A Game Inventors Guide to Starting a Board Game Company

How To Start Your Own Board Game Company by Robster at Total Strategy Games
www.totalstrategygames.com

What this article is about & Who should read it

This article is mainly for you game inventors looking at creating your own business, then selling and distributing a product (board game). This guide can also be applied to any product or anyone looking at starting their own business and working for themselves. I run a game design and business start-up seminar for Create at Lancaster University, based on my own experiences. I’ve used the information from my seminar to create this article so it has a good pedigree.

History of me and my little company – Total Strategy Ltd

total strategy game inventionIt’s kind of funny to think back to where the invention of my game came from. It begun as something to do on the bus on the way to work, at the start it was just some strange doodles on pieces of scrap paper. I was playing around with a new idea, a simple mechanism for a strategy game that would mimic ancient battle’s while being really simple to play. The more I played with it the more it seemed to have a lot of promise.

Two years later after a lot of work, play testing and favours called in for parts I had a working prototype of my game.

Initially I just loved playing the game with friends, we’d take it to the local pub and play a few games and have a few drinks. It was great fun to watch people play it and really get into the strategy, pointing out what formations they’d use, how they’d position their infantry, and where they’d strike with their cavalry. I could even see a person’s personality come out in the way they’d play the game. Some were cautious, some were cavalier, some would try to do a bit of everything, each strategy could be beaten by adapting to the opponent. The games appeal showed me that it was worth taking it to the next level.

The next step for me was to approach games companies to try and get them to licence the game, I received a lot of positive remarks but unfortunately in the UK strategy games are a big risk. The other problem was my timing. It was Autumn 2008…right in the middle of the recession and a lot of the independent games companies in the UK were either struggling or going under!

So I put the dream on hold and returned to playing the game with friends. It wasn’t until I met a friend at work called Joe who worked for an entrepreneur group where things changed (Joes website is www.ideasmapping.com). His enthusiasm for the game was amazing right from the start. With his business advice and with his contacts and friends we managed to get the start up costs for production down to just over £5K from what was originally looking about £35K. I took a second job to pay for the production costs and got a grant to help with the start up costs, before I knew it I was in at the deep end.

Fast forward to Jan 2012 and I now have my own games company Total Strategy Ltd, a delivery of 500 games, supply infrastructure and a big proud smile. Neat!

This is it: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Total-Strategy-Z-Arena-Combat/dp/B007DYI1C0

So finally to the point, the last year has been a blur filled with joy, setbacks, enthusiasm, frustration and a hell of a lot of things learned the hard way. Hopefully this article will allow you to plan ahead and have a smoother set up than I did.

Ok so let’s assume you’ve got a board game idea, you’ve play tested it to death and you’re convinced will sell. Your next step is to get it out there, licensing it to a large games company is one way to do it, but for this article we’re going to look at what it takes to go it alone?

Owning your own company is much harder that just licensing the game but there are advantages. It gives you full control over your idea and you get to keep all the proceeds. Over the next few pages I’ll run through the major points of what you’ll need to do to start your own board game company.

1. Prototype

The first thing you’ll need to do is to make a prototype of your game. This will give you:

  • The opportunity to understand how much it will cost to manufacture, to see whether it’s viable as a business and to make changes early to keep costs down.
  • The chance to get all the artwork together and see what it will look like.
  • A Chance to iron out any bugs in the game play and any previous unseen mistakes before the final production.
  • You can make a basic prototype at home quite easily with materials from an art and craft shop.

Board Game Geek have a wonderful guide to making a board, you can see it here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/531148/folding-board-tutorial-with-pictures
Your other option is to pay a games manufacturer to make you a prototype, again it costs more but it can be worth it.

For links to prototype manufacturing see Chapter 9 – Manufacturing.

2. Protecting your idea

Protecting your board game is a toughie; usually with a new product you would look to have it patented in order to prevent other people from using your idea. However you can’t patent a board game because it’s essentially a collection of elements. Dice rolling, counters, cards etc already exist in the public domain, this makes it impossible to patent your game. You could patent a unique element of your game but on the whole it’s a no go. There other ways however.

Copyright

Your best method of protection is to copyright your idea. Copyrighting your game is free and it’s also automatic. If you print your rules and take photos of your board, playing cards, pieces etc then legally they’re considered to be copyrighted. The tricky part is proving the date that you copyrighted the idea!

The most basic method of date copyrighting is to take all those pictures of your game, put them all in a well sealed envelope and then send them recorded delivery to yourself. When you receive it in the post it’ll be date stamped. Keep it in a safe place and don’t open it, this will be your proof that you came up with the idea on the date marked on the envelope. A better but more expensive way is to keep a copy of the printed rules and photo’s with your bank. So long as it stays unopened with them it’ll provide you with a secure date that you created the game.

