented the product to Michaels and they were interested in purchasing. They requested a redesign of the packaging and also that I do a specific Fobbie design for them. A confetti “to/from” Fobbie. I also needed to have all the content in English and French since they would be a carried in Canada as well as the U.S. I worked with my manufacturer got pricing and proceeded with the order. There is so much involved in the process of working with a large retailer. They have very specific procedures to follow. Every time I turned around it seemed like there was one more requirement I didn’t know about. I have to say that everyone at Michaels was very helpful and patient in getting me through the process.

Me at the warehouse with thousands of Fobbies waiting to ship to Michaels.

Me at the warehouse with thousands of Fobbies waiting to ship to Michaels.

How amazing to have gone from that middle of the night “aha” moment, to actually having a product on the market. All I can say is that it takes a lot of determination and networking. You have to connect with the right people. I know most inventor’s are introverts, but it really makes a difference in the speed in which you can get things done.

I was really fortunate. Through networking I was introduced to my sales representative Brenda Patterson, co-owner at K&B Marketing. She and Kim Babjak are both successful inventors. Kim has been very successful on QVC with her products. They now work with inventors either from the beginning and help them get their products manufacturered and to market, or whatever capacity you need them. You can visit their website at: http://www.kb-mktg.com. Their personal websites and contact information is also available there.

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