Here's an idea I recently got from a reader named Pat, who lives in New York City. Pat's tired of having his car get nicked and dented whenever he leaves it in a parking garage. He has an idea for a product that would protect the car -- a shadelike tube that would clip on to the front and rear bumpers and that the driver could pull down over the bumpers to protect them.

Pat, it's a fabulous idea. But not all fabulous ideas make money. Here's what I usually tell people who come to me with fabulous ideas: Make a prototype. Then make a dozen or so. Then make a hundred or so. Know what the costs are. And then go to automobile supply chains and car washes, and see if they'll take your product on consignment. See if the things sell. For a small investment, you'll find out if other people like your idea. At the same time, if it's not too costly, try to initiate a patent so that, if your idea dcoes take off, you'll be protected.

I don't know, Pat. When I read this, a smile came to my face. It's a little crazy, but I think it might work.