If you’re interested in IPR and development Joe actually uses my game as a case study in his book Brilliant Business Ideas – it’s well worth a read.

3. Setting up a company

The next step is to set up a company. Setting up a company in the UK is done through Companies House: http://www.companieshouse.gov.uk/

The cost of setting up a Private Limited company is: £40 by paper, £15 if done online + Solicitors Fees (if used). Once you have a company you’ll be legally responsible for your company’s “Annual Return” (£14 per year) and for its “Yearly Accounts” (this can be upwards of £500 as it almost certainly requires an accountant).

total strategy board game

4. Trademark

Your company will need a logo, this will be your brand/identity and you’ll need to protect it. Registering a trademark in the UK is done through the Intellectual Property Office website at: http://www.ipo.gov.uk/tm.htm.

Board games fall under – Class 28. The cost to register your trademark is:

UK – £170 per category + £50 per additional category, + (Solicitors fees if applicable)
http://www.ipo.gov.uk/types/tm/t-applying/t-before/t-cost.htm

If you’re interested in the US it’s – $275 per category, + (Solicitors fees if applicable).
http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/ac/qs/ope/fee092611.htm#tm

While the trademark is going through the process of being granted you can use TM in the upper right corner of your logo, once its granted you can use R in a circle.

5. Business banking

Choosing a bank account for your business is very important. The majority of them have fees somewhere, the key is to find one that suits your business the best. I used Money Supermarket to find the account that me best: http://www.moneysupermarket.com/BusinessChequeAccounts/CommercialChqAccForm.asp

6. Barcode

Barcodes are expensive; normally you’d have to join GS1 US. (GS1 is formerly the Uniform Code Council). Joining GS1 is not cheap with an initiation fee of $750 and an annual fee of $150. Read more: http://www.ehow.com/how_2275418_buy-bar-code.html

Fortunately there are cheaper ways if you only have a one off item (like a board game).

I used barcode1 to get an individual EAN-13 barcode. Cost just £20 and they supply the artwork and certificate and is recognised internationally: http://www.barcode1.co.uk/
An EAN-13 barcode will need to be black stripes on a white background, also a specific size to allow bar code readers to read it correctly.
Your bar code should be 37.29mm wide and 25.93mm high. It can be scaled but must be within a magnification factor of 0.8 to 2.0. this means the smallest your bar code may be is 29.83mm wide by 20.74mm and the largest it may be is 74.58mm wide and 51.86mm high.

There’s a lot more information on barcodes at: http://www.codeproject.com/Articles/10162/Creating-EAN-13-Barcodes-with-C

7. Safety Testing

The hardest part for me was trying to get information on CE marking. In the EU any product should display a CE mark and have the certificate to back it up. The CE mark is a passport for your game to show any country in the EU that your game meets the safety standards required for retail in Europe. There’s a lot more information on the web now thankfully, Wikipedia now has a very good run down of the tests needed: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toy_safety

The 3 tests you’ll need for a basic indoor board game will be:

  • EN71-1, Safety of toys: Mechanical and physical properties
  • EN71-2, Flammability requirements
  • EN71-3, Specification for migration of certain elements

If it’s possible it’s best to get the factory manufacturing your game to do these tests. They usually know how to do it, they’ll get the tests for a decent price, and most importantly they’ll catch anything during the manufacturing process rather than after the final production run.

8. Legal Blurb

Your game will need to have certain legal text, symbols, company information and warnings on the box, based on sales in the UK it should have the following:

  • Logo (with TM or R) – Firstly you’ll want your company logo on the box so everyone knows it belongs to your company.
  • Barcode – Your EAN-13 barcode, remember it should be on a white background and be the correct size as mentioned above.
  • Not for under 3 years logo – This is important if your board game isn’t aimed at small children, as small pieces can choke little kids. There should also be text to say “warning not for children under 36 months” and if it contains small parts it must say “warning may contain small parts”. If your game is for children under 3 years then you’ll have to do a lot more safety tests on it, unfortunately that’s beyond this article.
  • The CE mark – When you have your CE test pass certificate you can put the CE mark on your box. This is your passport to sell the game in any European country that participates in the CE mark.
  • Your company name address –This allows you to be contacted, I also put my web address www.totalstrategygames.com for extra information.
  • Place where the game is manufactured – Made in UK, Made in USA, made in China etc.
  • Number of players and suggested age range – Eg for 2-4 players, recommended age 8 and up.
  • Colours and contents may vary from those shown – chances are that all the images of game play on the box will be from your prototype and not from the finished version. You should put this on the box just to cover yourself.

9. Manufacturing

This is the biggest and most expensive step, when you have everything in place you can finally get your game manufactured. From your prototype you’ll be able to get an idea of how to keep costs down and how easy your game is to manufacture. It’ll also allow the factory you choose to give you an accurate quote and to see what’s required so there’s no confusion.

