Tara: What is your name, invention name and website URL?
Lisa: Lisa Illman, Kritter Kondo, www.kritterkommunity.com
Tara: Please could you tell me a little bit about where you are based, your background experience how you first started inventing?
Lisa: Philadelphia – I live in the city and had two (I now have one) kitty cats that I adore. I wanted them to come outside with me and hang out in our courtyard when we moved into the condo I live in, but the iron gate surrounding our courtyard was not secure enough for them to stay inside. They could slip right under and out into the busy street. I began sketching different houses and playpens I thought would work for them and in addition me! I did not want to have to build anything or store large pens, so I designed a playpen that collapses flat, and is just one piece for easy set up. The Kritter Kondo also comes with a carrying case so I can slip it right under my bed in the winter time.
Tara: What were the first steps you took after having your idea?
Lisa: I hired an Engineering Firm to draft the drawings for me and work on some of the technical aspects.
Tara: Did you get presentation drawing sheets produced or make a prototype of your invention, how did you go about this?
Lisa: Yes, I got presentation drawings (CAD Drawings) from the Engineering firm. If a person is so inclined to do so, drawings can be easily created with an Architectural Software. Google Sketch is free and classes can be taken in various cities for a small fee.
Tara: Did you try and patent or protect your idea in any way and how did you go about it?
Lisa: Yes, I hired a Patent Attorney and I have a pending patent. This is another area many Inventors can save quite a bit of money by writing their own patent. My strengths lie more with Sales, Marketing and PR so I hired out some of my deficiencies. I have learned a lot from the experts though, and feel more confident about doing my own in the future.
Tara: Did you always intend manufacturing your invention yourself or did you look into licensing the idea?
Lisa: I love sales and marketing and growing my business, so I always new I would have my own product line. Maybe someday it will be licensed too, but for now my baby will grow with me.
Tara: How did you go about finding a suitable manufacturer for your invention and did you self fund this?
Lisa: I first tried and tried to have it manufactured in the USA, but it was impossible to find a Manufacturer that could and would. I then went to an online site called Aliaba.com and received a host of quotes. I work with two manufacturers now in China and am very happy with both. We use email (Google Translation is fantastic for language barriers) and we Skype regularly. It has been a very good experience for me.
Tara: What have you found are the best ways of promoting your invention?
Lisa: Social Media and PR. Social Media has been a good friend to me and Kritter Kommunity. It is free and word of mouth is still one of the best ways to grow sales. Twitter is great for the pet community and I am a very active Tweeter @lisaillman. My cat even has her own Twitter account (@KritterKondo)! Also pitching to magazine Editors and T.V. Producers. The Kritter Kondo has found it’s way on the Good Morning America Show, been written up in the Chicago Times and will be in May 2012 edition of Cat Fancy. All of this exposure is a direct result of PR. I do my own and the Editors and Producers really seem to like that.
Tara: What were the most difficult elements of bringing your invention to market?
Lisa: The hardest part was getting orders out while still working a full time job. I still do the majority of the work but now have a warehouse that is staffed with helpers. When I first started, I rented a storage unit and drove to it in the mornings to tape labels on my packages, then drop them off at the local FedEx. Eventually I was able to persuade FedEx to pick the boxes up directly from the facility which was helpful. And then last year, I moved into a real warehouse that has it’s own Warehouse Manager. Starting up is difficult, but well worth the work!
Tara: How long has it taken from your initial idea to taking it to market?
Lisa: I thought of the idea and eight months later had the prototype with drawings. I new I wanted to do this, and when I make my mind up, I just keep going until it’s done.
Tara: Is there anything you learned developing your invention that you would now do differently if you had to do it all again?
Lisa: Yes, many things! You only learn from starting though, so I would change a thing. With my next invention, I would be more precise about costs and overhead. Manufacturing costs should not be more than 30% or so of Suggest Retail Price, so honing in on that in the beginning is key to creating a strong business plan.
Tara: What advice would you give any aspiring inventor with an idea?
Lisa: I would say make sure your invention fills a need or is a solution to a problem. It is much easier to sell a product or service to people saying “What a great idea, why didn’t I think of that!”
Tara: Where can people find out more about you and your product
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