August 11th, 2009

The Provisional Patent

An idea is like a secret. You bubble over with excitement and containing it is a challenge.

Sure, sharing your invention with others is a good way of gauging the feasibility of a product, but it can also be the death of your promising idea. No friend means harm, but you never know who their friends know. Your idea could be in someone else’s hands within minutes. Thankfully, BEFORE sharing my idea of the SmartZip™ Sleeper, a lawyer told me I should seriously consider filing for a provisional patent.

Because my husband will drive 30 miles to save 20 cents on a bottle of ketchup, I was forced to find a bargain. As most people know, patents are pricey. For this reason, a lot of good ideas are never fully realized. A provisional patent costs considerably less and gives you one year from the filing date to protect your idea. No-one can touch your idea (in the US) until that filing date expires. But, at that point you must file a non-provisional (utility) patent to keep your invention safe. A utility patent could run you upwards of $15,000. So a provisional patent is the way to go when you can’t afford the non-provisional patent upfront.

The best part is that you don’t need an attorney to file a provisional patent. Not sure if there are other services like it, but LegalZoom was my saving grace. They are an online service that assists with all sorts of legal applications. Their website lists a menu of services with clear costs and projected savings.

The website suggests ordering a patent search along with or before applying for a provisional patent. They conduct a comprehensive search for a prior patent, any artwork, or written idea that resembles yours. I received a nicely bindered book of their findings. My favorite result was of a baby sleeper that zipped up the backside.

It was designed in 1950, by a man who OBVIOUSLY never changed a diaper.

The second favorite was of a baby sleeper that had an option of attaching the legs together.

It’s function was to keep an infant from climbing out of it’s crib.

Not sure if the inventor was a mom, but I feel bad for the kid who won’t be able to get comfortable while sleeping. Can you imagine?

Besides giving me some comical relief, my search report gave me the confidence to go forward with investing in my idea.

Applying for a provisional patent seemed like a simple questionnaire. They asked questions, and I explained my invention. The site wasn’t clear, but, I was under the impression, this questionnaire would be transformed by THEM into the actual legal document for filing. What a surprise when their first response to my application was more like a bad review of a college term paper. It apparently severly lacked information needed to draft the legal document myself. The biggest obstacle in writing it was learning the legal terms and writing style. But their reviews gave me lots of complimentary footnotes, along with helpful criticism for improvement. They even forwarded similar patents for language comparison.

Because I had a career in architecture, my drafting skills came in handy when drawing the diagram for my product and saved me some money. (I didn’t need to order the design option for the application) They then transformed the sketches into a patent worthy drawing.

I cannot say enough positive things about LegalZoom. They led me through, step by step, with patience and respect. Unfortunately, at the time, LegalZoom only offered the provisional patent application. So, I was forced to consult a patent attorney for my non-provisional (utility) patent at three months prior to it’s expiration. But because my provisional filing was so comprehensive, the lawyer fees for filing the utility patent cost me considerably less.

I will admit, going through an online service was a lot more work than I anticipated. My process took three reviews by LegalZoom and many months of intermittent all-nighters. It is by no means the route for the faint of heart. But the hard work paid off. For just over $1,000, my idea was safe. And once my non-provisional was filed, I had an overall savings of $10,000.

And that’s a secret worth sharing.

August 4th, 2009

Mr. Golden Sun

I have come to the conclusion that family vacations are in no way a vacation for me. Packing diapers and sippy cups, bottles, swim diapers and baby tylenol, bathing suits, beach towels, beach toys…… Spending two days packing, two days traveling, for five days in the sun?

Five glorious days in the sun.

This is our second year renting a house on the beach. This year was Pawleys Island, SC.

I can walk down to the beach in my pj’s with my coffee,

and watch my kids in awe of life.

Moments of serenity that are worth all the effort to get there. What was I complaining about again? Forgive me.

July 21st, 2009

Can We Wrap This For You?

I guess I understand better than anyone, since I do a lot of online shopping, how convenient it is to offer a gift wrap option. Who doesn’t love ordering a gift and sending it nicely wrapped in one fell swoop. A recent meeting with my PR person, Kelly at www.klevergirlpr.com convinced me to get on board. She has been sending my samples to various magazines and mommy bloggers in this simple, yet beautiful presentation. We are researching some optional colors and sizes, and once we decide on the perfect one, it will be an option for a small fee. I realize this is nothing new, but when starting a business some things become priority and this sort of fell off the radar. Now the perfect gift will have a perfect presentation. I bet you can wrap your brain around that!

July 19th, 2009

Going Green

My children are the ones who remind me to recycle, to turn off the lights when leaving a room, and to turn off the water when brushing my teeth. They have gone green, now it is Hello World’s turn. Our next product, currently being researched for production (hopefully this year) is The Organic SmartZip™ Sleeper. Did I just hear a hooray? I am just as excited as you!

July 5th, 2009

The Blog

When my marketing team suggested that blogging should be in my future for the future of my business, I cringed. How would writing down my innermost thoughts help my business? My narrow understanding of a blog, was that it was simply an online journal. I could never understand why people wrote them and who they wrote them for. I obviously never read one. My marketing team sent me a list of their favorites, among them dooce.com and thepioneerwoman.com. (They are among my favorites now too.) I was amazed. Within days, I subscribed to numerous feeds of marketing blogs, “mommy blogs”, and business blogs. They became my morning ritual.