Your cost for the total production will be: Tooling costs + (unit cost x number of units) + delivery

Your choice is UK vs Overseas.

UK

Having your game made in the UK is the most straight forward method, the shipping will be cheaper and you can easily meet the people who will be making your game. However the drawback is the cost, if you have a low order quantity (500 or less units) then the cost to do a print run.UK Custom Board Game Manufacturers,
Shannon Games are a small company in Scotland who I approached in the UK, they were friendly: www.shannongames.com

If you’re from the USA

I also approached MJS Creations who were a nice bunch: www.BoardGameManufacturing.com

Overseas

A popular choice for overseas manufacturing is China, the production costs are lower than in the UK, in fact the more labour intensive your games construction is then the better value you can get from having it manufactured in China. This is less so if your game is more automated construction.
The drawback however is finding a factory you can work with when the chances are you’ll never meet with them face to face.

10. Shipping and Import

Airmail vs Sea Freight

Airmail much faster, approx 2-3 days but much more expensive and will probably push your prices up too much if you’re not careful. Your best option will be sea freight. Sea freight varies in time, for me it took 5 weeks from China to UK.

Usually the factory/manufacturer will load your goods onto the ship FOB (Free on Board), you then deal with the shipping company, in my case it was Davis Turner. The shipping company handle the shipping and the import, you then pay them for shipping, import, taxes, UK delivery and insurance.

EORI number

For your first import you’ll need to apply to HMRC for an Economic Operator Registration and Identification (EORI) number. The factory/manufacturer will supply you with part of the information required, the other part is supplied by the shipping company when it docks in the UK, you can then apply to HMRC for an EORI number to complete the import. You keep this number for any future imports:
http://customs.hmrc.gov.uk/

11. Storage

When your game arrives (well actually before it arrives) you’ll need to work out where you’re going to store it.

Your choices are

Use a UK Fulfilment Company – This is the most costly but they can help you with the distribution of the game. Useful if you’re selling a lot of them straight away.
Store at home – If you’ve got the space then this is the cheapest option.
Pay for private storage – You can hire storage from a local company to store your games.

12. Selling The Game

So to the last part, you’re the proud owner of a big stack of games, all you have to do is sell them.

Local Shops

Go to your local shops and see if any of them would be prepared to sell them on a “sale or return” basis. This is a good way to persuade shops to stock your game as it minimises the risk to them. What it means is that if they sell your games then they pay you a percentage otherwise you take the games back.

Online

In order to reach customers all over the world you should have an online shop. The obvious choices are Ebay & Amazon. You can also sell on your own website with Sagepay or Paypal.
Sell them yourself – Lastly you can’t beat a bit of old graft, you could just go out and sell them yourself for cash!

Well that’s it, that’s pretty much my journey to market so far, If you’ve gotten this far then now the fun part begins for you…marketing your game! At some point I’ll add a chapter 13 for marketing but only when I get a little better at it. In the mean time If you’ve got any questions or want to get in touch then you can find me at the following:

 

Good luck with your inventions!
Robster x

Note: The information and prices in this article are correct as I write this in 2012. Information does change especially the safety requirements so remember to double check yourself.

Interview with the Inventors of the Quadshot a Remote Controlled Aircraft

In this inventor interview the Quadshot team talk about inventing their clever remote controlled aircraft.

the quadshot team

Clockwise from upper left: Chris Forrette, Pranay Sinha, Piotr Esden-Tempski, and Jeff Gibboney

Tara: Please could you tell me your names, invention name and website URL?

Quadshot Team: We are Piotr Esden-Tempski, Chris Forrette, Jeff Gibboney, and Pranay Sinha. Our inventions are the Quadshot and its ‘brain,’ called Lisa. The Quadshot’s website is www.thequadshot.com.

Tara: Please could you tell me a little bit about where you are based, your background experience how you first started inventing?

Quadshot Team:We are based in Santa Cruz, California. Piotr has a degree in Computer Science and has a lot of experience designing embedded electronics and writing software for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Chris is an expert remote control (RC) airplane builder and pilot and has an Aerodynamic Engineering background. Jeff has degrees in Computer Science and Mechanical Engineering and experience designing and building bicycles, robotic vehicles, and UAVs. Pranay has degrees in Aerospace Engineering, and experience designing everything from spacecraft to robotic submarines. Piotr and Pranay work for Joby Energy, Inc., which provides their services to us as consultants.

quadshot invention

Tara: Please could you tell me a little bit about your invention, what it is, and how you came up with the idea?

Quadshot Team: The Quadshot is a remote-controlled aircraft that combines the abilities of a helicopter and a fixed-wing or “traditional” airplane, in that it can both fly forward like an airplane and hover like a helicopter – but without many of the complicated, expensive, and fragile moving parts.

