Oh my, my, have I been “schooled” over the past few years. Some of the lessons below were more subtle, others were more like a rude awakening! Here are some of the things I would have explained to my bright eyed, twenty-something self a few years back…
#1. Getting patent approval is grueling. And it takes… forever and a day.
I had no idea before I started as an inventor how complex the patent approval process would really be. Finally, after a 3 year wait, and many expensive rounds of communication between my patent attorney and the patent examiner, my patent was approved. Not knowing what the end result would be for so long was very nerve wrecking, to say the least!
#2 The Cold Call is KING.
Get comfy with cold calling, because as an inventor, it is your new best friend. Covermade as an invention, and as company, was built on good old-fashioned cold calls. Yes, sometimes it was really difficult. But the fact is Covermade would not exist without all of the “…who knows how this will go?!” cold calls I have made. Have a plan, but for goodness sakes just do it. From walking into local seamstress shops several years ago, to approaching manufacturers and buyers at huge companies, I have made SO many cold calls. Show them what you have to offer! The worst they can say is no. Which brings me to lesson #3!
#3. When one door closes… find the next-best door.
It will seem like the entire world around you is always saying NO. Sure, the “no’s” may get you down a little at first (umm, yes you are human!), but ultimately you can choose to turn it into motivation. Here are just some of the many rejections I have heard…
“No we don’t do prototyping.”
“No we can’t take on a project like that.”
“No, that doesn’t fit our goals.”
“No, our machinery can’t make that.”
Or my favorite condescending remark from a few years ago:
“Do you really think people are going to buy your ‘bed coverings’?
Well, yes I do. And you know what? They are.
No, no and another big fat NO!
If you are hearing “no” often that means you are doing what you should be doing: working towards finding your ideal partners and qualifying them as a fit. For every rejection, for every “no”, you are one step closer to a hard-earned, well-qualified YES! Not everyone will be a fit, and that is ok.
#4. Talk is cheap. Put your money where your mouth is.
You can tell everyone that your invention works until you are blue in the face, but you have to work hard to PROVE IT. When you really believe in what you are selling, you will “show not tell”. We do this by sending samples, but we also take it a step further by insisting that the person/buyer evaluating the sample actually take it home and sleep with it, so they can experience Covermade first-hand.
When you are getting buyers from companies like Brookstone that use your product, totally “get it” and love it, you know you are making major strides! After all, these buyers aren’t just average Joe’s. They test products and evaluate them – for a living. Show them what you got!
#5. Not everyone will see your vision, especially in the beginning.
As an independent inventor, it is already extremely difficult to get businesses to take notice and listen to your idea, especially in the early stages before it has been tested and produced. On top of that, even though some of your close friends and family may mean well, they may not seem to “get it” or be very supportive.
Now that Covermade has a solid sales history and has earned quite a bit of third party credibility, I’m glad to say those early years are behind me. Phew! But, I had to learn how to tune out the noise, push past the naysayers and focus on the big picture.
#6. YOU have to make things happen.
It’s frustrating at times, but the truth is no one will really deeply care about your business/invention like you will. YOU have to make things happen. No one can have the level of passion that you have for moving things forward, so you’ll need to count on…you! However, there’s no greater satisfaction than seeing your persistence and work come to fruition, especially after a lot of hurdles.
I will say that there were times it seemed so easy to give up. But after all the lessons I learned from being an inventor, and all bumps in the road, I am so glad to be where I am today.