We all saw her portrayed in the 2015 hit movie, Joy, starring Jennifer Lawrence. Joy Mangano, a divorced working mother of three, created a self-wringing mop, which eventually became a successful business. Now she has more than 100 patents and trademarks to her name and has developed more than $3 billion worth of unique products.
Do you secretly dream of becoming an inventor like Joy? Maybe you’ve had a plethora of creative ideas over the years, but you come up with the same excuses:
- Where do I start?
- Who would buy this anyway?
- Hasn’t someone already thought of this?
- What do I know about starting a business?
- How can I afford to get this idea off the ground?
Don’t let your doubts and fears get in the way of launching a product or service that could eventually become a successful business. Here’s some sage advice from some of the world’s most well-known inventors and entrepreneurs:
Find a problem that you’d like solved
Great inventions usually start with a problem that you’d like solved. “I was tired of bending down, putting my hands in dirty water, wringing out a mop,” Mangano told ABC’s 20/20. “So I said, ‘There has got to be a better way.’” Many inventors suggest keeping a notebook of ideas. This approach is helpful whether you can immediately afford to proceed with your invention plan or not. Use your notebook to describe your thoughts and include sketches. Carry it with you so you can write down the problems and needs that you encounter daily. Even if you don’t have a solution, it will help document your ideas to spark future concepts.
Protect your idea
While it can be tricky to balance protecting your intellectual property while conducting market research, patent protection is essential. Inventor, entrepreneur and Shark Tank personality Lori Greiner advises against putting your unprotected idea online. “If you put it online, it can go around the world in a second, and someone will knock it off,” she says.
Believe in yourself
As you develop your business, there will be plenty of people who will undermine your efforts. Although it can be easy to feel vulnerable when you’re starting out, don’t let other people’s negativity compromise your drive. Look at Suzy Batiz, the CEO and founder of Poo-Pourri. In a recent Forbes interview, she revealed that “not one person thought my idea for Poo-Pourri was a good idea, and in fact, they all thought I was nuts—and here we are 13 years later and on the Forbes Richest Self-Made Women in America list!”
Test your ideas
Lindsay Cook, CEO and founder of the digital fitness app FitOn, suggests doing your own research. “Honestly, just try to test out your ideas before you go full steam. When I started this company, I began testing out ideas in a scrappy way with other women. I would do focus groups. I would try to get people in a room and ask them questions about what I was building and what their needs were in the health and fitness space—basically, any questions I could think of that would help lead us in the right direction to build a great product.”
Look for mentors
Kendra Scott, CEO, designer and philanthropist, recommends working with mentors, “The most important thing that I did to help me through my journey was always having really good mentors,” she says. “I wake up every day, and I’m running a company bigger than it was the night before. I still have amazing mentors who have run businesses bigger than mine, who I pick up the phone with and say, ‘Hey, this is happening. What are your thoughts? What do you think I should do here?’”
Persistence is the key to establishing a successful business. Daina Trout, founder of the number three kombucha brand, Health-Ade, shares, “Even in the farmers market days, I remember one brand in particular that started right around the same time as us. They had a great product, great brand and great packaging—the whole thing felt really spot on. Then by the end of the farmers market, they quit, and we quit our full-time jobs to grow Health-Ade. I don’t think it had to do with having the right product, I think it was that they gave up and we didn’t, we kept going. We kept pushing. We kept getting better. We kept forcing ourselves to evolve. I think that’s the key to success—it’s that hustle, that grit to get better and that relentless drive and tenacity.”
Don’t be afraid to fail
The last thing you want is to come up with an idea and, a few months later, see someone else bring it to market. If you feel like you have a great invention, don’t wait. Lori Greiner encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to gain wisdom from tough times. “You learn the most from what you consider failures or difficulties,” Greiner shares. “I look at them as the greatest and most valuable lessons. There are no failures in life, just great lessons.”
Ultimately, listen to your intuition. If deep inside you know that your idea could become a successful business, don’t be afraid to take a risk. It’s better to try and fail than fail to try.