BRINGING INNOVATION TO MARKET

How Shark Tank's Lori Greiner Spots a Million-Dollar Business Idea

Is your concept for a new product a zero or a hero? Shark Tank's Lori Greiner shares insights from her new book, Invest It, Sell It, Bank It.
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Baseball. Apple Pie. Shark Tank.

If you're anything like I am, Friday night Shark Tank has become a can't-miss All-American family tradition. Like so many of you, I love the ABC hit television show. Every Friday night, my wife and I gather on the couch with our 11-year-old daughter to watch entrepreneurs pitch the "sharks" to invest in their burgeoning businesses.

The six sharks are all accomplished entrepreneurs and investors, and the show provides great lessons in fundraising, persuasion, entrepreneurship and storytelling. If you're a fellow entrepreneur, Shark Tank provides the kind of education and entertainment that simply can't be found easily, well, anywhere else.

That's why I was thrilled to have a chance to chat for a few minutes with Lori Greiner, one of the sharks, who just published a tell-all book, Invent, Sell It, Bank It: Make Your Million Dollar Idea Into a Reality.

Regarded as one of the most prolific inventors of retail products, having created more than 400 products, Greiner holds 120 U.S. and international patents. For the past 16 years, she also has had her own show on QVC-TV, called Clever & Unique Creations by Lori Greiner.

Greiner says she can tell instantly if a product is a "hero or a zero," and this is clearly shown through her many thriving investments and a 90% success rate on new items launched. Several of her investments are the best success stories on Shark Tank to date.

I asked Lori to share some insight from her book:

How can you easily tell whether a product idea is a zero or a hero?

Greiner: It needs to incorporate all these three things:

  1. Does it solve a problem?
  2. Can you sell it at a reasonable price?
  3. Is it appealing to the mass market?

If you can answer these three questions right away with a resounding "YES," then your idea may be a hero.

What's the biggest mistake aspiring entrepreneurs make? 

Greiner: They start to invest a lot of money into their product before they've test marketed it or had any sales into retailers. I've known people that would buy thousands of orders of their product thinking that everyone on earth was going to buy it, only to find out that nobody actually did want it or buy it. Now, they're stuck with a warehouse full of product and no money.

They don't listen to what people are telling them in regard to whether or not it's a good product or idea. If, for example, you keep hearing people say they don't like it, or "Why would anybody buy it?" chances are they're right, it's not going to be a good product.

A lot of people are stubborn and they keep forging ahead, convinced they have the next best thing since sliced bread.

Listen to what people tell you, and find another idea.

What's the best advice you've ever received and from whom? 

Greiner:  You can be anything you want to be if you put your mind to it! Advice from my mom. I'll never forget it.

Do you have an idea for Lori or the Sharks? Does your idea pass Lori's "Zero or Hero" test? Let me know your ideas in the comments section below!

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Mar 13, 2014

DAVE KERPEN | Columnist | CEO, Likeable Media

Dave Kerpen is the CEO of Likeable Local. He is also the cofounder and chairman of Likeable Media and the New York Times bestselling author of Likeable Social Media and Likeable Business. Want to learn about how to grow your business using social media in 2 minutes? Click here.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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