Note: We will be running a series of articles from the time when I wrote monthly columns for Entrepreneur magazine from inventors that have succeeded. While the entrepreneurs stories are dated, they strategies these inventors employed are still applicable today.
The entrepreneur: Shawn Donegan, 46, founder of Trac Tool Inc. in Cleveland
Product description: The Speed Rollers paint applicator system targets professional painting contractors. Featuring two rollers, the system is fed by an airless paint pump that dispenses paint onto the top roller. Because the applicator system eliminates the need to dip into a roller pan and also minimizes the so-called “back roll,” it’s four to five times faster than a traditional roller system. While Donegan didn’t invent Speed Rollers, he was able to launch his company after signing a licensing deal with Mike Puczkowski, the product’s inventor. The Speed Rollers system retails for $349 and is sold through major paint retailers such as Sherwin-Williams.
Startup: About $150,000, which was spent to launch the product at the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America trade show in 2004. Costs included marketing materials, booth rental, product development, patents and 10 laser-cut prototypes.
Sales: $3 million projected for 2005
The challenge: How does an entrepreneur who knows an inventor with a great idea decide whether or not the product is worth pursuing?
Inventors are often great at creating innovative products, but they’re often lousy at turning their inventions into businesses. Not surprisingly, inventors represent a big opportunity for entrepreneurs. Taking an inventor’s product to market–which is what Shawn Donegan did with the Speed Rollers system–can mean big profits for those willing to carefully research a product’s viability before spending too much money. [Read more...]