I think my first product idea came to me when I was 22. I was new to the workforce and didn’t have a lot of money. After purchasing work appropriate outfits I didn’t have enough money left over to buy shoes for work and to also buy casual shoes.
My idea was to create a shoe with a track on the bottom that would allow you to swap out the heels. Genius! One black shoe that could be worn as a flat, heel, block heel, you get the idea. Three shoes in one!
However, with inventions comes drawings, product concepts, manufacturers, materials, prototypes which all require capital in order to prove the concept. At the time I didn’t have the resources to pay an engineer for design and the costs associated with materials. What I lovingly called “Exchangeables” never came to be. After that I came up with quite a few ideas that after some research I found already existed, one being a yoga mat that could fold up into a square to be carried in a handbag. I loved this idea only to find it on amazon later that day as I was dreaming of my concept and how it would be a game changer!
Most of my ideas come from a need that I have or see. You can’t go wrong there. Something that makes lives easier or safer is always a win. NoUV is the first product of mine that has come to fruition. I loved getting gel manicures and wondered if the UV lights used to cure UV polish were damaging my skin. After much research I realized this was in fact the case. I wanted to develop a safe protective glove that would allow people to get gel manicures without worrying about aging their skin and skin cancer. Hygiene and safety can be an issue in nail salons so creating something disposable was a non-negotiable for me. I had no idea until I got started just how long and involved the process can be to create one product. It’s one thing to have an idea and quite another to execute.
Do you have an idea for a product that you’ve been thinking about for a while and are wondering where to start? Here are some of the steps that I took that helped me determine whether I had a viable product.
The first thing I did was create a business plan. Your first draft doesn’t have to be something that you plan to give to potential investors but can serve as a guideline for you and your business. I updated this as I got farther along in the process of creating my product.
A few questions that you should have answers for:
What problem does your product address/fix?
Who is your competition? How is your product different?
Who is your customer? Who will you sell it to? Will you sell B2B or B2C?
Get quotes from 3-4 different manufacturers. You will need to decide if you will use a US manufacturer or one overseas. Made in America is a huge selling point. If you can produce your product in the United States that’s great. The problem with manufacturing costs is that producing products overseas many times is less expensive than manufacturing costs in the United States. Also, many large factories overseas can provide materials, convert them and also manufacture packaging all in one location where in the US you may need to buy materials from one company and have them converted by another. Packaging could be a third company.
You will need a prototype for a few reasons. Get quotes for samples/ prototype from manufacturers. If you have enough capital you can procure prototypes from a few different companies to see which one best understands your idea and produces the best form of your product. Having a working prototype will allow you to float your ideas to consumers and companies and create interest. As an aside, there’s nothing like the feeling of receiving the first prototype of your product. I remember it being a very proud moment for me.
Proof of Concept
You need to have your product in hand and see that it’s working so that you can show others how and why it works and why they need it. You will want to make an initial purchase of enough of your product to allow people/businesses to start using it. This will provide you with your own test group to prove the need/want for your product.
Packaging is almost just as important as the product itself. How many times have you either been to the grocery store or a department store and seen two products that seem similar but you choose the one that looks more appealing to you? This happens to me all of the time. I love good packaging! It gives me that happy feeling. I like to bring it home and sometimes keep it. I find it provides me with as much enjoyment as what’s inside.
It can be a long road from your initial idea to having your product in hand. Have questions? I’d love to hear from you. I’m rooting for you!