Hey CFL Community,
I am actually dealing with an issue on how to launch a prototype traveling blanket on the international market. I am so scared to start selling a couple samples on the internet when I know some huge company can come and take this concept (even tho it is not that fancy or complicated) thus resulting in me making zero cents on this.
How would you guys handle this?
Figure out what makes your product unique and push that aspect to the max.
Why did you want to make the blanket in the first place (your story)? What's unique and great about it compared to what's out there? Your story and unique selling points will differentiate you from big companies, who won't be able to show customers that they love blankets like you do because they have more types of products.
If your product or idea is great, people are going to copy you no matter what - unless you have a patent. That's just business - the competition is what keeps pushing us forward.
The more time you spend on developing a product, the more unique it becomes, and it's harder for people to copy you. The inverse is also true - an easy-to-make product is easily copied. Hopefully you can find what's unique about your blanket and use that as your selling point. I also recommend going the story route - people love to buy into ideas.
When you see people start to copy you, you will need to have better onboarding strategy than them – some mix of SEO, content, ads, etc – until you can establish your company in the travel space (or whatever space you're in).
Don't launch it on the international market. Launch in your region first.
Don't worry about getting ripped off. Huge companies aren't going to care about you or your product until you start taking marketshare. And there is zero value to an idea to anyone unless it is executed. Execution costs money and time. I am from the camp that thinks patents are almost pointless. Very easy to get around legally. They don't protect squat, they only give you the tools you will need to fight someone else, but not the money to do it. Get a provisional if you want, but don't get hung up.
As far as selling samples, It all depends on the path you want to take. If you want to Bootstrap it and sell them yourself, selling samples on Amazon or whatever tells you if there is a market or it before investing big into it. But you really have to sell quite a bit more than a few to actually call the concept proven.
If you want to sell the concept to big retailers, use those samples in your pitch.
If you want to sell the idea to other mfg in the space, same answer.
I don't know what stage you are in now, but rethink looking for an international supplier. That is what I do, so listen to my advice. Don't put the cart ahead of the horse. You go to manufacturing when you have a big order to fill, not so you have inventory (Tied up capital) in the hopes of having an order to fill. Sell it first, then get the overseas supplier. Also know that you would likely want a blanket factory to make it. They are the most likely of anyone to rip it off because they have the most advantage. Think about it, you are sending them a "How-Too" make it and paying them to do it. They can just as easily make more than your order, in which is at about 60-70% your cost. Then as a blanket mfg, they know wholesalers who buy blankets in huge quantity. Why be loyal to some guy who doesn't know what he is doing and won't likely turn into high volume anyway. This isn't a huge risk, but a risk none the less that you likely don't need to take at this juncture yet.
Travelling blanket? Like an actual blanket that people travel with? First, I always say this, your process becomes clearer with a detailed business plan, because in a good one, you will address a large majority of these types of questions. Included in that, is differentiation as another poster posted. A patent will not protect you from competition or copy cats (misperception of patents), though it will give you a good foundation for legal action should it arise. Marketing is going to be big too in securing the viability of your product over another. Reach out to Richard Branson. Who else travels or owns an airplane fleet? You may be able to get the blanket stocked on his airlines. Celebrity endorsement? Kim Kardashian, “This blanket covers…all of me. “ Then Kanye, pops in and says “This blanket will make you invincible like me, the best at all things delusional.” Im kidding, unfortunately only kind of. So first things, patent if you can. If you can’t make sure you are not violating any current patents. Build a strong plan…know your end game. I absolutely despise charity for the sake of growing a company. It is tacky and gives true philanthropy a soiled name. But if it is genuine and in your heart, consider a way to provide blankets to those in cold areas of the world. Again, this should not be done as marketing tactic like certain shoe manufacturers. But philanthropy should be a strong thread in any company, and can provide paths to others to become involved. Military contracts. Can this blanket be used for the military? Can there be a pet version for those annoying passengers who travel with their rat dogs that they think are so adorable but the rest of us thing smell and are noisy? Can there be a baby version? So if it were me, I would start with a patent evaluation. If you are in the clear, then build a competent business plan, and IN that evaluate your competition and everything else that will guide you initially.
Greatt I am so pleased with these answers from you guys Nathan and David. I will start to write a more detailed business plan while searching for an international manufacturer.
Do not worry about big players. Big players are busy with internal problems, not that one of external problems in the market. So launch and grow and when you become big enough you will become the big organizations internal problem. Lost revenue, missed opportunities. And since large organizations suck at building new revenue streams with yet to develop new products they will try to buy your company.
As for finding manufactures...do not do it. Let somebody design the blanket, make good great promo video's and take great pictures and start selling. After your first offer start thinking about mass production.