Make 'Em Talk

The Struggle Towards Marketing His Invention

In 1989, Henry was riding in the car when one of his friend's CDs suddenly started skipping. The friend was about to toss the CD when Henry, then an optical shop employee, offered to fix it. Successfully polishing that scratched CD with optical gear, Henry came upon the idea for a quick and easy repair kit for CDs.

He spent the next several years developing an easy-to-use chemical formula and, after receiving his patent in 1997, Henry teamed up with four partners-James Black, Paul Dragos, Marc Guest and David Story-to introduce the product to the market.

But sales started with a big thud for two major reasons. The first: The public didn't know CDs were reparable. Unlike records, music isn't recorded on the surface of a CD; instead, the digital data is protected by a clear layer, the part of the CD that actually gets scratched. The laser that actually reads the digital data can't read through scratches. But if you remove the scratch, the CD is a good as new. Unfortunately for Henry, many believed, and still do, that they distort the digital data when they scratch a disc and simply throw it away. Consequently, retail stores didn't see a demand from consumers for CD repair products.

The second obstacle: There were already CD repair products on the market sold by companies that had full product lines, so it was easier for stores to buy from their current suppliers. Another problem with the competing products was that, according to Henry, "people who used them didn't get the results they wanted." People didn't believe Henry's product worked better so they didn't try it out.

Henry faced a difficult mission: to show his chemical kit was unique, when all the consumer saw was a bottle that looked the same as any other. And he had to show people just how well his product works without the benefit of a demonstration.

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This article was originally published in the September 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Make 'Em Talk.

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