Something Old, Something New

The Youth Edge

What can young entrepreneurs offer older inventors? In working with new products, over and over again I hear inventors say "I just don't have the time to market my invention." There are two reasons for this comment: First, many older inventors have families, homes and financial obligations. They can't afford to quit their jobs and spend all their time working to introduce a new product. Notwax inventor Paul Ramer, for example, already had a business to run. When you're in your 20s and 30s, you're more likely to have fewer financial obligations. At your age, it's easier to take a pay cut and work for a low salary for a few years in hopes of a big payoff.

The second reason older inventors lack time is simply that introducing new products requires a lot of effort. In the five years she's been in business with her dad, Kris has given away 300,000 samples at ski resorts, consumer ski shows, swap meets and movie screenings targeting hard-core ski enthusiasts.

Ski shops and resorts would buy Notwax whenever Kris was there handing out samples, but they wouldn't carry the product without a sampling program. Heavy sampling was an effective alternative to advertising, but it requires weekends away from home and grueling days on the ski slopes, which Paul couldn't have handled.

Another advantage Kris offered her father was that she's closer in age to the target customers and simply understood their needs better than her dad did. That alone made her a more effective salesperson for the company.

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This article was originally published in the January 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Something Old, Something New.

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