In addition to the innovative, lightweight and durable airframe design, the main development that makes this possible is that the Quadshot has a “brain” that we call the Lisa. Like the flight computer on an advanced aircraft or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Lisa is equipped with a sensor suite called an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), which contains 3-axis solid-state accelerometers and gyroscopes to keep Lisa up-to-date on which way she, and thus the Quadshot, is pointing and how fast she is rotating.

Lisa combines all of this information with pilot commands and then adjusts the speed of each motor hundreds of times per second, which allows the Quadshot to hover like a helicopter, fly slowly and steadily like a trainer airplane, or allow for high-speed aerobatics – all by flipping a switch on the RC transmitter.

So how did we come up with the idea? Well, we met while working at an airborne wind energy company called Joby Energy, Inc., where we worked on designs for large rigid kites that could generate energy as they flew around. For the small prototype kites, the control electronics had to be small and light so that they didn’t weigh the kites down or take too much space, but still powerful enough to run all the complex control software. We collaborated with the Paparazzi UAV project, developing both software to fly our kites and electronics to run the software. The first result of the collaboration was Lisa/L:

Lisa/L weighs about 35g (about the same as six quarters) and is the size of a business card, compared to other designs on the market that weighed over 500g and were the size of a paperback novel.

The dramatic reduction in size and weight meant we could make a much smaller, lighter and zippier flying machine – all excellent qualities for a hobby aerobatic platform. We started discussing what the design could look like, did some aerodynamic design to make sure it could fly, and the basic Quadshot idea was born!

Quadshot Lisa invention

Tara: What were the first steps you took after having your idea?

Quadshot Team: After we first came up with the idea of an electronically stabilized, highly aerobatic and very capable hobby aircraft, we decided to define these capabilities as well as performance requirements more clearly and in a manner that would set goals we could work towards – just saying that the “airplane needs to be cool” wasn’t enough. So, we talked to friends who were involved with the UAV and controls research fields, as well as the hobby RC community and asked them what they thought a really great aircraft would be capable of doing.

We looked at everything from the easier to fly “trainer” RC systems to high-end UAV and research vehicles costing tens of thousands of dollars to figure out how to go about designing a system that could be used by everyone from novice RC pilots to experts and researchers. After these initial steps, we had a good idea of what our product was going to be and went about creating a company to make it.

The next steps were to try and raise enough money to get into production, and also validate our idea by showing it to a wider group of people. We learned about Kickstarter and thought it would be a perfect way to do both at the same time. We set a goal of raising $25,000 in six weeks, and ended up with $84,000.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OuGH5wQoN4

Tara: Did you get presentation drawing sheets produced or make a prototype of your invention, how did you go about this?

Quadshot Team: We have access to Joby Energy’s machine shop and experience building RC aircraft, so we were able to design and build the early airframe prototypes ourselves. For the first prototype, called JT1, we used a hot-wire cutter and CNC router to make an airframe out of foam, fiberglass, piano wire, and balsa wood:

Quadshot  wing

We installed a Lisa/L and spent a lot of time hacking, tweaking, and tuning the Paparazzi software to make JT1 able to hover and also fly forward. We also crashed a lot, learned what broke and what didn’t, and tested about a dozen other prototypes of various designs before settling on the Quadshot design. We used a 3D computer-aided design (CAD) software package to model the designs and make drawings, and ordered some parts from a 3D printing company to test part designs we couldn’t make ourselves.

The “brain” electronics in the final Quadshot, called Lisa/M and Lia, are evolutions of the original Lisa/L and even smaller:

Quadshot size

The electronics designs were developed with input and support from the Paparazzi UAV community, which was invaluable as a source of design improvements and helped us make them easier to use, cheaper, more reliable and more power efficient. We laid out the circuit boards in an electronics design package called EAGLE, and had prototype circuit boards made by mail order. We soldered on the chips and other components ourselves, and wrote and modified the low-level code necessary to get the Paparazzi software working on them.

Tara: Did you try and patent or protect your idea in any way and how did you go about it?

Quadshot Team: The “brain” as well as the software making the Quadshot fly are (respectively) Open-Source Hardware and Open-Source Software, which means that the physical design files are available to everyone under a Creative Commons license, and source code is available to everyone under the Gnu Public License (GPL). This is a fairly new approach to the development of innovative products in this area and allowed us to get input from some very smart people who were happy to donate their time, thus lowering our development costs.

We are in the process of patenting some parts of the Quadshot, such as the airframe configuration and some innovative designs and ideas that have gone into making the airframe a user-friendly and high performance product.

We were fortunate to meet and work with a local patent attorney at Joby Energy who is excellent at what he does and also passionate about flying vehicles. The approach we have taken is to write up initial documentation describing our inventions, which has sometimes even been in the form of drafts of papers we are submitting to academic conferences, and then passing it over to our attorney for molding into the application format.

