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Are There Mentorship Programs for Product Developers?

It seems as though there are a lot of incubator sites out there for tech startups. But where do people turn if they want help developing a physical product and executing it? Are there certain programs you'd recommend? What other ways exist to get advice?
Ryan Himmel answered January 10, 2012
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/answer/222604

There are many resources in the marketplace to help entrepreneurs develop a physical product. Before I go through some of them, it's important to emphasize a key element in developing a product that is often overlooked.

Here's the scenario: You come up with what you think is the next big idea or solution either through a personal experience or something you've noted as a common problem. Your impulses are telling you to start building it but you're likely missing a key element: the marketing strategy.

Whatever you build should be tailored to a specific marketing strategy. Too many startups waste so much time, energy and money in developing a product that they can never monetize.

What you really need is the advice and guidance from someone who has done what are you are planning to do. Search sites such as LinkedIn and create a wish list of seasoned veterans in your industry that you think may be able to help you and become an advisor for your company.

Related: Three Steps to Finding a Business Mentor

Once you have your list, go through your professional and social networks to identify common connections for an introduction. If you can't seem to find one, then you'll have to try calling or emailing cold. When you do this, don't just pitch your product but rather discuss how you can work together on something that can be a game changer in the marketplace. You may even need to attend a few conferences that you know or think they may be attending.

While it does seem like every day there is a new technology incubator popping up, there are still several incubator and accelerator programs for companies that sell physical products. I would recommend going through the directory listed on the National Business Incubation Association

You can also utilize several other nonprofit resources such as the SCORE association comprised of 11,500 volunteer business counselors throughout the country. It's a free resource and fairly easy to book an appointment with one of the local mentors. Another resource is the Small Business Development Centers that have mentors and workshops to help with product development.

Related: How Can I Make the Most of a Mentor Relationship? (Video)
 

Ryan Himmel, CPA and registered securities analyst, is the founder and CEO of BIDaWIZ.com, a professional network for small businesses and entrepreneurs to obtain trusted advice and services from a team of CPAs, Enrolled Agents, Financial Planners & Tax Attorneys.  His team provides answers to the many finance and tax questions that small businesses encounter every day. Ryan has been quoted in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fox Business and Crain's New York, among other publications. Ryan also regularly contributes to the community with his finance and tax blog.