After writing over 100 posts, I decided to cover something new: why I chose to become an inventor and my journey from successful engineer to successful inventor.
My hope is that readers might see something of themselves in my story and choose to invent the next big product.
From Successful Engineer to Struggling Inventor
Back in the 70s, I went to college to become an engineer. I chose engineering because I liked it and engineering would offer me a lucrative career path. I graduated college and went to work at Boeing in Seattle.
After 3 years at Boeing, I moved to the burgeoning telecom mecca of Dallas-Ft. Worth and became a telecom engineer.
Telecom was good to me; it paid well and the projects were interesting.
In the beginning, I felt like an entrepreneur who collected a paycheck – it was fun; but over time telecom became bureaucratic with ever longer working hours and stagnating pay, not fun. Employment became a roller coaster ride with heights (like 1998) followed by depths (2001 layoffs) and back again. After each ride there were less workers remaining to do more work; what had been fun became a loathsome burden.
Does this scenario sound familiar?
I wanted out, but my exit took 7 years.
I had been tinkering with an idea for a wallet that would hold a lot of cards but remain slim and flexible. In 2002, I filed patents on my Savvy Caddy wallet. I became a part-time inventor, still working full time in telecom. I saw inventing as a better career path: I could license my product, collect royalties and never have to “work” again. No more bureaucracy. That sounded like fun.
For a very long time, it didn't work out very well.
Inventing didn't offer me an escape, instead it felt like pouring precious capital into a bottomless pit. I filed two patents ($9,000 gone). After finding no success in licensing my product, I invested more money to manufacture it, package it and market it myself (another $5,000+). The good news was that buyers loved the product and told all their friends, it sold well to individuals. The bad news was that I was struggling: my invention business was consuming all my “spare” earnings from my full time job.
Inventor's Journey: 5 Years of Struggle
In 2009, I took Savvy Caddy to QVC and it sold well on TV. I was ecstatic!
I left telecom to invent full time, based upon my QVC success. Sayonara!
But, the hardest road was still ahead for me. In late 2010, my QVC success foundered as I got poor air times and QVC returned my remaining inventory. I had sold over 5,000 wallets on QVC, though, and I knew Savvy Caddy wallets could be a hit on TV.
But, the reality of making a full time living selling a $30 product hit me like a ton of bricks.
I needed substantial sales every day, week, and month just to pay the mortgage, other bills, business loans etc. I had a lot of debt and a lot of bills and barely enough income to run my business and pay everything else. So, I did what I had to do – I sold wherever I could whenever I could, all the time.
I hit the road, spending 2 to 3 weeks every month selling at military bases in San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Shreveport. I also sold at VA hospitals in Dallas and Houston. I sold on my website and on Amazon.com. I had to work 7 days per week.
I was working much harder and longer than I ever had in telecom, and I was making much less: I was barely staying afloat. I felt like a failure.Life was a daily struggle with lots of wear and tear on my car, my body and my psyche. Far from achieving success, I began to wonder if I was ever going to get out of the pit of debt and expenses I had created for myself.
But good things were just around the corner!
Finally Big Success on DRTV
In spite of everything, I never gave up.
For 5 years, I kept working to find a place on TV for my product with occasional successes. I got on morning shows in San Antonio yielding very nice sales bumps. An article in the Houston Chronicle on Thanksgiving 2011 created a mountain of wallet orders that really lifted my spirits. Meanwhile, I was talking with everyone I could find in the DRTV (direct response TV) industry – I wanted my wallets on nationwide infomercials and in retail stores.
In early 2014, after countless rejections, I found Bob Greenstone, CEO of Permission Interactive.
Unlike everyone else in DRTV I had contacted, Bob liked my wallets and felt they could sell well on DRTV. Furthermore, he was willing to take a capital risk to see if he and I were right – something no one else would do. He did a web test on the product and the metrics were excellent (90% of products fail web testing). Next he worked with a production company, shot a TV commercial and did TV testing. Metrics from TV testing were also successful (a rare occurrence).
We secured a licensing deal with Allstar Products, one of the largest in the DRTV space. They moved quickly, with a massive TV advertising campaign on major TV networks across the US. Next, they begun selling the new product Wonder Wallet on HSN. Now Wonder Wallets are rolling out into Walmart and other major retailers all over the US. I will be paid a royalty on every sale. Life is good!
So, I have trekked from successful engineer to struggling inventor to, finally, successful inventor! It has been an amazing and fascinating journey and the most rewarding part of the journey is just beginning.
Now my mission is to help other inventors to achieve success.
Believe in yourself, believe in your product. Work hard, be persistent and keep looking for the right path for your product. Check out my consulting website if you'd like to know more.