You’re likely reading this article because you had a lightbulb moment. You came up with an idea – a great one, at that – and need more information on how to bring it to life. The good news is: you’ve come to the right source. The bad news is: you don’t have any funding. Yet.
Funding is a crucial element of the startup process. Having enough money to see your idea through from conception to actualization is super important. Read on to discover what you should do if you have an idea but no money.
What You Should Do With an Invention Idea But No Money
Does this sound like you — “I have an invention idea but no money.” Do not fret, you can learn how to make an invention idea a reality. One way you can make your idea tangible is by looking for investors.
You may be wondering, “Where do I find investors?” We will discuss five different avenues you can take to obtain startup capital. These avenues range from selling your idea, pursuing investors or crowdfunding.
Sell Your Idea
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Maybe you can actually get paid for your creativity or practicality. There are many companies that buy ideas, and if you spend a little time doing some research, you may find that you can make a few (or, in some cases, a lot!) of money.
Companies may pay you directly for your ideas, and there are certain companies that are constantly looking for new ideas for their business or product lines. One way to get started is to do some research on your idea, and see if, in fact, it is a new, creative idea.
If all checks out, you can figure out how to sell your idea. Here are some companies that are known for paying for great ideas, with suggestions of how you can get in touch with them to pitch your idea and hopefully get a few bucks. You may have to reach out to more than one before you get a buyer for your idea, but, depending on the type of idea you have, there are many options.
- 3M: This is a company that primarily focuses on electronics and office supplies, but also tends to venture into healthcare supplies, as well. They are actively interested in new ideas, and will pay for the great ones. You can apply to have your ideas purchased by visiting this link.
- Dorman Products, Inc.: This company is interested in new ideas that are related to hardware, houseware, and automotive products. Do you have a great idea in this area? Contact them to see if they are interested!
- Henkel: This is the company responsible for producing Right Guard deodorant and Dial soap. A giant in the personal products industry, they are always looking for new products and directions, and your idea may just be the next great product. Henkel welcomes partnerships with startups and innovators, click here to apply.
- Sharper Image: Ideas for toys, technology, or exciting gadgets? Sharper Image has a branch of their company dedicated to partnerships and startup ventures, and they will pay for those ideas. Be prepared to submit a full explanation of your idea, along with pictures or drawings, as appropriate.
- Coastal Pet Products: New and improved pet products are extremely popular. Are you an animal lover who has a great idea to make fur mommies and daddies happy? Do you have an idea for a product that would improve the lives of pets? Special collars, leads, crates, feeding systems, and more are great places to start!
- Jokari Home Solutions: For those who have great ideas for helpful kitchen gadgets, consider submitting your idea to Jokari. You can apply to have your idea considered right on their website.
- Coleman: With many products focused on recreation and outdoor lifestyles, Coleman is still always looking for new angles. If you are an outdoor enthusiast who has thought about the perfect product, make sure you submit your idea for payment by Coleman.
- Pro Performance Sports: Athletes love gadgets and gear. Have you come up with something that makes a certain workout easier or more fun? Contact Pro Performance Sports through their website and send in your idea, they may just pick up the idea and run with it (pun intended).
Don’t want to sell your idea and rarther see it through yourself? Another way inventors can get their idea financed is by taking out loans. Talk to your bank to discover which loans you are eligible for.
You can typically apply for a business development loan, although it highly depends on your credit score. Alternatively, look for government loans that have more favorable terms.
Family and Friends
When looking for investors, you might not have to venture too far out of your social circle. Oftentimes, family and friends are willing to support and invest in your idea if you only ask.
No matter how close the relationship, however, keep a written record of who invests how much. Additionally, make sure to discuss the terms of the investment.
An angel investor is an individual who provides capital to a small business. In return, they receive a large share of your business (we’re talking anywhere from 25% up).
Since these are private investors, they also receive high returns. Angel investors are usually found within your social circle.
Search for Grants
Grants are great for small businesses because you don’t need to pay them back. You can apply for a small business grant from the government or an organization in your field.
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While you don’t have to repay a grant, it usually comes with conditions for how the money is used.
Regardless, it’s worth looking into!
Turning Your Invention Idea Into a Product
Now that you know where to find investors, you’re ready for the next stage. In this part of the article, we’ll be discussing how to turn your invention idea into a product.
Step 1: Document It
Documenting your idea is essential for several reasons. First, it gets the idea out of your head and onto paper. Second, it will come in handy when going through the legal proceedings needed to obtain patent rights. Let’s expound on that.
Having an idea for an invention won’t benefit you unless it’s put down on paper. To do this, start keeping an inventor’s journal and write down everything. Document the conception date of your idea, design, specifications, possible product names, and anything else you can think of.
