Something Old, Something New

Match Game

Entrepreneurs do best in markets where they're similar to the target customers. They do even better when they're actually in the target customer group. Who's best qualified to sell products to snowboarders? Other snowboarders, of course. In trying to find an inventing partner, look for inventions you might actually buy or use. Then follow these six steps:

1.Choose one or two types of products you'd like to sell. In Kris' case, the product areas would have been cross-country skiing and snowboarding.

2.Find trade magazines and trade shows that target retailers or end users in that market. You can find trade magazines in Gale Directory (The Gale Group), available at most libraries. You can find trade shows at www.tscentral.com or in trade show directories (at your local library).

3.Look in the trade magazines for press releases about products you'd like to sell, or visit a trade show and look for booths with interesting products. Ask the owners of those companies if they have a distributor in your area. If they don't, there's a good chance they would be open to a proposal from a young entrepreneur seeking to form a partnership to develop the business.

4.Tell the inventor you'd like to work with him or her to market the idea. Explain that you love the product; that you're in the target customer group; and that you have the time, energy and determination to get the product off the ground.

5.If the inventor is interested, ask to visit his or her location so you can see the production facilities and review the progress that's been made in marketing the idea. There are two reasons for this visit: It shows the inventor you're professional, and it allows you to make sure the inventor can produce enough to support your sales efforts.

6.Make a proposal about earning a share of the inventor's business. (See "Deal Me In".)

Young entrepreneurs run into a lot of obstacles when starting businesses, including finding an opportunity, creating the right product and raising sufficient capital. Working with an established inventor gets you over these hurdles and allows you to put into play your greatest assets: time, energy and determination.

Even if your first product launch fails, you'll be in a much better position to succeed in your second effort. The worst that can happen is you'll get a cheap education. And that's a pretty good payoff.

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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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