02 May How to Turn Your Idea Into a Real Business
Like many of you, I love the ABC hit television show, Shark Tank. Every Friday night, my wife and I gather around the couch with our 11 year old daughter to watch entrepreneurs pitch the “Sharks” to invest in their burgeoning businesses. The show provides great lessons in fundraising, persuasion, entrepreneurship and storytelling.
One problem is that many of the people who come in to the “Tank” to pitch the Sharks don’t have real businesses yet – they have ideas, and maybe even products, but they haven’t developed those ideas and products into businesses yet. In fact, many people who aren’t in business come to me all the time with ideas, asking me for help turning their ideas into profitable ventures.
That’s why I was so excited to learn last week that one of the sharks, Lori Greiner, is sharing her secrets to success in her latest book, Invent it, Sell it, Bank It!, a step by step guide to turning your million dollar idea into reality. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Lori to discuss the book last week. Here are 5 lessons I took away her book:
1) Is your idea a hero or zero?
Lori knows how to identify what is a winning idea. But how do you know if your idea is a hero? Ask yourself questions. What is my product? Does it solve a problem? Is it unique? Is it something people need or want? Who is the target market? Is it consumable? Use life surroundings to inspire you to create something that adds to a market or improve what is already out there. If you can answer all these questions and more, build a prototype to test out in the market. Still can’t figure out if it’s a winner? Lori even has an app to help entrepreneurs determine if their idea is a Hero or a Zero.
2) Research the right market, to get the right feedback.
Once a prototype is built, it’s time to show it to more than just family and friends, but to the world. Finding the right market is key. Sometimes if you’re not careful, you could misjudge the market for you product or idea. Make sure you research the competition, get informed about the consumer market and what is on trend (use social media). Testing your invention the right way will give you the reality check of a lifetime. Research will give you the accurate feedback you need to answer all your questions, and perhaps enhance your invention.
3) Get funding
An idea doesn’t just come with money overnight. Create a business plan to show to investors to get funding. It will explain all aspect of your business including the sales strategy, the market description, patent and trademarks, launch, the investment opportunity and more. The business plan will show investors that you know the business inside and out and will be prepared for any questions they may have. Family and friends may be the easiest source to raise capital, and is a good place to start, but you should also reach out to banks, VC firms, and crowdfunding to further expand and reach your goal.
4) Craft the perfect pitch
I’ve seen plenty of episodes of Shark Tank and have seen some great pitches and some terrible ones. Lori describes the recipe to the perfect pitch:
- Be concise and precise
- Be animated and enthusiastic
- Explain the products appeal and why consumers can’t live without it
- Answer all questions about the business
- It is all fact based
- Be authentic
With all these ingredients, the pitch will come. It is important to listen to what the buyers have to say. They have insight and experience you might not have, and they don’t want to work with a know-it-all.
5) Keep the dream going by expanding and diversifying
With more than 140 patents and 400 products, Lori obviously did not just go with one idea, but extended on an original. Being the Queen of QVC didn’t just happen overnight. She expanded, changed it up, and built a brand. It’s exciting once a product of yours is selling, but why stop there? Start by using your original idea to inspire your next invention. Expand on what you know and go for it.
As Lori explains it, “start with a concept, design and extension or two, now blend them together to make the third. This way you can ultimately expand you business.”
BONUS: If you’re a fan of Shark Tank as I am, Lori goes behind the scene of ABC’s hit show. Get the real deal about bidding wars and more with Mr. Wonderful (Kevin O’Leary), Daymond John, Mark Cuban, Barbara Corcoran, and Robert Herjavec. There’s a lot more to see than just what is on TV.
Even if you don’t have an idea yet, this book may give you the inspiration for the next step in your entrepreneurial life. But if you have an idea brewing inside of you, definitely check out the book to help Invent it, Sell It and Bank It!.