The Formula for a Thriving Product Business

There are four factors successful entrepreneurs have in common. The man behind a recent Kickstarter campaign for a new set of games provides a great example.

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By Stephen Key

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Everyone wants to know what is really needed to start a successful business. How can I be sure the timing is right? How much capital do I need? Is this product truly worthy? There are so many questions to consider. I'm sure many of them are swirling in your brain right now.

I'm not going to mince words. Starting a business is inherently risky. You are going to have to be willing to take a leap of faith, to one degree or another.

Related: Meet Your Market: 3 Ingredients to a Successful Launch

In the early aughts, I founded a guitar accessory company with my longtime friend Rob Stefani. Friends and family thought I was crazy. What did I know about the music industry? "You don't even know how to play the guitar!" they said. But I was confident that he and I were onto something. I saw that the stars had aligned. He had spent years working in the industry. We knew someone locally who was successful doing what we wanted to do. We saw that our competitors hadn't innovated in decades. And there was the fact that most retailers were small independent stores, which we bet would be willing to gamble on our unusual designs.

There was a distinct opportunity and we had the resources to take advantage of it. So we went for it. We ended up growing our business from a tiny operation based out of my dining room to 7-Eleven and WalMart in a short time.

The more entrepreneurs I talk to, the more convinced I have become that there is actually a formula of sorts for starting a successful business. For starters, successful entrepreneurs don't rush in. It takes time to ensure that the four factors needed to get a business up and running are in place.

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Chris Handy, an entrepreneur who successfully funded his idea for a new type of card game on Kickstarter earlier this year. When I heard he was launching a business in the gaming industry, I scoffed. I worked for a toy startup -- I know firsthand how hard that industry is to break into. But after listening to his story, I'm excited for him. He's hit the formula on the head.

To start a successful business, this is what is needed:

1. Familiarity with the industry

To start a successful business, you must understand the landscape. Unsurprisingly, Handy told me that he has always been a fan of games. It wasn't until the year 2000 that he began designing his own, but even before that, he was thinking about prototypes. For the past decade and a half, Handy has been licensing his ideas for games.

Related: The Secret Factors That Win Funding

To learn about the retail side of the industry, he launched an ecommerce site that sells hobby market games a few years ago. His Kickstarter campaign was successful in part because he was so knowledgeable about the industry.

2. Connections/relationships

Because he's spent so much time in the industry, Handy has a lot of contacts. He says he's been attending the hobby game industry's most important annual gathering for the past six years. As a result, he has an army of peers he can reach out to for support and advice. He knows who's who in manufacturing and retail. That's crucial.

3. A unique product

What sets your product apart from your competitors? What is your point of difference? What kinds of benefits does your product offer? Handy says he became convinced that the Pack O Game line, gum-pack sized card games that can be played anywhere, was the right product to launch his own publishing brand because even non-gamers were intrigued by it.

"It appealed to people in a way that none of my other games have," Handy explains. "Even my parents, who have never been interested in playing my other games, wanted to play these."

4. Unique packaging

The Pack O Game's size sets it apart. It's quick to play and portable -- so it can be played before eating dinner at a restaurant or in the airport, for example. It's also affordable to print and allows for an infinite amount of different designs. Visually, it doesn't look like other games. It stands out. My guess is Handy will be able to sell it in non-typical retail outlets because of that. He has found his niche.

Handy has the exact same strengths that I had when my partner and I launched our business.

Do you have what it takes?

Related: The 3 Building Blocks Every Successful Product Shares

Stephen Key

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Co-Founder of inventRight; Author of One Simple Idea Series

Stephen Key is an inventor, IP strategist, author, speaker and co-founder of inventRight, LLC, a Glenbrook, Nevada-based company that helps inventors design, patent and license their ideas for new products.

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