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February 1st, 2012

10 Steps to turn an invention into a reality

10 steps to turn an invention into reality

Do you often come up with ideas for new products which you are convinced would sell really well?  I do all the time.  However, it took me 30 years to get an idea of my doodle pad and see it become the best selling cot bumper on Amazon.  In a nutshell, these are the 10 steps which any inventor must go through:

1) Come up with ideas and choose one

You must choose just one idea and commit to it.  Launching a product eats up a lot of time and money, so it necessary to focus your energy and resources.

2) Research the Market

Make sure that there will be a demand for your product idea.  Ask others if they would buy it.

After I came up the idea for the Cot Wrap, I spent many late nights on online parenting forums and spotted that the same questions coming up and up again (‘how do I stop my baby’s arms and legs getting stuck between the cot gaps?’  ‘How do I stop dummies falling out?’).

A great tool for market research is Survey Monkey.  You can create a free survey (of up to 100 responses).  A tip would be to try to get as wide range of potential customers as possible to take it, as friends and family will naturally be a little biased and may subconciously put the answers they think you will want to hear.

I also checked on the Intellectual Property Office website (www.ipo.gov.uk) to check that I would’t be infringing on anyone else’s patent.  Very important, as you don’t want to get sued a year down the line.

3) Develop the Product

I spent months researching different fabrics, learning about sewing techniques and making contact with potential suppliers.  I had a seamstress sew up my first prototypes and since then I have even bought a sewing machine and taught myself how to use it so I could try out alternatives.

If you are creating a textile product like me, developing a prototype is not too difficult as you can sew it up yourself or easily find someone to do it.  If it is any other form of product it will be a bit more difficult.  You may have to be very inventive with what you can get your hands on, or use one of the many prototyping companies around.

Protecting your IP

4) Protect your idea

If your idea is different enough from anyone elses, you may be able to patent it.  The cost of filing a patent is currently £200 although unless you already have the expertise to do it by yourself the cost of paying someone else to write it will be significant.

If your product does not qualify for a patent you may be able to protect its design.  A UK design right costs £60 although if you plan on selling throughout Europe it is worth getting an EU design right (240 Euros).

5) Write a Business Plan

A business plan provides a description of your business, products & services offered, marketing approach, pricing, financial management, operations, etc.  It is crucial if you will be applying for a loan.  Even if you are not it can be useful to pull everything together for your own reference.

6) Establish the brand

Brands are important, think of the difference between a ready meal bought from M&S Food and one from Asda.  I wanted to be seen as a safe, reliable company so I had to bear this in mind when getting a logo designed.  It couldn’t be too cute.  I went for blue because it is a nice safe colour.

7) Develop Website

I looked at probably hundreds of websites for inspiration in order to get ideas.  There are thousands of website designers around, a good way to find one is to look at websites which you like the look of and ask who designed them.

8)  Register the Business

The main options are to start off as a sole trader (a simple option) or register as a limited company.  The Business Gateway website has a very useful overview of the different options here.

Market & sell the product

9 ) Market & sell the product

Your are nearly there!  For marketing I sent out press releases, attended trade fairs, did lots of networking with others in the industry, used search engine optimisation to get my site high up on Google and posted lots of articles and contributions to online forums.

10) Grow, Grow, Grow

The world is then your oyster!

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