I have been entrepreneurial as long as I can remember. Right out of college I started drumming up business to build my freelance graphic design firm. I had NO idea what I was doing, but actually was pretty darn successful! But, back then I had no idea I was also an inventor.
Fast forward to February 2007. Oprah teamed up with QVC and launched her search for the next big idea. I happened to see that show introducing the campaign and decided right then & there that I would enter. I didn’t have a product, or even and IDEA at that point, but for some reason I knew I would enter. I vividly remember sitting in my home office, with 3 little kids running and crawling around, asking myself, “what need do I have for a solution that isn’t out there?” Within a few hours I came up with something.
I wanted a hair styling product that would give my hair lift at my crown. Something to create fullness, that was easy to use, and undetectable. I hated teasing, and hated using yucky, sticky products. So I went to work building many prototypes of a simple, small hair accessory that would achieve this goal.
LONG story short… I created a great product, the Speedy Bump (I still love the name). I submitted to Oprah’s contest. And waited. I got a call shortly into the contest period from QVC asking for some samples so they could test my invention. OMG!!! I followed their instructions, provided samples, and waited again. I can’t remember the exact date they would be contacting winners, but I certainly remember how I felt that day. I was a bundle of anxiety, I didn’t know what to do with myself. And the phone rang… it was a rep from QVC. Basically, they said that I didn’t win Oprah’s contest, BUT, we are still interested in your product and will be in touch. I soooo thought I was going to Chicago to be on Oprah and share my idea.. so I was sad. But, I needed to change my perspective and realize that QVC liked my idea, and that’s a pretty big deal!
Ultimately QVC passed because I was so early in on my product, I only had a great prototype, I didn’t have manufacturing, proven sales, etc. But I was determined to move forward because I knew I was onto something.
I started researching manufacturing, learning how to get it made on my own, testing it further, and looking into the infomercial world. Through tenacity and dedication I got in touch with one of the first major infomercial gurus in the world (think Ginsu Knives). I found his contact info, reached out, and he actually called me! What??? We had a couple of conversations about my product, then he had me talk to someone else in his organization, talked to his legal department, etc. Then there were crickets. OK, fine, I’m moving forward without them.
I continued working on everything; manufacturing, promotion, marketing. I got a call from my sister-in-law several months later asking me if I had gotten my product on TV because she just saw a commercial for something just like my idea. WHAT??? A very similar product was suddenly everywhere… As Seen On TV, every drug store, you name it. I did as much research as I could on that product, and feel that it did lead back to that infomercial guru from months past. What could I do? I’m a little guy, I didn’t have the resources to stick up for myself. It was terribly painful and heartbreaking. But, here’s a few takeaways:
I HAD A GREAT IDEA!
Protect yourself… talk to a lawyer before you share your great idea with anyone.
I learned soooo much. Mainly, I had a great idea, I will have more, and I can help others with their great ideas to make their teams come true.