Examples from the Trenches
(note: Please check back often. We will add more examples.)
The TopsyTail® is a hairstyling tool for turning a ponytail inside-out. Millions have seen it on TV and in stores. The inventor, Tomima Edmark, earned millions with her invention. Her good fortune even led to an appearance on Life Styles of the Rich and Famous and many articles have been written about her success.
O'Connor Technical Systems had nothing to do with the TopsyTail®, but is still our favorite product development example. Not because of the millions it made for the inventor, but because this case study illustrates the time and commitment needed to develop and promote even the most elegantly simple product.
0 months (Start)
72 times the dollar sales volume
March 93 Appeared on QVC - sold 5,000 units at $15
ea. in 11 minutes
August 93 More than five million sold worldwide during the past year
While her success is very impressive, remember that it was 2½ years before profits exceeded costs which included many thousands of dollars for a patent, tooling, advertising, inventory, and, later, a lawsuit not to mention the value of the time she had to invest. Also keep in mind that this is a very simple product and things went about as smoothly as can be expected. (Ms. Edmark was interviewed by serious business oriented TV shows about the efficiency of her strategy.) It also helped that her profits were enough to fund the nearly one million dollars per year in legal fees needed to fend off copycats who infringed on her patent after she became successful.
The next time you think about a new product idea, first consider whether your idea is simpler or more complicated than the TopsyTail® product. Then adjust the time and money you will need to invest accordingly. Finally, ask yourself if you would be willing stick to it for as long as it takes all the while wondering what the outcome will be while you attempt to convince your friends and family that you're not crazy.
Ron O'Connor, P.E.
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