Tara: Did you always intend manufacturing your invention yourself or did you look into licensing the idea?

Quadshot Team: We were interested in going through the manufacturing process ourselves, so we didn’t look extensively into licensing. Furthermore, we weren’t sure how potential licensees would react to our Open-Source approach. Thus, we decided to take care of the initial manufacturing ourselves. This is not meant to imply that we do everything from scratch – we have the electronics assembled at a local vendor here in Santa Cruz, contract with molding companies for the foam and plastic parts, and buy some things off the shelf. Since quality assurance is important to us, we will do final assembly and testing ourselves.

Tara: How did you go about finding a suitable manufacturer for your invention and did you self fund this?

Quadshot Team: For the electronics manufacturing, our experience at Joby Energy proved very valuable. Not only did we know where to source our components, that is, the pieces that go onto the boards, we had also developed a great working relationship with a local PCB assembly company, Dallas Electronics. They proved to be very helpful and provided some great feedback on how to get our electronics assembly costs down. They assemble all the Lisa boards and sensor packages that go into the Quadshot.

A Minnesota-based quick-turn plastics molding company, ProtoLabs, sponsors the Cool Idea contest, where they award mold tooling and small manufacturing runs to help innovative ideas bootstrap their manufacturing process. The Cool Idea organizers found our project on Kickstarter and encouraged us to apply. We were fortunate enough to win support from the contest and received mold tooling for our plastic parts and the first 400 pieces free! In addition, the ProtoLabs engineers gave us some great design support as we got our plastic parts ready for the molding process, and the parts we’ve received have been of great quality.

Finally, one of our investors, JoeBen Bevirt, has extensive experience in manufacturing consumer products – he successfully founded Joby, which makes the Gorillapod line of articulated tripods for cameras. He was able to provide us contacts in Shenzhen, China, which Jeff visited to locate vendors and manufacturers for some of the Quadshot’s components.

Since the initial startup, we have also been able get some revenue from sales of our electronic boards to hobbyists and researchers who want to make their own vehicles. We also offer our services on a consultancy basis through our company, Transition Robotics, Inc..

Tara: In what ways are you looking to promoting your invention?

Quadshot Team: Since we are initially selling Lisas and Quadshots ourselves, we are focusing on the Internet, social media, and direct face-to-face events for promoting our inventions.

Kickstarter was definitely the biggest promotion we have done so far. During our campaign, we sent out press releases to many technology blogs, and got a lot of support from the Paparazzi community as well as from UAV and RC enthusiasts in general. Additionally, we submitted papers to academic conferences and showed off our early prototypes at Defcon, an annual “hacker” convention held in Las Vegas. While there, we met the producers of online TV show called Hak5, who were kind enough to feature us on one of their internet TV episodes. The Cool Idea press release from ProtoLabs has also contributed greatly to our campaign.

We plan on attending Defcon again this year, as well as other events such as Maker Faire in San Mateo and the CCC in Germany.

Tara: What have been the most difficult elements of bringing your invention to market so far?

Quadshot Team: Although we were able to build prototypes relatively quickly, the road towards a mass producible product is much longer and more difficult. We had to learn a lot about plastic and foam molding, and resolve the design to a much higher level than what is needed when building “one offs.”

A big challenge was estimating our ship date. As none of us had experience with mass production, we underestimated lead times, and are learning to manage inventory and cash flow as we go. As many inventors will tell you, it is very difficult to see in advance what problems will emerge, but a good thing to keep in mind is the PI rule: the time to finish a project is the time you predict multiplied by PI, even if you take the PI rule into account!

Tara: How long has it taken from your initial idea to taking it to where you are now?

Lisa/L was designed in mid-2010, and we flew the first Quadshot prototypes in late 2010, so we have been working for over one and a half years.

Quadshot Team: Is there anything you learned developing your invention that you would now do differently if you had to do it all again?

The process of building Quadshot has been a great experience! We’ve learned an incredible amount – there really is no substitute for taking an idea, starting a company, and building something yourself.

One big lesson we’d like to share is that if you are making a product for mass production, it is critical to focus on simplifying and perfecting your concept as much as possible. However, you have to balance that against the risks of taking too much time to get to market.

Lastly – underpromise and overdeliver!

Find out more about the Quadshot at www.thequadshot.com

Are you an inventor or invention expert with an interesting story or advice to share? Please get in touch via the contact form or email tara (at) ideasuploaded (dot) com

Interview with Rico Elmore the Inventor of Fatheadz Eyewear

Rico Elmore Inventor Fatheadz glassesAn inventor interview with Rico Elmore who created Fatheadz Eyewear when he couldn’t find sunglasses to fit his head.

Tara: What is Your name, invention name and website URL?

