06 Nov Ideas to Profits Conference encourages innovation in Wisconsin
Inventors seeking ways to move their product ideas forward toward commercialization found a wealth of information and resources at the eighth annual Wisconsin Innovation Service Center 2009 Ideas to Profits Conference.
While five Inventors Showcase and Competition contestants received prizes of research services, prototype development and legal services valued from $500 to $3000, all of the 24 contestants and 139 conference attendees benefited from the opportunity to network with and learn from other inventors, entrepreneurs and product development experts.
As Pdon Pinkham, an inventor from Viroqua, Wisconsin, said, “The most helpful thing for me was networking with other inventors and experts who came to speak and conduct workshops. Talking with the other inventors and seeing what problems they have encountered and how they solved them will help me be more successful with my inventions.”
Inventors and innovators who attend the conference range from individuals with just the spark of an idea to established manufacturers ready to launch a new product line.
“We have an idea in the embryo stage,” said Marge Anderson of Lisbon, Wisconsin, “and we came here to find out, ‘Is there any way to develop this? Where do we go for a prototype? What do you do to protect your idea? How do you know who you can trust?’ It has been an absolutely fabulous experience! We have learned so much.”
The conference serves as inspiration and education to inventors and entrepreneurs—the group of people with the potential to accelerate the economic recovery by adding new jobs in the state.
As business owner John Bruning of Waukesha said, “One of the things I have been concerned about is, every day, you feel like the state is losing manufacturing jobs to overseas. But coming to this conference, I got the feeling that America is alive and well, because people are full of ideas and the energy to make them successful.”
A common theme among conference attendees was the desire to give back to the community, state and nation by keeping production as local as possible.
“We want to keep our product American made,” said Frank Hammond, co-developer of the Handy Hitch trailer hitch alignment system which was the Second Place award winner this year. “Right now, we are making the Handy Hitch ourselves right here in Viroqua. When we can no longer keep up with demand, we are set up to have VARC (a sheltered workshop in Sauk County, Wis.) take over production.”
Hammond and his partner Shane Kendhammer, like many of the inventors who attend the Ideas to Profits conference, said they attended because they needed to learn more about how to conduct an effective marketing campaign on a limited budget. The conference features workshops on marketing new products, protecting intellectual property, funding resources, product licensing and other issues of interest to inventors, entrepreneurs and innovative manufacturers.
Many of the conference attendees learned about Ideas to Profits via connections with Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Network (WEN) service providers.
Inventors Showcase Best of Show prize winners, Darin, Lawrence and Mark Carignan, inventors of the Firstrike™ fish strike indicator learned about the conference and competition through the Juneau County Inventors and Entrepreneurs (I & E) Club. Club founder, Terry Whipple, directed them to another WEN resource, the Wisconsin Innovation Service Center (WISC) for market research to assess the marketability of their invention.
“The I & E Club has taken us from zero to this point,” said Darin Carignan upon learning that the Firstrike™ won Best of Show. “Also, the research done by WISC at UW-Whitewater was really a turning point. It came back very favorable leading to our decision to go ahead with manufacturing and selling our product.”
Five thousand Firstrike™ fish strike indicator pole attachments have been assembled and are ready to go to market.
Encouraging and informing inventors like the Carignans is the reason behind the Ideas to Profits conference. This year’s featured inventor, Ben Hobbins, developer of IronClad™ fishing lures, the Popular Science Top 10 Invention of the Year Winner for 2009, had a booth where he shared insights into the invention commercialization process and encouraged others to continue pursuing their dreams.
Plans are underway for the 2010 conference. More information about WISC and the conference can be found online at http://wisc/uww.edu or by calling 262-472-1365.