It’s been damn near three years since the light bulb for my first invention turned on, and I can still remember that moment.
I looked at my mom through wide eyes, we frantically bounced the idea back and forth for about 2 minutes, and then immediately jetted to Wal Mart to pick up fabrics, snap fasteners, shirts, hats, and anything else we could get our hands on that was remotely relevant.
In the flurry of excitement, I really thought I’d have a company up and running within a few months. Just a year after my college graduation, and I’d escape the 9-5 grind and start myself a successful retail company. What a goldmine I had stumbled onto!!!
The press would flock to our doorstep, patent lawyers would line up down the block to squeeze this thing into their portfolios, people would battle each other Black Friday-Style all for my nifty products, and I would be sitting there like a fast-talkin’ auctioneer getting the best prices for it. I’d be getting paid and using the money to help the poor and plant trees like Johnny fuckin’ Appleseed…saving the world one simple innovation at a time.
I thought I had the golden ticket and Willy Wonka would just pop up like, “Hey dude…you want a factory???”
I had to hurry and get this train moving before someone else did!!! Which brings me to the number 1 thing NOT to do when starting a company.
1. Don’t. Be. Delusional.
In hindsight…I was just running around like a loon doing stuff mediocrely and in no particular order, swept up in the creative wave that was hitting me for the first time. Worst of all, I panicked as if major corporations had bugs hidden around my house then rushed through the process to keep them off my back. As my Nana would say… I was acting “too big for my britches.”
Now…my first idea was smart, and I will still be launching it in the years to come…but it was way too complicated for my then financial situation and would have cost tons of money and time to get it anywhere. But instead of pulling back, injecting logic into my passion, and pivoting…I was swept up in visions of grandeur and thought of the finish line before the race.
Act on your passion…but don’t be so passionate that you forget to research the reality of your situation. Our generation can consume information at an exponential rate, and it’s foolish to not take advantage of these free resources to learn from the experiences of others and plan ahead. I know it seems easier to just hire somebody who knows what you don’t, but that can be more difficult and costly than you think. Which brings me to my next point…
2. Don’t try to get people on board too early.
So…the invention was a new type of customizable clothing, and I won’t give specifics because I will still be releasing it down the road, but suffice to say it needed a lot of work. I didn’t know how to sew my shit together, or design, or write a patent, or record a video. So then I tried to do the only thing a naïve 22 year old dreamer would - inspire the great minds around me to join me on the perilous, uncertain, and unpaid pursuit of this multi-million dollar idea!!! I called in my talented friends and family, trying to rally them around this noble cause. Avengers… ASSEMBLE!!!
Guys? Is anyone there??? BUELLER?????
My family and friends were supportive, of course, but not exactly sharing the same passion and fervor. What did I expect? I was showing them shitty prototypes that I glued together and pitching a half-baked product line like a sugar-high 12 year old that stayed up all night watching Shark Tank.
In hindsight, I should have stayed behind closed doors and developed this product to a point of pride before I reached out to anyone. Eventually I found a beautiful girl that taught me how to sew and made some clean prototypes…but at that point opinions were already formed.
Remember: while you may have a vision and see the potential in your ideas early…it is going to be difficult to convince others, especially when they have to devote time and effort for questionable return. Flesh it all out, do your research, and get together something beautiful so you can make them as excited as you are. First impressions are everlasting, and that pertains even more to business ideas. Now, onto the biggest issue I personally faced when launching…
3. Don’t buy a ton of shit.
I’ve always seen myself as more of a doer than a planner. So naturally, rather than take pen to paper and plan this launch out…I just began buying a ton of supplies like they would magically merge together into my product and find their way into the customer’s hands. I bought 4 domains, some inventory management apps, a whole lot of wholesale clothing, provisional patents, and god knows what else. You gotta spend money to make money, right?
I took that shit very, very literally…and I still have all the materials to prove it. I had everything I needed in my head…but bought it all in an order that created lots of wasted time and money.
Against all odds, I eventually had my product manufactured. The manufacturer didn’t do a great job, and most units had problems…but luckily, this run was small scale and I learned through that failure. Now, 2 years later, I took these failures as lessons, applied the teachings, and am now about a month away from launching a Kickstarter campaign for another product I designed, which is pretty Tucking awesome. As I reflect on how smoothly it is all going, and how differently I approached this product, it seems like the last one was made by some idiot that looked an awful lot like me.
Maybe I’m being premature giving these tips before launch...maybe I’m in for another learning experience...but I am going to keep ya’ll updated anyway. Worst comes to worst I’ll be writing this list again next month.