Rico Elmore, Fatheadz Eyewear, http://www.fatheadz.com/

Tara: Please could you tell me a little bit about where you are based, your background experience how you first started inventing?

Rico: Based out of Brownsburg, Ind. When I, a former auto dealership fleet manager decided I needed some stylish sunglasses for my honeymoon in 2004, I tried on 300 pairs of sunglasses in a Las Vegas store. There was one problem—I am six-foot-three, weigh 300-pounds and have a…well, big head. Three hundred pairs of sunglasses later, absolutely nothing fit. I was amazed at how much trouble I had buying a measly pair of sunglasses. So I started Fatheadz for people just like me: “people with fat heads,” as I so eloquently put it. The wacky business whim turned into a “full-figure” glasses company that’s hit over $2 million in sales.

Tara: What were the first steps you took after having your idea?

Rico: After my honeymoon, I returned to Brownsburg, Ind., and started full-steam ahead on the idea. After I came up with the basic design idea for the spacious spectacles, several engineering firms turned me down because they didn’t see Fatheadz being successful. I eventually hired a product-engineering company and manufacturer that would turn my vision into a physical product of large proportions. Later, when it was time to patent his discovery, I ran into more trouble. Lawyers told me they couldn’t patent the size of the glasses, only their design.

Rico Elmore invention of Fatheadz Eyewear

Tara: Did you get presentation drawing sheets produced or make a prototype of your invention, how did you go about this?

Rico: The drawing started as sketches to start with and once we liked the styling then we would get cad drawings. The prototypes as well as the drawing all came from our factory that eventually started manufacturing these items.

Tara: Did you try and patent or protect your idea in any way and how did you go about it?

Rico: Yes we have several patents that protect some of our ideas. Design Patents, we use a intellectual property attorney in Indianapolis.

Tara: Did you always intend manufacturing your invention yourself or did you look into licensing the idea?

Rico: Yes.

Tara: How did you go about finding a suitable manufacturer for your invention and did you self fund this?

Rico: It was very difficult just from the stand point that there is no book on how to find a good manufacture to partner with. Yes, self-funded. We finally were referred to a couple of good factories we could do business with.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47UdXiVocdw

Tara: What have you found are the best ways of promoting your invention?

Rico: We focus a lot on racing and on TV personalities. We have Darrell the Gambler Sheets from A&E’s storage wars and we have Christopher Big Black Boykin from MTV’s Rob and Big as well as Fantasy Factory. The promotion originally started at the grassroots stages in racing. This worked out well from the stand point of if our guys won they would and still do get out of the cars with their Fatheadz Fire suit on.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bF3DFNvgLWI

Tara: What were the most difficult elements of bringing your invention to market?

Rico: Finding good retail partners to help push your products.

Tara: How long has it taken from your initial idea to taking it to market?

Rico: Four years.

Tara: Is there anything you learned developing your invention that you would now do differently if you had to do it all again?

Rico: No, I think that it is all a good learning experience good and bad decisions. You finally learn not to make the bad ones as often.

Tara: What advice would you give any aspiring inventor with an idea?

RicoL Don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be done or that you will never make it. There are more people that find joy in you failing than you making it.

Tara: Where can people find out more about you your invention?

Rico: Please visit  http://www.fatheadz.com/ or our new women’s website, http://www.deaeyewear.com. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Are you an inventor or invention expert with an interesting story or advice to share? Please get in touch via the contact form or email tara (at) ideasuploaded (dot) com

Interview with Westin Lord Inventor of the Ipopper Iphone Accessory

In this inventor interview Westin Lord tells the story of how he came up with the idea for an iphone accessory www.theipopper.com and how he brought it to market.

Westin Lord InventorTara: What is your name, invention name and website URL?

Westin: My name is Westin Lord and I invented the cell phone case with an integrated bottle opener called the iPopper. It can be seen at www.theipopper.com

Tara: Please could you tell me a little bit about where you are based, your background experience how you first started inventing?

Westin: I am currently located in Charleston SC and this is my first invention. I have always had lots of ideas but never had the need or burning desire to bring any to market. When I graduated from college and found getting a job that would suit me very difficult, I decided to make my own job and give inventing a try.

Tara: Please could you tell me a little bit about your invention, what it is, and how you came up with the idea?

Westin: I came up with the idea on Christmas Eve at my aunts house. We had some beers and no way to open them, so I used my phone with its current case. I broke the case and thought there that there should be a case that can do more than just protect your phone.

iphone case with bottle opener

Tara: What were the first steps you took after having your idea?

Westin: I made the first one in a garage out of the back plate of a Harley Davidson speedometer and a few cellphone cases and some glue. I then talked to my cousin who is an engineer who put me in touch with another engineer that made CAD drawings and a 3D printed model that fit my phone. It looked great and it opened bottles!