That crash course helped me to understand the blogging community. First of all, that one exists. Secondly, that it exists so we can make connections with people we might otherwise have never met. Bloggers are there to help, to educate, to share, to give advice, to network, to entertain, to promote others, to promote themselves, to make us feel like a part of a larger community than the one our neighborhoods and careers can provide us. They remind us we are not alone.

You might still be asking, how does this help my business? By blogging, people are driven to your site, which gives it more visits or “hits”. The higher number of hits, the more chances you have to be found through an online search engine. The trick is to keep them coming back to increase the hits. For some people their business is their blog. They make money by getting companies to pay for advertising on their blog site. If a blog has a huge following, the advertisement will reach all their followers. It’s a win-win situation.

So if you are starting a business, seriously consider blogging. Here is a list of my teams’ advice:

  • Everyone has a story.
  • Start a journal of your process, thoughts and ideas when starting your business. This allows you to create an archive so you can revisit them when writing the blog entries.
  • Write and publish entries as often as possible. This creates a following and drives traffic to your site.
  • Have others review your entries before you publish your post. Others might see things you miss.
  • Be consistent with your voice and stay true to your brand. This creates an online identity people can connect to.
  • Most importantly find your niche, be unique (don’t copy others), tell your story!

Successful marketing reaches the most people and blogging seems to be one of the best ways to achieve this. I am still not feeling too comfortable about putting my words out there. I am not competitive by nature, so I don’t plan on reaching for the stars with my writing. I don’t have a business or journalism degree. What I do have is a story about being a SAHM starting a business. So I have decided to embrace blogging as a way to help others in my same situation. My hope is that my experiential entries will allow you to learn from my big mistakes and gain insight from my little successes in business. And I might try my hand at entertaining you with some family and motherhood stories in between. Let me know what you think and keep coming back!

Oh, and check out some of my favorite blogs (in no particular order):

dooce®

Confessions of a Pioneer Woman

PENSIEVE

Should Be Folding Laundry

moosh in indy

Marketing Profs Daily Fix

Personal Branding Blog – Dan Schawbel

StartupNation Blog

advergirl

June 25th, 2009

The Enterprising Woman

I rarely have good luck. I usually wait around for the third bad thing to happen so I can move on with my day or week. The stars must have been aligned one morning. To my surprise, I received a call from a writer from a local magazine. She found me through a local networking site smallerindiana.com. It was proof this online social networking was working! She wondered if she could interview me for an article on enterprising women. Me an enterprising woman? You got that from my profile? Can I just tell you, the excitement that ran through me? I know it wasn’t People Magazine or the cover of Forbes, but it suddenly made what I was doing real. Only a handful of people knew about my endeavor. And after two years of working behind the scenes, I guess the idea of it really happening was surreal. Even after the writer told me I might only get a couple lines, my adrenaline was still flowing.

A couple months go by and I get a phone call from a neighbor. She saw the article in the Carmel Magazine that day and wanted to congratulate me and wish me luck. I ran to my mailbox, but it wasn’t there! Somehow my subscription had lapsed. So I went to the supermarket to get a copy. They still had last month’s on the stand. Seriously, I went for a week. They never put the current issue on the stand. See what I mean about my bad luck? No worries, my neighbors all saved their copies. The article about five local enterprising women dedicated a page to each. A full page! So exciting! Validity to all I had been working on. Then it happened. The third unlucky thing of course. It was a great story, only, there was no mention of the company name or the product name!

I knew I had provided all the information to the writer. I wish now that I would have asked her if I could review it before publishing. I didn’t even think of that. It never occurred to me that I had a say in what she wrote. I was just so excited somebody found my story interesting and wanted to share it.

No complaints. It was great to be included with the owner of Z Gallerie and other local business owners. Give it a read helloworldclothing.com/press.php. I have received a lot of well wishes and support. Which is exactly what I’ll need when I get my next round of bad luck. But, if the stars decide to be on my side again, and if Forbes Magazine or People Magazine call, at least I’ll make sure the story is right.

June 16th, 2009

The Baby Monitor

If not for the baby monitor, you wouldn’t be reading this entry. An invention that some argue interrupts sleep, leaving you jumping every time your baby stirs, has provided me with early morning wake up calls, and much needed inspiration.

One such early morning, ours was Broadcasting R-rated lyrics to Brahm’s Lullabye. I awoke wide eyed in terror, what if the neighbors were listening in? No really, they claim their monitors pick up things. What I applauded as clever concealing of his potty mouth, might have come across the airways as bad parenting. Only I was sure it was my husband’s attempt to hide his frustration from our son and calm himself in his defeat with the sleeper snaps.

The morning after, (and many after) were spent shopping the online boutiques for a better sleeper. One that would save our sanity, and get us back to bed a little quicker. Much to my surprise, it did not exist.

If I would have listened to my husband and turned off the monitor, I may have gotten some much needed sleep, and possibly prevented some neighborhood gossip, but diaper changing wouldn’t have gotten any easier!

The task of designing my first product and getting it onto retail shelves, has taken almost two years. Mostly satisfying, but not withstanding some limitations and upsets. I plan on sharing my road to reality with you, and with any luck, introducing new innovative products.

One thing is for sure, inspiration comes from everywhere. Share your thoughts, you never know who might be listening. I know I will be. Just in case, I think I’ll keep my baby monitor plugged in (even though I don’t need it anymore).

January 1st, 2008

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January 1st, 2008

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January 1st, 2008

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