Intro: How to Develop a Product and Possibly Make Some Money
Every one has ideas, inventions, and dreams but only a few people ever make any money from their thoughts. This Is how Ive been doing it (or trying to). This is how ive gotten an invention the Hard Drive Zapper (www.HardDriveZapper.com) From a simple thought to an actual product as a high school kid. Im not trying to show off or anything, im simply trying to show that it is possible for a kid to actually make money and start a small company based off of their ideas. Also this isnt about my invention, i dont care if you dont like it, its a consumer product, designed to be cheap, quick to manufacture and secure enough for most average consumers. So please, constructive comments only I dont want to be flamed.
Step 1: First Learn How to Build Things With Your Hands
Learn how to build things, everything using simple tools. Unless your rich or extraordinarily lucky, you will have difficulty launching any product that you can not build with your own two hands (and a dremel tool). Investors, companies, and business partners have all seen thousands of inventors with ideas but absolutely no clue how to build them. By showing them a working prototype or even a detailed mock up you will have one step above most other "inventors" . If you can develop a clear model in your head and and then build it with your hands, then a manufacturer will be able to do the same.
Step 2: Invent a Product
This can sometimes be the shortest and simplest part of product design, often though it will take a long time for the idea to come about. Simply look for everyday problems around you, brainstorm simple solutions to these problems. Usually you should discard solutions that are outside of your field of expertise and focus on the most likely solutions. If your really into it you can create a gant chart to analyze the best solutions.
For example, My product, the Hard drive zapper was a solution to the problem of getting scrap computers for my company. Businesses and schools refused to sell me obsolete computers without some type of data security. I put together the Hard Drive Zapper as a simple cheap and relatively secure solution. Although it is not as secure as a several other data destruction methods, it is secure enough for the average homeowner who just wants some peace of mind while disposing of a computer. i have made this fact clear to all of my customers.
Step 3: Design a Method for Manufacturing
Now that you have built a simple prototype of your device and tested it, you have to figure out how to make thousands of that device very quickly. An easy way to decide on the best manufacturing method is to use flow charts. Figure out the path of every component you plan to use from the raw materials to the packaging. Next figure out each process that take the components from one step to another, (soldering, gluing, .etc). Now you can attach price tags to each component or process. Time yourself going through each process, take the average of these times and divide by 60 minutes, then multiply by minimum wage(about $7.50). this gives you the aproxamite price per action on each device. Now to Optimize you must look at multiple routes that you can use and find the absolute lowest cost with the highest volume.
For Example It took me over 4 Hours to build the first zapper. After optimizing my design, i reduced the time down to 3 minutes when built by a mentally retarded person.
Initially I built a bunch of zappers and recorded all the steps i went through. then i timed each motion. Using flow charts and gant charts i tried to find and eliminate the slower steps in construction. I optimized production by reducing multiple actions into 1 swift motion. I also built tools and machines like a small plastic extruder and crude injection molds to help speed up production. Unfortunately i failed to finish everything when i left for college so my extruder and more complex machines are on hold till Christmas.
Step 4: Find a Manufacturer
This is not as difficult as it sounds, you just need to start small. Without a long sales record it will be difficult to get a large manufacturer interested in investing the tens of thousands required to retool machines .etc. so it is usually best to go to a medium sized corporation that you can contract out to build your device. Often it is cheapest and best to look for a manufacturer who employs mentally disabled people, to work on essentially an assembly line.Through my contacts i found a local company that hires mentally disabled people to perform repetitive rudimentary tasks, this was perfect because i had designed the zapper to be manufactured without any skill at all. The manufacturer did time studies to figure out the cost for manufacturing each unit. The time studies showed that the device could be produced in approximately 4 minutes. Between parts and labor and packaging the total price comes out to under $4. As soon as i start getting larger orders i simply have to send a check and the address to the manufacturer who will ship it to my clients.
Step 5: Setup Supply Chain
My parts need to get to the manufacturer, But how? the easiest way is to design the product from unwanted trash. In my case 90% of my device is produce from recycled electrical products. My manufacturer picks them up from local stores weekly. By using ewaste i get $10 worth of components for 20 cents. This took alot of negotiation with the store manager but in the end worked out well.
Step 6: Get Press
this is easy especially if your a kid doing something unique, Just call up your local news paper, and any others you can find. So far my company has gotten into 5 papers so far. An Ewaste recycling company contacted me after the president read about me in the boston globe. They bought a sample zapper and want to help me market it.
Step 7: Patent It
Before telling everyone about your idea , file a provisional patent application. The provisional patent application basically says to people, "if you copy me, ill sue your asses down the line". Its not perfect and expires after a year but its only $100 and it tells people that you are seriously pursuing this.
Step 8: Make a Website
Make a professional looking site in publisher, and host on hostmonster. It gives validity to your business. Check out my site harddrivezapper.com i have a bunch of product listed on there as well as projects.
Step 9: Find Distributors
This is the hardest part, you will have to make many phonecalls and get turned down many times. Look online for distributors of similar products, dont even bother with any large retail stores they'll just turn you down. call distributors and ask to speak to the market manager or buyer, start off like this.
"hello, my name is Mclovin(or what ever your name is), I'm working for the manufacturer (insert name). We are looking for distributors who would be willing to carry this new unique product that we have recently developed...." you describe it and tell them why its the best out there, and any disadvantages they may ask for samples (oblige them). In my case they agreed to show my zappers to retailers to gauge there interest before ordering a larger number
Step 10: Cash Your Checks
Ok fine thats a little hasty and for brevity I've skipped many smaller steps. but if your willing to work, you can make it as l have which isn't half bad considering ive only spent $20 for parts and have made $85 so far from the zappers. There were other start up costs but in all ive spent under $300 + i have an investor who is anxious to send me $500. So i havent figured it all out but not half bad for a few months of work from a kid