“I am a jump out of the plane, assemble the parachute on the way down type of person. If you believe in an idea, you don't need anyone else to agree with you. Even if your closest friend or spouse discourages you from following your dreams, stay the course. Maybe they want to protect you from failure or afraid of you outgrowing them,” explains Helen Anderson, founder of Milkies and the inventor of patented products for nursing mothers with worldwide distribution reach to more than 35 countries.
Helen wasn’t thinking of an invention that would change the world when she invented a solution for collecting nursing milk. She'd given birth to her second son and was simply was trying to solve a problem she was facing at home.
According to the Intellectual Property and Women Entrepreneurs 2012 report (IPWE) conducted by the National Women’s Business Council, women have a significantly higher participation in trademark activity compared to patent activity. In 2010, women received 18 percent of all patents granted compared to 33 percent in trademarks.
The IPWE prepared a follow-up quality analysis report that identified a host of factors, perceived and real, that influence women filing patents that includes fear and awe of the process, the absence of clear, easy-to-understand documentation, lack of financial resources to obtain professional help, discouragement from family, friends and advisors, and the demands of multiple roles as an entrepreneur, mother and caregiver.
“When you are inventing you need to hop, making certain that your invention is helpful, original and profitable,” explains Mindee Hardin of Juicebox Mom Consulting. Mindee is the co-inventor of Boogie Wipes, a company she grew to $15 million company with distribution in Walmart, Target and Costco before it sold to Nehemia Manufacturing.
As a busy mother, she wasn’t trying to be an inventor when she developed Boogie Wipes. She was trying to solve the simple problem of getting her children to blow their noses without constant arguments. The solution led her to being classified as an inventor.
Though there are many resources available for women inventors the following are my favorite options as you maneuver through the invention process.
Related: The First Steps to Inventing
1. Qualify for a Matched Savings Grants
If you are seeking a business grant to develop a product-based company then you need to learn more about the IDA match-savings grants program. The program can provide thousands of dollars in matched-savings to help you move your product forward.
2. Review the Pro bono legal patent program
If you are interested in learning more about the patent process and available resources, then you need to learn more about the USPTO pro bono legal program. Lack of financial resources isn’t a barrier if you can qualify for the pro bono program.
3. Join an inventors group
If you are interested in finding like-minded inventors visit the United Inventors Association of America to find an inventor club in your state. These groups are very supportive and provide encouragement for inventors.
4. Connect with a Women’s Business Center
Women's Business Centers represent a national network of nearly 100 educational centers throughout the United States designed to assist women in starting and growing small businesses with no cost business counseling and low cost trainings. They understand the demands that women face as an entrepreneur, mother and caregiver.
5. Research companies seeking new ideas
For example, the Huggies® MomInspired™ Grant Program awards moms up to $15,000 in seed money, as well as business resources, to further the development of original product ideas and startup businesses.
6. Consider a women’s crowd-funding platform
The Fund Dreamer is a crowd-funding platform that helps women fund their dreams. The platform allows anything to be funded from a business idea, to a personal cause, to an event, to a product. As a non-profit organization, the company only charges a 1 percent fee to cover operating costs, compared to standard platforms that charge upwards of 10 percent.
Inventing is not gender specific. It is an equal based opportunity. The challenge for women is finding an inventor community so you can begin the process of accessing available resources, funding and connections. Let's increase the patent statistics together. Happy inventing!