Tara: Did you try and patent or protect your idea in any way and how did you go about it?

Westin: I got in touch with a patent attorney that went to my high school and filed for a patent as soon as the drawings were done. It is still pending but it looks like it is going to go through soon!

Tara: How did you go about finding a suitable manufacturer for your invention and did you self fund this?

Westin: Fortunately for me, my engineer already had contacts with plastic injection molding companies. So after shopping around a bit I found one in India that was able to do what I wanted at the right price that allowed me to get my first mold. I spent some of my own money and also found an investor to buy 30% of the company and provide the rest of the funds needed to bring my idea into a reality.

Tara: What have you found are the best ways of promoting your invention?

Westin: I have had some success and failure with marketing and promotions. I have found that the best way for me to get sales has been to knock on doors of various stores around where I live. Facebook and word of mouth have been quite successful as well.

Tara: How long has it taken from your initial idea to taking it to market?

Westin: It took just under 2 years to get my product in the quantity and quality I wanted to start selling it.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ej7AU_UI2w8

Tara: What were the most difficult elements of bringing your invention to market?

Westin: By far the most difficult part of bringing my invention to market was in dealing with the people in India and trying to get them to work fast for me and make sure that all of the parts fit together properly. This is a BIG issue because of how fast the shape of phones change!

Tara: Is there anything you learned developing your invention that you would now do differently if you had to do it all again?

Westin: The one big thing iI would do differently would have been to wait for the next iPhone to come out before starting because it really limited time for getting my first case out, compromising the quality of the case and costing extra money

Tara: What advice would you give any aspiring inventor with an idea?

Westin: The advice I would give to any inventor is to not rush and make sure the product you make is up to the standard of quality you have in your head. after that figure out how much time and money it will take to get your business up and running and double both for a more accurate number.

Tara: Where can people find out more about you your invention?

My website www.theipopper.com and facebook page TheiPopper and twitter page are the best ways to find out information about the iPopper

Are you an inventor or invention expert with an interesting story or advice to share? Please get in touch via the contact form or email tara (at) ideasuploaded (dot) com

Interview with Rebecca Rabson about her Invention SmartSeat Chair Protector

Becky Inventor of SmartSeat Chair ProtectorIn this inventor interview Rebecca Rabson explains how she developed her invention SmartSeat Chair Protectors from a need that she and her family had.

Tara: What is your name, invention name and website URL?

Rebecca: Rebecca Rabson, SmartSeat Chair Protector, www.smartseatdiningchaircovers.com

Tara: Please could you tell me a little bit about where you are based, your background experience how you first started inventing?

Rebecca: I live in Newton, MA with my two boys and my husband, who also is one of my business partners. Our third partner is a dear friend with two kids of his own. He lives with his family in CT. My background is in the law. I practiced white collar criminal defense in NYC for several years before having kids and had been a stay-at-home mom for about 8 years before we launched our company.

Tara: Please could you tell me a little bit about your invention, what it is, and how you came up with the idea?

Rebecca: The SmartSeat is a waterproof, stain resistant, and machine washable seat cover for upholstered dining room and kitchen chairs. It protects like a vinyl seat cover, but is made from a soft and comfortable fabric. I came up with the idea after we purchased a new dining room set for our home. I couldn’t find any waterproof seat covers that provided discreet protection, got the thumbs up from my kids, and didn’t entirely change the look of my chairs.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EU1jax8TaYc

Tara: What were the first steps you took after having your idea?

Rebecca: After coming up with the idea, I created my own prototype, although I didn’t think of it as a prototype at the time. I simply wanted something that I could use! After getting great feedback about my covers from friends and family, my husband put me in touch with a woman who helped us create an official prototype and the pattern and specs necessary to contact manufacturers. We also began the patent process.

seat cover invention

Tara: Did you get presentation drawing sheets produced or make a prototype of your invention, how did you go about this?

Rebecca: Though I made the first samples of the covers to use on my own chairs, our first official prototype was created by a designer. She also created our pattern and spec sheets.

Tara: Did you try and patent or protect your idea in any way and how did you go about it?

Rebecca: Once it became clear that we were going to work on bringing this idea to market, we filed a provisional patent. We then hired an attorney to filed our patent application.

Tara: Did you always intend manufacturing your invention yourself or did you look into licensing the idea?

Rebecca: We never considered licensing our idea.

Tara: How did you go about finding a suitable manufacturer for your invention and did you self fund this?

Rebecca: The internet is a wonderful resource! I located contract manufacturers throughout the US and contacted several before settling on a factory in PA based on the quality of their work and the price that they quoted. They’ve been making our covers since we started about 18 mos. ago.

Tara: What have you found are the best ways of promoting your invention?

