Case

Jane Ellen Angelich & Bright IP Concepts, LLC
No Bad Time To Bring A Good Product To Market

Introduction

It began on March 25, 2007 at 5:50 a.m., a cold, dark, rainy morning in San Francisco when I took my place in line behind at least 200 people that eventually grew to 2000. American Inventor, first cousin of American Idol, arrived in the City by the Bay, and I was going to be part of it, despite my aversion to standing on line for anything, especially outdoors, and certainly not in the cold.

Why, at age 55, would I subject myself to going anywhere at that hour of the morning, with the exception of a cool overseas flight? Well, I had an invention and had kept it in a drawer for over five years waiting for "the right time" to dust it off and do something with it. American Inventor was that "right time."

I had one other reason for being there that morning, which dragged on to that afternoon, and early evening. I am a business coach and many of my clients have seemingly great ideas that never get off the drawing board. I wanted to be able to tell them exactly what could happen if they climbed out of their comfort zone and tried something totally out of character.

And that is the beginning of the real story of American Inventor. My invention never made it to the finals. It was the young guy in front of me who ended up getting his invention to market...not through the show, but through me.

Background

Ryan and his wife, Dawn, kept me company for all those hours we went nowhere on that line. Ryan, who is the same age as my oldest son, would not talk about his invention, but he did talk about his start-up computer business. And I couldn't resist a little business coaching to pass the time away. By the time we reached the front door, he told me that he would let me see his invention, if he didn't make it through to Hollywood. He revealed that it was a pet product and that every penny of his savings went into getting it patented one year earlier. He had figured out that I would appreciate his invention because I spent a considerable amount of time talking about my two labrador retrievers and my involvement with Guide Dogs for the Blind.

If I fast forward to about six hours later, Ryan auditioned and did not make it through to the next round. But he did keep his word and showed me his invention. And I fell in love...with the supercollar™. Meanwhile, my turn rolled around and I DID make it through to the next round, a victory that was short-lived because that's where my 15 minutes of fame came to a screeching halt. I did not progress to the finals. So, 11 hours after I arrived, I was back in my car heading home to go back to bed; not disappointed that I hadn't gone on, but excited that I had met Ryan and the supercollar™ and determined to help him bring his "baby" into the world.

Professional Issue

Right place, right time, right idea...and a recession. Can we really expect to take our big idea from a seedling to making millions?

Despite these financially scary times, I was able to bring in another investor, a veterinarian, and together, the three of us have brought the supercollar™ from a patented "garage prototype" to a finished product with the help of a top-tier design engineering firm. We also just won honors as a finalist for Best New Product of the Year from both the Stevie Awards for Women Owned Businesses and StartupNation.

But, the time has come to take this new product to market and the market doesn't look at all like it did a short 18 months ago when we began our journey. The successful launch of supercollar™ depends on our ability to create a clear and consistent message across a variety of marketing platforms. Consumers need to believe that the supercollar™ is the solution to their dog's safety. Our need to develop marketing programs that will ensure that supercollar™ receives the brand recognition, credibility and awareness to achieve our objectives with a very limited budget is the lynchpin to our success. We need to prove to economically battered dog owners that our product is worth spending their hard-earned dollars.

The pet product distribution network is complex. Accordingly, our distribution strategy has to take different approaches to ensure proper distribution. Such a strategy will help to mitigate distribution risk and gives us the greatest opportunity to reach a broader market. Some of the avenues under consideration include:

Direct Sales- Develop a supercollar™ web site , www.supercollar.com,to allow consumers to purchase the supercollar™ directly.

Small to Medium Stores and Retailers- Secure these smaller distribution channel partnerships through networking via local trade shows, sales representatives, and "cold calling."

National Retailers- Approach these channels, which include Petco and PetSmart, which ensure wide distribution and sales but are also the most difficult to gain access to and partner.

YouTube- Develop a video and hope to explore the benefits of viral marketing.

Social Networking Sites- Get the word out on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.

Blogs- Send samples of the supercollar™ to bloggers who follow the pet industry.

When I had to come up with a tagline for this case study, I used the one that I frequently tell my business coaching clients and the women I mentor. There really is no bad time to start a business or get a job. The economy is not the "bad guy" for anyone with a good idea or a well-honed skill set. It all comes down to the marketing. Which one or combination of marketing ideas is the way to launch the supercollar™ to create the biggest "buzz" with the least amount of cost? How can I make the case so compelling to dog owners that they will be convinced that they NEED the supercollar™?

Personal Issue

I formed this company and invested my money, my time and my expertise. If I was the only one in the business and it did not succeed, I would be the only one to lose. When you introduce other people to your company and they invest their money, their time and their expertise, it takes it to a whole different level.

While I am confident that we will be successful, there are fleeting moments when I think about the "dark side". It's not the financial investment that I worry about. The veterinarian and I invested based upon what we could afford to lose. Ryan, on the other hand, invested his patent and his trust in us to bring his product to market. I don't want to disappoint him.

So, in order to help all of us realize this dream, I am going to have to rely on over 30 years of work-life balance training because in addition to launching the supercollar™

I am expecting my first grandchild in May and my son and daughter-in-law live 3000 miles away, and

I have a book coming out in June and my publisher, Simon & Schuster, has a marketing plan for me.

When I began the supercollar™ project, neither of these events were scheduled. And now there are three HUGE events taking place in the next six months. That's the work-life lesson...unexpected things happen, and how you choose to react to them will determine your success.