Being able to meet the demand becomes a much more prominent issue with any TV exposure you might garner, including home shopping channels and any type of direct-response TV. But if you're prepared, TV can be a godsend.
To get yourself on a home shopping channel like HSN, QVC or the like, watch plenty of home shopping yourself, advises Marilyn Montross, director of vendor relations for West Chester, Pennsylvania-based QVC. "And not just products in the same category as your product, but [also] different kinds of products," says Montross, whose department fields 16,000 inquiries per year, with 90 percent of them from entrepreneurs. QVC airs more than 250 new products per week, many of them with an entrepreneurial story behind them. "Develop an understanding of the kinds of things that sell on QVC," says Montross, and on any channel on which you hope to sell, taking a close look at value, quality and pricing for the products.
Look at the shopping-channel Web sites for information on submitting your product once it's ready to sell; don't just drop a prototype in the mail, because "samples would overwhelm us," says Montross. Instead, send photos or brochures. QVC also holds an annual product-search tour event, where QVC visits cities nationwide and holds open casting calls for products. "But you can submit anytime," says Montross.
You can also follow Abdo's lead and showcase your product on your own TV show. Says Smith, "Contact your local cable company, and talk to the program director about local access--" free, government-sponsored access granted to taxpayers. "That's a full hour on cable [where] you can talk about your product," says Smith.
Another cable-TV option is lease access, which, for a small fee, allows you to get sponsors. "You can show your product and charge [sponsors] to have product placements," says Smith. Any profits you make beyond that initial lease-access charge are yours to keep.
When No Doesn't Mean No
Like Abdo, the Align founders created their product out of necessity--a commonality among successful inventors. Chishti had braces as an adult and noticed that every time he removed his retainer, his teeth would start to shift. "That was the 'aha moment,'" says Wirth, who took a step away from the business in 2001 to sit on Align's board of directors. (Chishti is no longer involved with the company.)
Beyond creating their products to meet a need, both Abdo and the Align founders had the courage to bring a product to market because they believed in it wholeheartedly. "Have the conviction that what you're doing is worthwhile," advises Wirth. "You inevitably run into a number of stumbling blocks along the way."
"I truly believe in my product and in my technology," says Abdo. "Being focused on the future of my product allowed me to never take no for an answer."
Karen E. Spaeder is a freelance writer in Southern California.
Karen E. Spaeder is a freelance business writer in Southern California.