Rebecca: We have not engaged in any paid marketing. Most of our promotion has been through social media (facebook, twitter, pinterest) and word of mouth, as well as SEO and blogger reviews.

Tara: What were the most difficult elements of bringing your invention to market?

Rebecca: The most difficult element was just getting started. I knew nothing about manufacturing and the learning curve was steep. Lack of resources also made things challenging, as we are self-funded and were never interested in either getting deeply in debt or seeking outside funding.

Tara: How long has it taken from your initial idea to taking it to market?

Rebecca: It was approximately 6 mos. between creating our first official prototype and our first online sale.

Tara: Is there anything you learned developing your invention that you would now do differently if you had to do it all again?

Rebecca: Absolutely. You learn a lot along the way. I would work to ensure that I had much bigger margins if I could do it all over again. Though I love our fabric (I think that it is what makes my covers so special), it is unfortunately expensive. And we have been unable to find alternatives that I think are as high quality.

Tara: Where can people find out more about you your invention?

Rebecca: Anyone interested in learning more about SmartSeats can visit our website, www.smartseatdiningchaircovers.com, our facebook page, www.facebook.com/seatcover, or email us directly, service@pbjdiscoveries.com

Are you an inventor or invention expert with an interesting story or advice to share? Please get in touch via the contact form or email tara (at) ideasuploaded (dot) com

Interview with Jack Dell’Accio Inventor of Natural Memory Foam

Jack from Essentia Natural Memory FoamIn this inventor interview Jack Dell’Accio talks about how he developed his Essentia mattresses after discovering that the chemicals in foam usually used in matresses could be slowly making people sick.

Tara: What is your name, invention name and website URL?

Jack: Jack Dell’Accio, Natural Memory Foam (like Tempur-Pedic but natural), www.myessentia.com. Here’s an interview I did on the subject which answers many of your questions.

Natural Mattresses – Purpose Behind Essentia Natural Memory Foam Mattresses. from jason wright on Vimeo.

Tara: Please could you tell me a little bit about where you are based, your background experience how you first started inventing?

Jack: My family was importing latex foam, foam made from rubber tree sap, in Montreal Quebec and supplying the industry. I had little interest in the family business as I was importing and distributing furniture and cabinetry from Europe.

Tara: Please could you tell me a little bit about your invention, what it is, and how you came up with the idea?

Jack: My interest in foam began when a family member was diagnosed with cancer. I became aware of that basically most items around us that were slowly making us sick and decided to get involved. I recognized that memory foam needed cleaning up so i set out to make a natural version from rubber tree sap instead of petroleum based chemicals.

Tara: What were the first steps you took after having your idea?

Jack: I travelled to Europe, to the factories that were making natural latex foam which supplied my family business. Because of our connections i had the opportunity to speak with the chemists directly. I then hired local chemists to work on the project. Over 2 year of R&D went into developing our natural memory foam.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pM-g2–xuZg

Tara: Did you try and patent or protect your idea in any way and how did you go about it?

Jack: I work with patent lawyers and successfully patent the foam.

Tara: Did you always intend manufacturing your invention yourself or did you look into licensing the idea?

Jack: At first i offered this natural memory foam to the industry. Some of the largest mattress makers were using it at a time but they would only include .5 or 1 inch of the product over their existing mattresses. They were selling the features and benefits of my foam but the majority of their mattress was still unhealthy, filled with synthetics foams and glues.

Tara: In What ways are you promoting your invention?

Jack: After 1 year of wholesaling the foam i decided to develop the a brand. We’re fully vertical. We make the product ourselves and sell directly to the end consumer.
1 year later i was selling Essentia mattresses online, started a company blog, Facebook & Twitter accounts. The web was a phenomenal platform to tell our story, build awareness and get the traction we needed to fund our goal which was to open Essentia retail stores. 1 year later we opened our first Essentia store. Today we have a total of 8 Essentia stores across the U.S. and Canada with 5 more planned for opening in the U.S. 2012.

Tara: What have been the most difficult elements of bringing  your invention to market so far?

Jack: The most difficult elements were development were distribution. The mattress industry is controlled by 5 major brands and my product didn’t fit their model. I had to do it all on my own.

Tara: How long has it taken from your initial idea to taking it to where you are now?

Jack: I would say it took roughly 5 years from initial idea to truly taking it to market.

Tara: Is there anything you learned developing your invention that you would now do differently if you had to do it all again?

Jack: No. I would have not done anything differently. Every step, and step is part of the journey.

Tara: What advice would you give any aspiring inventor with an idea?

Jack: It’s a marathon. Don’t give up. Surround yourself with the right people and never stop moving forward.

Tara: Where can people find out more about you your invention?

Jack: You can find more about Essentia on www.myessentia.com

Are you an inventor or invention expert with an interesting story or advice to share? Please get in touch via the contact form or email tara (at) ideasuploaded (dot) com