how to find buyers

Hi-

Since completing my ID degree, I’m designing products that I intend to either license or manufacture and try to distribute through existing stores.

For example only, a spatula to be either licensed to (dream of dreams) Target or manufactured and sold to “The Kitchen Store”.

How do I find the buyers for these businesses? Any advice, previous experience? Are trade shows worth the time and expense?

Anything would be appreciated…

work the convention circuit.

theres one just about every month in one state or another.

its at such industry conventions and fairs that buyers, sellers, manufacturers, etc make contacts and deals.

get ur shit together and rent a booth and exhibit your product and wares.

2 words. Trade Shows.

So about the trade shows - I’d think you’d need a patent to display for all to see, no one there (unless you really are a salesman) is going to want to take the time to sign a nondisclosure - how do you keep from getting ripped off? I can see goading some unsuspecting rep in a darkened convention corner with “hey you want to see my design?”

If you’re going to show up at a tradeshow trying to sell something, you’d better HAVE something to sell, sitting in boxes, in a warehouse.

The best way in the world to kill a new venture is to miss your shipping date with your new customer. In other words, don’t count on them waiting for you to receive your shipment of widgets in a container so they can be re-shipped to Peoria.

The way you keep from getting ripped off is to stay ahead of the competition. That’s why you have to have your stock on hand ready for purchase. If you don’t it will take you as long as the ‘eye pirates’ to tool up and deliver.

Business is risk.

Unless you have a natural flair for selling and taking rejection with a smile - which most designers lack - hire a pro to represent you at a trade show, it’s worth every penny while you deal with the suppliers, mfg, shipping, etc behind the curtains.

Don’t show up at a trade show with 1 or 2 products, especially if they are spatulas or simple stuff like that, you just won’t look the part. These shows work best for established companies with wider/older product lines and the deep pockets to really take advantage of the real-estate and working the crowds.

You’ll get buyers’ names from no further than the front desk or looking them up in varous trade catalogues available at your local library, for example. Some are even on the net, but you have to be persistent. Buyers for larger chains are notoriously hard to reach and impatient with smaller producers, especially those with no track record, so ready up for one long uphill battle no matter where you are. There are legions of mfgs out there, big and small, fighting for a piece of the action.

Licensing is not exactly foolproof either, look for the firms that have such a procedure already in place and have dealt with smaller producers before, it’s that much smoother a ride with them.

Do have prototypes, costing, packaging and delivery details ready when you meet potential buyers. Production facilities should be lined up but in my experience you do not have, as someone here pointed out, to actually have your gazillion widgets packed in storage waiting to start seeing buyers. Actually, this is more like a recipe for financial disaster as many excellent products tank every year for reasons well beyond the designer’s control. Ideally, you should be set to be able to produce in relatively small batches at first, increasing capacity only as orders pour in. Also, the type of product you choose and your target market will define your upfront investment. The biggest mistake most people make at this stage is to believe they have to start out with astronomical volumes and therefore large investments in molds, dies and so on. Compounded here is the fact you may end up with a bad idea multiplied a million-fold that’s sitting in a rented warehouse for years. Target or HomeDepot are not for everyone.

Consider smaller or niche markets instead and mfg technologies that are appropriate to your financial resources now to reduce risk and grab that all-important foothold in this game. After that, if you keep at it, it usually starts rolling all by itself. One piece of advice that can never be repeated enough - DO NOT attempt to do it all yourself. Pay a professional for activities you don’t excel at and focus on what you do best. Successfully getting any product to market is highly collaborative work. Good luck to you.

Regarding licensing - do you find it better to talk to buyers or R+D people (preferrably the heads of either)? Also, I can see having suppliers lined up for production when pitching a product, but not actually getting tooling cut before they start moving forward, in which case they would be pulling the trigger on that and ponying up for production - would you agree with that?

thank you all for the excellent posts, great info in every one of them.

egg, your post validated my personal thinking about having tons of product, and how a trade show might actually go regarding the deeper pockets. i also believe you are right about hiring professionals to do things outside of my expertise. can’t help but think of “tommy boy” and his brake pads. :wink:

looking into various types of patents and trademarks at the moment…

oh yeah, how do I find a rep, how much will it cost me, and what can I expect them to do for that money?

thanks again!

New to Core 77 discussion boards…
Has anyone out there ever known of a designer succesfully licensing a product idea???