In my business this is something I hear all the time! When people learn that we help bring cool new fitness items (and other items) to the market, inevitably they tell me about an idea that they or a friend have. I love this aspect of my job!
Back in 1995, my friend and business partner Don Brown invented a product that went on to become one of the top selling fitness products EVER! You’ve probably heard of it, probably used it, and may have even owned one at some point (thanks!). It’s called the Ab Roller. The Ab Roller has gone through several re-designs through the years, and there have been many, many copies; but we are the company that started it all. The creators, designers, and original patent holders. The Ab Roller went on to sell over 10 million units and generate over $1 BILLION in sales! Not bad for a product that was conceptualized using a bent paperclip!
Because of the success of the Ab Roller, inventors come to us all the time to pitch their ideas. We are quite selective, but we’ve brought many to the market over the years and paid out Millions of Dollars in royalties to inventors along the way. Are you the Next Fitness Millionaire? If you have an idea, I’d love to see it. Send me a message or shoot me an email! But WAIT…..before you do, keep reading!
When someone tells me they have an idea for a new product, I give them 3 very simple steps to follow in order to decide if they are on the right path. If your idea passes this test then and only then should you proceed on the next steps to taking it to market, either by yourself or with a partner like us. So here you go…..
1. Sketch it out When you have an idea, get out a piece of paper and sketch it out. Draw an image of what it looks like and what it does. Write a description using as many key words as possible. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and you don’t need professional renderings (yet). When someone starts to tell me about an idea, this is the first thing I always ask. It’s much easier to understand an idea if it’s on paper. Plus, this helps you think through your basic design and function.
2. Google it How many times have you seen something on a store shelf or on TV and said “I thought of that!” You very well may have and maybe even before they did (perhaps you just didn’t take action, but more about that in another post!). However, maybe they thought of your idea long before you did, and you just never knew because you never looked around. This happens all the time. Someone will tell me about an idea and I ask if they’ve Googled it. They are shocked when a simple search brings up 10 similar products!
Remember when I told you to jot down key words? Here is where they are valuable. Type them into Google, in as many combinations as you can and see what comes up. I’ll be honest with you, it’s very hard to come up with a truly unique idea that’s never been done. Look on Google, YouTube, Social Media, etc. Leave no stone unturned and see what exists.
So what if you do your search and nothing comes up? Does that mean it’s never been thought of? NO! You need to check one more place. The USPTO – thats the United States Patent and Trademark Office (if you don’t live in the US, check the local office in your country). Again, Google can be very helpful here. Google Patents is a great and simple site to do a basic patent search and see if your idea exists. Just because it’s not on the market, it doesn’t mean that you are clear to proceed. If someone else owns the rights to it, you are going to have to think long and hard about what to do next. Which brings us to step 3!
3. Evaluate Your Idea Let’s say you do your searches and nothing comes up. Nothing on the market, no patent that you can find, whats next? This is the point at which you want to start to get some feedback on the idea. Maybe it doesn’t exist because it truly is unique, or maybe it doesn’t exist because no one really cares about the problem you are trying to solve! Many inventors get very nervous at this stage because they think that anyone they share their idea with will steal it! Sure you have to be cautious, but you also need real feedback from people other than your mom! Talk to some close friends and colleagues you can trust and who will he honest with you. What do they think? Read their reactions and see if you’ve really presented an ‘ah ha’ moment for them. Be willing to listen, and be open to criticism. Don’t fall in love with your idea. I’ve seen many an inventor blow their life savings because they let pride get in the way. If you still think you have something you may be ready to take the next steps, like speaking to an attorney and making a working sample.
What if your search does come back and shows that the idea has already been thought of or brought to market? Does that mean you should give up? Not necessarily. What if your idea provides a unique twist or a significant improvement to what’s already there? It’s possible you could still come to market and dominate the space provided that you can do this without infringing anyones rights. Here is a great place to enlist the services of a patent attorney and to get an expert opinion. If you are clear, take the next steps. If you’re not, think of another idea and start the process again.
There you have it – 3 simple steps to see if your idea is worth taking to the next level. Remember the greatest inventions of all time all started with someone saying “I have an idea!” Yours could be next!