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Testing Your Wings

Will your idea fly? Our expert tests the experts.

Family and friends have probably always been there to lend you moral support and encouragement. But when you have an idea for a product you want to put on the market, their kind words can sometimes lead you astray. What you really need to know is whether your product will sell.

There are two independent nonprofit organizations that can help evaluate the marketability of your idea: The Wisconsin Innovation Service Center (WISC) in Whitewater, Wisconsin, and the Washington Innovation Assessment Center (WIAC) in Pullman, Washington. I heard their evaluations were sound, so I decided to test their appraisals myself. I sent both organizations a product I invented and asked them to assess its marketability. The results were enlightening.

The product they evaluated is called the Halo, a brimmed hat made of rain- and sun-resistant fabric. A special construction inside the hat's crown suspends it above the wearer's head to prevent "hat hair"; grommets on both sides provide ventilation to keep the wearer's head cool. The entire hat collapses down to a 7-inch circle that fits into a coordinating pouch. The hat retails for $35. Neither center was told that the Halo holds several patents and has already been successfully test-marketed.

Tomima Edmark, the woman famous for her Topsy Tail invention has now turned her creative talents to the competitive retail arena of intimate apparel, HerRoom and HisRoom.

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This article was originally published in the June 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Testing Your Wings.

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