I decided to tell a bit of my personal story because I think mirrors the experiences of many entrepreneurs and, especially, inventors. I will set the stage a bit like a novel with three different timeframes and what was going on in my life during each.
I had left a full time job in telecom to finally sell my invention – Savvy Caddy thin wallets on QVC.
I had devoted every free minute during the last 7 years to develop and sell my wallets in flea markets, fairs, online, wherever I could. But, working 55 hours per week in telecom left few hours for rest, and fewer hours for working my invention business. The Savvy Caddy venture had languished as a result.
QVC represented a real opportunity to revive my business and take it to the next level. I excitedly took the leap to go full-time in my business, to finally leave the stress and bureaucracy of the corporate world behind. I knew it would take some time, maybe 3 years, for my business to pay what I had earned in telecom, but I was ready to take a chance.
March 2013 – The Pits
QVC had been good, over 2 years, I had sold over 5,000 wallets. But that was far from enough to keep me and my business afloat. My choices were limited, I had borrowed to keep my business afloat and pay the bills. My business and personal debt had ballooned to over $100,000. I felt I was in a dark tunnel and thought I might never get out of debt or to any kind of financial stability. The corporate world didn't seem so bad after all by comparison.
I became a sort of traveling salesman, selling Savvy Caddy wallets at AAFES military bases in San Antonio, Oklahoma City, and Shreveport. Every week, I worked two days a week as a business counselor. Then, I hit the road for 5 days to sell at an AAFES military base (most of the time in San Antonio). On weekends, I sold my wallets at gun shows. I was working 7 days per week, 12 – 15 hours per day selling as much as I could whenever I could to keep the lights on and the bills paid – barely. I spent more time on the road than at home every month.
I wrote in my journal (slightly redacted):
I am at Randolph Air Force Base, it is cold and raining and hardly anyone in the BX except for me and other vendors. I have sold 2 wallets all day long, wow, $50. Here are my thoughts:
- Being away from home all the time is stressful, no fun at all.
- Traveling so much racks up travel and living expenses even when wallet sales aren't good.
- I am getting older and being on the run, with poor diet, no exercise and little sleep is taking a toll on me.
- I'm barely making ends meet each week and each month.
- If I were truly sick or ill for a week it would be a financial disaster for me and my business.
March 2016 – The Peak
In three short years things had changed dramatically for the better.
I worked hard to finally license my wallet design to a large infomercial company. They marketed the wallets, now called Wonder Wallet, in just about every retail store across the US and many in Canada and internationally. My royalty checks allowed me to do wonderful things like pay off all my business and personal debt, give more significantly to charitable causes and take a nice trip – to Australia for three weeks.
I wrote in my journal:
I'm in Cairns, Australia and my Aussie adventure is nearly complete.
Yesterday, I went out on a boat and snorkeled around the Great Barrier Reef. It was gorgeous and amazing to see. When I was in Sydney for 3 days, I drank a few brews in The Rocks district, had dinner one night at a restaurant where I roasted my own steak over a barbecue bit. I went to the Outback and visited Ayers Rock. Then out to Perth on the west coast – a gorgeous place.
I came back to Melbourne and enjoyed a few brews on the Yarra River with friends. Next I went to Brisbane, and finally to Cairns. Tomorrow it's back to Sydney and a 16 hour flight back to Dallas-Ft. Worth. Life is good, mate!
I hope my story inspires inventors to try again, to not give up. I don't recommend you follow my path, but if you work hard enough, you can indeed live a life many can barely imagine and will never achieve. To me, that is work some risk and a lot of effort.