Bringing even the simplest of product ideas to market on your own requires considerable effort, not to mention capital. There are just so many factors to consider, like cash flow, distribution, hiring, and inventory -- none of which get any easier if and when the business takes off. When I founded an innovative guitar pick business, I was surprised to discover I needed about a quarter of a million dollars to really get it off the ground. Picks are tiny, not to mention virtually weightless. I could store thousands of them under my desk! They nearly pulled themselves to market. Still, it was a challenge. Eventually, I left Hot Picks to return to licensing, which is much more of a team sport: Everyone involved plays to their strengths to transform a concept into a success story.
The degree to which your licensee will want you to be involved in the development process differs. (Let it be known, taking a hands-off approach is not in your best interest.) Sometimes, you'll be asked to play a very active role in formulating your team. For example, the following has happened to me many times over the course of my career. I show a concept to a potential licensee and they like it! We're both excited. But the company needs a little help, I'm told. They need me to figure out how to make the idea. Will I?
This scenario occurs fairly often with my students too. And I've noticed it has a tendency to throw them a bit. I'm just an individual, they think, scratching their head. This is a big company with a lot of resources at its disposal! How can I possibly help? Are they being sincere? What do I do next?
This is actually a fantastic opportunity to build your team. When you bring a contract manufacturer to the table, you make it easier for the company in question to commit to you and your idea. You make it that much easier for them to say, "Yes, we want to license this idea!" Because the reality is many companies do not do their own manufacturing. They contract their manufacturing out, which can be quite a bit of work. When you identify a manufacturer that's a good fit, that can make your idea at the right price, you save the company a tremendous amount of work. You bring value to the table. You demonstrate you're a worthy teammate.
Contract manufacturers are easily identified at trade shows, via trade associations, and of course, online. And fear not: When you contact a contract manufacturer to ask about pricing, they'll want to get back to you quickly after you tell them there's a company interested in bringing the idea to market. That means new business for them. In my experience, they'll be more than willing to put in the time and energy to get you what you need. Everyone benefits.
That's teamwork at its finest. And it works. This is really another form of pull-through marketing. You're tying the ends up together. Rather than actually doing the work yourself, you're bringing together the best parties to do it for you. Don't be afraid to go after the help you need to make it happen. In the process, you'll become the expert of your idea, which is priceless.