Waiting for some inspiration for a great new product to strike you? Try following the lead of three old college chums, Adam Rizika, 38, Bob Rizika, 35, and Scott Brazina, 36. In 1989, while students at the Sloan Management School at MIT, the three agreed to start a business together and introduce the "next big product." But they had one major problem: They had no idea what that product would be.
In 1993, four years after graduating, they made their move-quitting their jobs to start reflective technologies Inc. and search for the right product. Later that year they created illumiNITE, a fabric with a coating that reflects light. Unlike traditional reflective apparel, which simply boasts several orange strips, the partners' innovative apparel provides a full reflective silhouette, keeping runners, cyclists, walkers, children, etc. safe at night. From their small beginnings, the partners have created a multimillion-dollar company with such major clients as Land's End, Adidas, Polaris, Eddie Bauer, Honda, L.L. Bean and even the U.S. military.
Brazina explains the original mission of the partners was "to find a new technology that would produce high-value benefits for consumers and be difficult to copy." They planned on raising around $2 million-not enough to fund developing and introducing an expensive and complex industrial product, but sufficient for funding a decently priced consumer product. They also wanted to be sure their invention could sell well enough to build a reasonably large company, which in turn would be consistent with their career goals.