If that figurative “I’ve got an idea!” light bulb was an actual thing, you would have a glowing light over your head 24/7. Ever since you were a little kid, you have come up with innovative and clever products. Now, as a business owner, you are ready to take the proverbial plunge and transform one of your many great ideas into a product that you can market and sell.
In order to fulfill your dream of being the next Thomas Edison, check out the following guide to manufacturing your first product:
Do Your Research.
The last thing you want to do is to spend months getting an invention transformed into a physical product, only to find out that some company in China has been selling them for years. Pretend to be a customer looking for your product and Google it thoroughly, using a variety of keywords to try to bring up similar or matching items. Next, complete a initial patent search on your product; visit the USPTO.gov website and do a basic and free search for your idea. It’s possible that someone else has already invented your product and has the patent in place and is now waiting to manufacture it.
Create a Prototype.
Once you determine that you are, as of now, the only person with this great idea, it’s time to start drawing and/or making models. Get some paper, pencils and colored markers and do your best to draw your idea and then, using the sketches as a guide, make a working prototype of the product. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it simply has to be something physical that you can hold and put to the test. Give it to your friends and family members — especially the ones who are most likely to be honest with you — and ask them to try it out and give feedback. Use this to make any adjustments and make it as useful as possible.
Be Aware of Any Safety Issues.
Depending on what you want to invent, you might have to deal with hazardous materials or the equipment to manufacture it may be potentially dangerous. To keep you and your workforce who will help you produce your product as safe as possible and keep your liabilities to an absolute minimum, research all of the raw materials you will use to make your item. If a certain chemical or product is hazardous, consult with a legal professional who specializes in that area of law. A great example of this is asbestos. For years, a number of industries including construction and branches of the military used this material; asbestos was later found to cause a type of lung cancer called mesothelioma. Even if your safety concern is not mesothelioma related, you should still be proactive about dangerous materials and take the steps to protect your health.
Create a Business Plan.
Once you have the kinks worked out from your product and any related materials, it’s time to think about the manufacturing process. Start by creating a business plan that will cover important questions like where will the money come from, where your product will be made, and how you will sell it. The U.S. Small Business Administration is a great source of advice; they offer a SBA Business Plan Tool that provides you with a step-by-step guide to get started.
Taking an idea from a mere thought to a physical product will not happen overnight, but it’s more than possible to do so. If you believe in your product — and you should — and take the necessary steps to manufacture and market it, it will only be a matter of time before you can add “inventor” to your already impressive resume.