What it was: A device to secure ladders on top of cars without the need for ropes or bungee cords.
Who: My grandfather, a roofer, had made a device for his jeep 13 years before, and it seemed like a great idea that made life simpler.
Why: I wanted to launch a product before I finished engineering school. It seemed easy to make and adapt for commercial sale, and I thought it might have great profit potential. It was, and I will never know.
Why I failed: I did no market research beforehand to see if people actually wanted something like this. I was not comfortable confronting the people needed to make a sale. I could not get insurance because my sales projections were too low. I couldn’t sell a lot of them until I had insurance. I also realized I’d probably need DOT approval, and I couldn’t find out how to get it. There were several more reasons, but these are the glaring ones I remember right now.
Other mistakes I made: I got too caught up in the manufacture. I was too zoomed-in. I focused on all the product details and invested a decent bit in initial manufacture while ignoring the sales side.
Necessary things I did: I set up my first LLC. I bought a barcode. Created a website and necessary promotional materials. I created packaging. I calculated all costs. I made an initial run of 30 units on the press and jigs I made.
What I learned: Make a few prototypes first and then do research to see if it’s a better mousetrap people will actually want to buy. Do not get so involved in packaging and stuff just yet. Play to my strengths and hire a salesman and someone to handle the details of day-to-day operations. A website alone will not make you money if people don’t want or know about your product. There is so much more that I learned, but I just can’t think of it all right now, but it comes back to me as I work on new stuff.
Here is some more stuff that went along with this endeavor. I absolutely had a blast setting up, directing, shooting, and editing this infomercial. It was my first foray into video production. This was the first edit before graphics and voiceovers were to be added. Here are some screenshots of the 16 min video that was to be posted on that website. I can’t wait until I can do it all again! My friend Philip Mitchell was the host. He is now producing/hosting the morning show on KSN in Joplin MO.