04 Oct More than ideas needed to make profits, experts say
Whitewater, Wis. — Even the most innovative thinker has a lot of hard work to do before successfully bringing a new product to market, attendees learned at the Wisconsin Innovation Service Center’s “Ideas to Profits” conference this weekend at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
Industry leaders, CEOs, lawyers and successful inventors came to share their expertise and tips to those just starting out or looking for a way to rise above the crowd.
Finding a market for a new product can be one of the hardest part of building a new product or a new business. Allen Oelschlaeger, founder and partner at Telaric Alliance, told his audience that the sales tactics of large corporations don’t apply to start-ups. Oelschlaeger recommended an organization such as the Innovation Center to help with pre-market research. Also, entrepreneurs can get business-plan help from the Small Business Development Center to kick-start their company.
“Market estimates have to be done before significant investment,” Oelschlaeger said. “Too often [you] hear, ‘Wow, this would have been great before they spent a lot of money.’”
One of the roadblocks can be the technical feasibility of a new product. An idea may be great, but if it cannot be done, it cannot be done.
Oliver Julien, director of product design at Design Concepts, outlined a five-phase process needed before a product gets manufactured. Design Concepts works as a consultant for many companies looking to make advances with a possible product. Before any product can make it to phase one, product research must be done.
“I suggest if you are an inventor go find some typical users. Can you identify the value of your product just by looking at them?” Julien said.
The product also needs to be made so that people in the field can test the weight and usability. “A lot of work needs to be done after a prototype in order for it to be manufactured,” Julien said.
Before ideas become prototypes and before prototypes become products, inventors and business owners need to understand the value of intellectual property, said several patent and intellectual-property lawyers who presented tips on intellectual property. They covered how to get patents, when to get a patent, and when your idea infringes on someone else’s patent.
Patents can cost more than $10,000, and royalties usually turn out to be between 5 and 8 percent of the sale price of the product. This may sound like a big deal, but intellectual property only pays off if there is a market. A large part of owning intellectual property is protecting it.
Jackie Diaz, president of Cooks Inovation, waited until she received her patent before coming to market with a cake maker that creates a hollow center for a filling. The favorite center is ice cream, she said. Her company sells the cake maker with QVC, but “It took years to figure out how to develop my product,” Diaz said.