Jill Gilbert Welytok is the managing attorney for Absolute Technology Law Group LLC, which is a team of Registered Patent, Trademark and Transactional attorneys.
Upcoming Inventors and Entrepreneurs Club Meetings:
Mequon Inventors Forum: March 19th 5:30 - Mequon Public Library (Frank L. Weyenburg Public Library) - Three experts (see below) explain how recession is the best opportunity for small efficient businesses and competitive new products: "Recession is the Mother of Invention." No advance registration required.
Downtown Inventors Forum: Apri 29th 5:45 - Downtown Milwaukee Absolute Technology Law Group Offices - 135 West Wells Street: "Patents, Prototypes and Profit." Speakers TBA. No advance registration required.
For more information, go to http://www.milwaukeepatents.com/inventors.html
In the Depression of the 1930's, entrepreneurs rolled out some fabulous new products: the car radio, the electric shaver, technology for photocopying and new, efficiently designed and less costly furniture. The first supermarket was opened, as well as the first Laundromat ... and chocolate chip cookies and candy bars first swept the nation.
Economic recession is an obstacle to be overcome, and as many inventors and businesses will tell you, it creates its own opportunities. Certainly, during recessionary times, entrepreneurs have less cash to launch products, and a decline in the revenues of your company (or yourself) will certainly make you less risk adverse. However, if you have a good idea, other people will help you. And not out of altruism. They are looking for opportunities and products that will help them boost their own markets, compete more effectively and, in some cases, invest in a profitable venture during a time of declining economic returns on other investments.
Here are some principles for launching an invention or product as prospective customers are lightening their budgets:
Position your product as competitive: Focus on how the product saves money and increases efficiency for consumers and industry. If your product does this, distribution outlets who are anxious to sharpen their competitive edge and boost their own declining revenues will be receptive.
Know your costs and define your margins before you take your idea to anyone: You must know how much it costs to make your product. Generally, you must be able to produce a product at 20-35% of what you expect an end retail consumer to pay. You must knock on the doors of people who can help you design your product, produce a prototype and define your manufacturing costs. Sometimes these people will give you a manufacturing quote and design alternatives. You must define your target market and design the product to satisfy the needs of that market at their price point. All of the research that you do in these areas is proprietary knowledge that the scope of any patent you obtain should protect.
Get a free marketing consultant – yourself: Marketing research is something you do not need to hire someone to do at the outset, and probably should not in many cases. No one knows your invention and/or your industry better than you do. Reference librarians at the Mequon Public Library are more than happy to help you find the right people to contact in companies all over the world, and people at the I&E club will help refine your pitch at every meeting. (I&E club meetings are the best place you can find to talk to otherwise billable consultants and lawyers for free.) Note: See my first blog on serial inventor John Suckow who got his start at the library using the Thomas Register Directories with the help of a reference librarian.
Don’t ask anyone for money to launch your idea; instead ask them to review your business plan: Starting by looking for funds to “develop” your idea almost never works. If you are approaching people for business capital, you need to have a business plan and plenty of research to prove your market, not to mention a working prototype and feedback from a few actual clients. Only when you have invested the time and your own capital to get this far and have demonstrated the fundamental knowledge to get to this point are your ready to ask others to invest. If you are not sure how to write a business plan, try looking at the templates at http://www.bizstartsmilwaukee.com/ where you can also find out about state grants to help you hire a professional business plan consultant.
If your idea is a good one that can be delivered at a price point people can pay, no one will care what you are wearing or if your presentation is in Powerpoint.™ In this economy, no business or industry can afford to ignore a good idea.This month's I&E speakers - Frank L. Weyenburg Mequon Public Library:
Terry Whipple - Terry is the Executive Director of Juneau County Economic Development Corporation and founder of the first Inventors and Entrepreneurs Club in the nation. Terry has created a contagious entrepreneurial environment across Wisconsin, and is coming to our club armed with "recession success" stories. (www.juneaucounty.com) Although the current economic climate is a source of stress and layoffs for some businesses, it's a time of new and exciting opportunities for others.
Dan Steinginger - Dan is the founder and Vice-President of BizStarts Milwaukee, a non-profit group to fast track new businesses and help them find venture capital. Dan will speak about the opportunities that BizStarts Milwaukee offers. (www.bizstartsmilwaukee.com)
Dylan Morgan - Dylan is with Prairie Business Credit, and is an expert in obtaining capital to fill purchase orders for new products. Dylan will preview his program "Bootstrapping to Success: How to Fund a Product without Venture Capital." (www.prairiebiz.com)