Laura, tell us about the creative process for developing the OnTray. What inspired you, and what was the development process?
I was in the grocery store two Novembers ago with all three of my boys. Ty, my youngest, was in the seat part of the cart and Jack and Luke were my “little truck drivers” in the front part. I was trying to contain them, get everything on my shopping list, use my coupons and feed Ty his Cheerios that I brought everywhere we went. Needless to say, I came home with a bunch of items Jack and Luke threw in the cart, not much off of my list, frazzled and had an idea in mind. That was my “A-ha” moment. I truly feel like something took over after that. I had to create this product. I needed to help other moms who are and will go through what I went through that day. My next task was to make sure there wasn’t already the idea out there. I hired a great patent attorney and he was able to obtain patent pending status for me. Then, I needed to find a designer to bring my idea to life. After that I found another designer to do logo work and web design. Needless to say, it has been quite a process. One I am constantly involved with!How did you decide to market this invention?
I went back and forth with whether or not to just find a company to “buy” my patent and pay me royalties, or to do it all myself. The pros of selling were that I’d make some money up front and get money the rest of my life. The cons to that were, I wouldn’t have anymore control over what happened to my “baby”. Sure I’d make some money, but I wasn’t the one behind it anymore. Marketing OnTray myself has definitely been the more expensive decision for me, but it ultimately can prove to be the most lucrative.
What difficulties have you come across in designing/building/marketing the OnTray?
The design part was a long a daunting task. I was lucky enough to have a fantastic designer who really got my idea and was so excited to work with me. We did, however, run into a few bumps in the road. Our final design was the last one out of 8 drawings, and we had two bad prototypes in-between. When the 8th and final drawing came to me, I just new it was the one! I can only imagine how challenging it must be to get an invention noticed in the marketplace. Can you reveal any of your creative tactics that helped to get your foot in the door? **
I figured out early on, that the local media needs and loves local stories of interest. I have had a lot of luck with our local newspapers and magazines. I didn’t use the traditional press release though. I just sent a quick e-mail describing me and my product. I think the personal short and sweet story worked. Also, timing is key. I saw an article in our local paper that featured a mom from Fresno, CA, and I e-mailed the editor and said, “Hey, what about your local Ohio Mompreneurs?” I got a call two days later! People from all over the country have contacted me about carrying my product. I ask them how they found me, and 9 times out of 10 it’s because of an article they’ve read about me or a review they’ve seen on another web site. The internet is just amazing!What do you see in the future for OnTray?**
I see 2nd and 3rd generations of OnTray. Better, different, new and improved styles!Do you have any other product development in the works?
My Husband reminds me we need to pay for the first invention before I go and spend anymore money! The thing about being an inventor though is that you are constantly thinking of things to create. I catch myself saying, “My next invention will be…!”What is your advise to other inventors? Give us a few ideas of what to do, and what NOT to do.
Do trust your gut. If you think it’s a good idea and if you would use/need it, go for it! I know that a lot of the books talk about doing a market study first, but at some point you just have to go for it!Do surround yourself with people who know more than you! I have a tremendous support group of attorneys, designers, packaging developers, consultants and most importantly my family. I am constantly asking questions, and I am constantly reminded that I could not do this alone. Don’t expect to be an over night success. That has been the toughest part for me. I thought since I felt this was such a good idea, everyone would want to sell OnTray and I’d be on my way to recouping my money. I was wrong! If inventing and taking your product to market was easy, everyone would be doing it!By Lisa Di Clemente for the Business Opportunities Weblog.