In line with U.S. laws, make sure your journal is bound and paginated. Signing each entry, along with including the signatures of two other reliable witnesses, is required.
Step 2: Research It
Bringing your invention idea to life will require a lot of initial research. You’ll want to conduct market research to see what customers are willing to spend on. Your research will also expose gaps in the market.
For example, if you’re creating an app, which features do customers want that your competitors aren’t offering? More importantly, investigating your idea will familiarize you with how things work in your field.
You’ll learn the correct terminology and the processes for getting rights, among other things. You can also find out whether your idea will infringe on someone else’s intellectual property.
Step 3: Make a Prototype
Now to the fun part: making a visual representation of your idea. Thus far, your invention has remained an abstract thought. Creating a prototype will let you assess your product’s appearance and usability.
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The prototype you make will depend on your budget. Whether you make it yourself or hire help, seeing and using your invention will let you know what works and what needs to be changed.
Step 4: File a Patent
For an invention to be eligible for a patent in the United States, it needs to be novel. It has to be significantly different from all the other inventions in its field.
If you’ve read the list of qualifications and conducted a patent search, and your invention idea passes the test, then go ahead and apply for a patent through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Step 5: Market Your Invention
By this stage, you should have already conducted thorough market research. You should have a good idea of your target market, the gap your product is filling, and who your competitors are. Now it’s time to put that knowledge to good use and market.
After all, you won’t make any profit if no one knows about your product.
If your product is aimed towards an older generation, consider marketing through traditional media channels. Buy advertisement slots in newspapers, magazines, and T.V.
Alternatively, a product with a younger target market would be best marketed through digital media platforms. Make use of websites, e-marketing, and social media platforms to get the word out.
How to Start Inventing Things and Get to Market
Let’s get real — if you want to make it big with your invention idea, you must put in the work. Here are some tips you some follow in order to get to market.
Believe in yourself
The road ahead of you may be a long one, so the most crucial piece of advice to remember is to believe in yourself. Be confident in the idea you’re trying to bring to life. You’ll run into people who don’t see your vision, but you must keep pursuing and fine-tuning your invention.
Find a problem worth solving
It’s often said that great products solve problems. As you brainstorm for ideas, think of a problem that you often face in life and wish there was a solution for.
Do you wish your towel would dry faster after a shower or that your mop had an automated ‘self-clean’ button? Odds are, you aren’t alone. Once you’ve identified a problem, let your mind come up with creative ideas.
Do basic market research (before investing money)
Unless you’re inventing for fun, doing market research for your product is extremely important. Before you invest any money into your invention idea, take enough time to read about your product’s market and field.
Conducting market research at this point will prevent you from making the same mistakes your predecessors did, thus saving you time and money in the long run. It will also help you narrow down your idea.
Build a prototype and test your idea (in real life)
Building a prototype will give you the advantage of experiencing your invention on a first-hand basis. Through this, you’ll be able to make further decisions on how the product looks, feels, functions.
Sometimes our ideas don’t translate into real-life ideally. Building a prototype early on in the invention process will take you one step closer to merging the abstract idea with its physical manifestation.
Work with a reputable service provider
When developing a marketable invention idea, consider working with a reputable product development company that will help you illustrate the idea properly.
Product development companies help – you guessed it – develop or improve products so they can meet their customers’ needs.
They can help inventors flesh out their ideas and prepare their products for the market.
Work with an inventor coach
Picture someone who has been through what you’re about to embark on and has succeeded at it. This is exactly what an inventor coach is. If you want an expert to guide you through the process, consider reaching out to a trusted and reputable inventor coach.
Invention help from Colleges and Universities
More often than not, colleges and universities are willing to support innovative ideas. Depending on the institution, they might even have the exact technology you need to test out your idea.
To get started, head to your university’s website to check out the terms, conditions, and requirements you need to fulfill before receiving assistance.
Inventor groups are rather common, and they’re a great space to meet like-minded people. Within an inventor group, you’re going to meet people who challenge you for the better and help you refine your idea.
You’ll also gain access to information based on personal experience that’s not necessarily easily searchable on the internet.
Bring Your Invention to Life
If you have an invention idea, but you’re struggling to come up with adequate financing, don’t fret. It doesn’t mean that you need to discard your idea. Instead, look for investors through banks, family and friends, individuals, and grants.
As you plan to bring your idea to life, it’s also important to conduct thorough research, build a prototype, and collaborate with others. Now that you know the basics, it’s time to go out there and put this knowledge to good use. With time, your invention idea will turn into a product.