Every week as @SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wed on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This post is excerpted from my recent interview with @SandyAbrams author, of Your Idea, Inc. and CEO, Moisture Jamzz, Inc. founded in 1993 around her signature moisturizing glove product. Sandy built Moisture Jamzz, Inc. from scratch into a company grossing millions without a business degree. For more information log onto http://www.yourideainc.com.
Smallbizlady: After you have researched the competition, if you still feel that your product has enough merit to compete, how do you move forward?
Sandy Abrams: You need to bring the product to life! The first step to make it real is to move it from your head into reality. Draw it, write its description, write down who would want the product and why they will want/need it. What solution is it providing? Somehow when you take pen to paper, it makes it real and then you have something to work with. It’s tangible now.
Smallbizlady: Now that the product seems “alive,” how do you actually know the marketplace will welcome it?
Sandy Abrams: Do your own market research. Talk to local store owners (you don’t have to give away your complete idea. You can talk in abstract form). Talk to friends and family; get feedback. Talk to those who like and/or use the marketplace’s current product and ask them if they would rather have your type of product. You may get some interesting constructive criticism that you can implement.
Smallbizlady: Would it help to go to an industry trade show at that point?
Sandy Abrams: Yes, I think it would help to walk a trade show within that industry and see what is happening, what the buzz is. You will be exhibiting at this show at some point, will you be able to compete, stand out enough? You can read the trade papers, always available at the trade shows. In the trade papers you may find some sources for manufacturing.
Smallbizlady: If after all the research and marketplace investigation you feel your product is still needed, what’s next?
Sandy Abrams: You need to think about Intellectual Property Issues. That is protecting your product with patent (if necessary), trademarks and possibly copyrights. You need to think about what you want to name your product, your company, your website and look into “owning” them with patents, trademarks or copyrights.
SmallBizlady: How do you know what kind of protection your product will need?
Sandy Abrams: I have some examples in my book, Your Idea, Inc. Personally, I find IP (intellectual property) very interesting! My husband is a trademark lawyer and he has taught me the importance of protecting your product. A great starting point full of information is www.uspto.gov. That website is very informative and user friendly. I also recommend a consultation with an IP attorney once you have learned the basics. Protecting yourself in the beginning makes your foundation for business solid.
Smallbizlady: When would you recommend actually setting up the business?
Sandy Abrams: After you have done all of your market research, IP research and think you will be moving forward to a manufacturer. Then its time to set up your business and market your product.
Smallbizlady: What exactly do you do first to set up the business?
Sandy Abrams: You need to take care of 2 things right away: a DBA form, aka Doing Business As or fictitious name. So that you business has a legal name, so you can open a bank account and conduct business under that name. This information needs to be published in newspapers for a few weeks before you will receive your official documentation.
Smallbizlady: Once you have the DBA and can conduct business, what’s the second thing?
Sandy Abrams: You need to get a resale license. This license will allow you to purchase materials for your product at the wholesale level and resell them to retailers so that they can sell them to consumers. Once you have both the DBA and your resale number you are a legal business entity and can buy and sell. I recommend services like LegalZoom.com to handle these forms for you. It saves a lot of time and they are reasonably priced services.
Smallbizlady: Once you are officially set up with those issues, what’s next?
Sandy Abrams: You need to set up your office so that you look like a real business. You want to look just like a business that may have 10 employees, not just yourself. With today’s technology, this is really simple, fast and not too costly. You need to get yourself a business phone number, fax number and voicemail. I recommend eFax and eVoice services. Set up even a basic website for now, even just with your contact information. Just something to add credibility. Get some business cards, letterhead. With these things in place, you can communicate professionally and have the faÃ§ade of being a big business.
Smallbizlady: How do you know if what you are doing is the “right” thing?
Sandy Abrams: There is no right or wrong way on this journey. Every entrepreneur took a different path to the marketplace, and you will have your own unique path based on your own research, connections and life experience. That’s the beauty of being an entrepreneur, there are no set of rules to follow, no requirements to join “the club.” You will learn as you go.
Smallbizlady: Do you have any final advice?
Sandy Abrams: Don’t get overwhelmed in the beginning stages, zoom into the smaller picture and take small steps. It makes it more manageable and soon enough you will see tangible results and feel confident in continuing to grow.
Disclosure: I was sent 3 books to review and give away on Twitter in advance of this interview being conducted.