Model Approach

Going With The Pros

There will be cases when you simply must have someone else make your prototype. Typically this is when an expertise is required that would be too difficult or time-consuming for you to acquire. There are a number of professionals who make a living making prototypes, such as designers, engineers, product developers and so on. I've used these professionals in the past when I have needed to create a higher-quality prototype. I once worked on an idea that involved the use of electronics. After making a very crude prototype, I took it to an electrical engineer and told him how I would like my idea further developed. He was able to add features and functions that were simply beyond my capabilities. If your idea can be made better with someone else's expertise, I strongly recommend you use an outside expert.

A word of caution, however, before hiring a prototype maker: Make sure they can actually help you by communicating your needs to them and discussing the project thoroughly. Also, agree on a fee up front for the entire project. Prototype makers can charge high fees, and if you're paying by the hour, their fee can quickly escalate. Give them as much detail as possible about your idea; include drawings, if available. Remember, even a prototyping expert will not be able to produce a model of your idea if you don't tell them exactly what you're looking for.

Finally, the following story illustrates the importance of adequately protecting your prototype. A man made a prototype of a new fishing lure, then went fishing with it. Unfortunately, he learned how good his lure was when, after catching a string of fish, "the one that got away" took the prototype with it. You don't always need more than one prototype, but if you only have one, you should avoid situations where something like this could happen.

You may become very frustrated with trial and error when making your prototype, but try to keep it in perspective. The frustration and effort that goes into creating a model that actually works has never been more evident than with the many failed attempts in the early 1900s by inventors trying to develop a machine that could fly. Who knows how many failed attempts there were before the Wright brothers actually succeeded at Kitty Hawk in 1903.

Tomima Edmark is the inventor of the Topsy Tail, the Kissing Machine and several other products, and is author of The American Dream Fact Pack ($49.95), available by calling (800) 558-6779. Write to her with any questions you may have regarding inventions and patents in care of "Bright Ideas," Entrepreneur, 2392 Morse Ave., Irvine, CA 92614.

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This article was originally published in the October 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Model Approach.

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