I had the pleasure of interviewing Kassie Kilpatrick this past week, and it was more than I could have hoped for! Prosper Project is partnering with our church in Tampa to host an entrepreneurial group called Collective. The purpose of the group is to meet for 10 consecutive weeks to spark the development and ultimate launch of diverse God ideas, products and businesses that folks have been dreaming about for some time now. I reached out to Kassie to get some practical advice on how to steer the participants who were looking to develop a product. What follows are her insights and a report of her exploits as she navigated the process to produce her forthcoming kids' toy . . .
Erica: Hi, Kassie! Thanks for agreeing to share your thoughts and experience around developing and creating a new product with us. I think the first question most people want to ask is, what sorts of things should you do when you get an idea to create something? In what order should you do these things?
Kassie: Start by drawing out and sketching and putting to paper anything that has to do with your product. Brainstorm about the product and why it's needed. Get the creative juices flowing. You may find the original idea is bigger than you thought or that there is more earning potential if you can expand the product into a line of products. Or it may just evolve a bit. Keep all of this in a sketch book and sign and date the bottom of every page with a witness. This will be handy in the future to protect your ideas.
[The first official order of business is] to do a patent search. There are attorneys who specialize in this and you can expect to spend between $1,000 and $3,000. But you have to know if it's worth pursuing if it's an invention. If you know off hand that it's not patentable you can go straight to getting a trademark. You will need this either way. The attorney will file this all for you. But at this point you will need your logo to file along with the trademark.
I also hired a business attorney to help with non disclosure agreements. You need to protect your idea so these legal agreements are important. A business attorney can guide you as you meet with potential investors and can help you file your LLC or Corporation paperwork. They also may be a good source of referrals. I found a great attorney first and he recommended an accountant and a patent attorney and has potential investors he wants me to meet with.
Create your prototype as soon as you can, as best as you can. You will need this to start figuring out what works and what doesn't as well as to have a close visual representation of your product to show to a manufacturer. It's possible they can make it based on your prototype but if not you will have to pay a designer to draw up the manufacturing patterns.
One mistake I made was that I didn't set up a bank account for the business until after I did all these things. If you are serious, then set up your business first and open a bank account. Then all the money you spend will be accounted for and you can get back later if it passed through the business account. If you are doing everything out of pocket as I did then just write checks to the business from your personal account to keep it flowing through the company.
www.thelogocompany.net is a great website that's relatively cheap and they have four or five people who create logos. They re-design as many times as you need until you get it right for only $150. I loved them!
Erica: What about steps someone might not think about as they launch out into this process? Anything you wished you would have thought about right from the start that took you by surprise as you went through the process?
Kassie: I didn't think about the setting up of the business and the bank account before everything else… Whoops! Also, even if the business isn’t profiting [at the start] you can still deduct the expenses for tax purposes. I didn't know that since it, to me, was still just a project [and not a business]. I found out [the truth] after I did my taxes.
Other things I found out later:
- Manufacturing is hard. I work with a sourcing company that has people on the ground…and I work through them to get my product manufactured.
- Do focus groups! Since I had a toy product, we had kids come in one at a time and play with our prototypes and asked them questions. We filmed it. See what people like and don't like about it, and get feedback. Have them all sign non disclosure agreements.
- Talk to people everywhere you go, but without giving away your idea! You never know who knows who or has what connections. I made some of my most important and useful connections where I least expected it. These sources are invaluable!
- It was tricky because it always seemed like to do the next step you had to already have something else done. That's why having a business attorney or someone to keep you on track- especially if you are a creative type- is a good idea.
- Oh! And this is important, too! I’m working on this now. At some point you will need investors. Not only are they going to be looking at your product, but they will also be looking at investing in YOU. So the more you speak their language, the better. I bought some books and am reading and trying to learn as much as I can. Inventing for Dummies is a good place to start.
Erica: Thanks so much for sharing all of this with us, Kassie! We can’t wait to see how well your product does when it hits the market next year!
Kassie Kilpatrick is a professional dancer and entrepreneur. She has been dreaming up ideas for businesses over the years while simultaneously making her living as a dancer. After a few injuries she realized that her dance career wouldn't last forever and that it was time to face her fears about starting a business she knew nothing about! She slowly began making connections and getting to work on her first invention (an idea that began as her neice, Lexie's, 4th grade science project — Go Lexie!) one step at a time. She continued dancing to support herself and so she could put money into her business. Now after years of visioning and dreaming, attorneys and lawyers, prototypes and focus groups (all in between her dance contracts traveling the world on a cruise ship) she finally has a manufactured product! She is ready to hit the ground running and will hopefully be working full time as CEO of KassCo Creative Group in the fall. Her first line of products “Switch'imals” for kids will hopefully be on the market at the start of 2015!