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Bright Idea: Product Launch Success Story This entrepreneur knew her mood-enhancing light bulbs would sell, but she had to convince retailers. How she did it.

By Don Debelak

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The entrepreneur: Kathryn Goetzke White, 34, founder ofInnovativeAnalysis Inc. in Annapolis, Maryland

Product description: Mood-lites, dubbed "light bulbsfor your lifestyle," are colored light bulbs that were createdaccording to research on how colors affect moods. Available inseven colors, from Happy (yellow) to Serenity (turquoise), the25-watt Mood-lites produce a soft glow similar to a candle. With asuggested retail price of $4.95 to $5.95, Mood-lites are sold inLinens 'n Things and specialty outlets such as spas,natural-food stores and college bookstores nationwide. They'realso sold in some Ace Hardware and Bed Bath & Beyondstores.

Startup: Goetzke White financed the business withpersonal savings, credit cards and loans from family and friends.She spent $25,000 for research, consultant fees, trademarks andpreliminary work, as well as $50,000 for inventory.

Sales: More than $1 million projected for 2005

The challenge: Overcoming retailer resistance whenintroducing a new product category

When Kathryn Goetzke White developed her Mood-lites, she knewinterior home lighting was a big market and believed consumerswould love her colorful light bulbs. But she also knew that gettingher products in stores nationwide would prove quite a challenge, asretailers typically resist new product categories for fear ofending up with unsold merchandise. Then Goetzke White had a brightidea for breaking through the resistance: persuade retailers thather colorful Mood-lites were part of a larger consumer trend.Thanks to sales help from her 35-year-old husband, John, GoetzkeWhite developed an action plan that created quick acceptance of theMood-lites product line.

Steps to Success

1. Find a trend that fits. Goetzke White had her productidea for several years, but didn't pursue it until she saw aHome Depot ad that talked about color therapy and how to paint aroom a certain color to create a mood. At that point, she felt herproduct could sell because the color therapy concept was beingaccepted by major retailers. "My undergraduate degree was inpsychology, and I was intrigued by moods and different influencersof moods," she says. "I knew that certain colors createddifferent moods--for example, blue is associated with the ocean andwater, images that bring a sense of tranquility. I was tired ofbasic white lighting and decided to combine color therapy with theupsurge in candle sales for soft mood lighting. Adding an oil-basedcoating gave that glow that makes Mood-lites different from otherproducts on the market."

2. Develop a marketing story. While Goetzke White wassure people understood the concept of colors and their impact onmood, she wanted to complete the story to inspire consumers to makea purchase. Today, she's obtaining trademarks for each of thecolors: Serenity for turquoise, Tranquility for sapphire, Passionfor crimson, Happiness for yellow, Energy for orange, Creativityfor purple and Renewal for green.

3. Create interest with PR. In fall 2004, Goetzke Whitestarted an extensive PR campaign to get articles about Mood-litesin magazines. "The goal was not only to sell Mood-lites, whichwere available on our website, but really to help sellretailers," she says. "I felt the positive energy createdby the PR would show the market was interested in Mood-lites. Wehired a PR firm, and articles were published in many newspapers aswell as Home, Residential Lighting, For Me Magazine and New YorkMagazine's Metro, among others. Those articles were a bighelp when I approached retailers to carry Mood-lites."

4. Package the product to create exposure. A new productneeds to be noticed on a shelf. "One of the best moves I madewas to produce the package so it could fit on clip strips [plasticstrips with six to 12 clips to hold individual packages],"says Goetzke White. "Retailers love these strips, as theyallow them to move the product into the store, save on shelf spaceand entice customers with new products. We've produced a header[a small card with sales copy] for the clip strips showcasing thebulbs in use, and we also have a display box for stores [that]carry Mood-lites on the shelf."

5. Find markets that enhance the product's image.Some of Goetzke White's earliest customers were doctors andmassage therapists, who used Mood-lites to create a relaxingenvironment for patients. "We're expanding distribution toinclude spas and gyms with massage therapists, yoga practitionersand spinning rooms," she says. "The intent is to getexposure for the brand. Clients of these customers will see theeffectiveness of [Mood-lites] and want to try them athome."

Lessons Learned

1. Retailers support new trends. Products tied to newtrends typically sell well and sell at high margins--just the typesof products retailers want. Consumers are curious about new trends,and that curiosity produces sales and store traffic. Becausepublished articles show the product is part of a trend, theyeffectively generate retailer interest.

2. Go with the flow, not against it. Inventors often comeup with ideas to change how things are done. Their productintroduction strategy calls for persuading people that there is abetter way to do something. That strategy almost never works;inventors just don't have the money to change a market. Theyshould instead find a way to show how their product is an extensionof products people already use. Goetzke White's tactic ofadding an oil-based finish to light bulbs to create a soft glow wasexpensive and time-consuming, but it allowed Mood-lites to go withthe flow of candle therapy.

3. Keep products front and center. People usually shopwith a purchase in mind. Rarely do people notice other productsunless they are displayed prominently enough to catch theirattention. Using clip strips, which can be provided by the inventoror the retailer, is a low-cost tactic that often produces impulsesales, and most inventors can afford it.

4. Get expert advice. Inventors without marketingexperience often don't know how to best position a product inthe market. If you need help from a marketing expert, contact yourlocal SmallBusiness Development Center.

Meet Your Match

Due to cutbacks at R&D departments nationwide, majorcompanies are now seeking certain products from outside sources.NineSigmaallows inventors to register for a biweekly InnovationNewsletter that lists some of the products, solutions andtechnologies that big companies are looking for. If you've gota great product idea, this site can also connect you with someoneto help co-develop your product.

Don Debelak is author of Entrepreneur magazine'sStart-Up Guide #1813, Bringing Your Product to Market, and host ofinventor-help website

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