Want to learn how to license your ideas? start here


Most people are motivated to learn more about the product licensing process after being struck by a specific idea that they can’t stop thinking about. But if you’re creative and regularly dream up new ways to live life, I recommend you start mastering the art of licensing by applying your ingenuity to novelty gifts.

The novelty gift industry is perfect for beginners for many reasons. On the one hand, inventing novelty gift products is fun. These products exist to spark joy and make people feel good. Companies that produce original gifts are constantly on the lookout for new ideas. They offer a wide range of products for all seasons and all reasons. And finally, the requirements for submitting an idea are minimal: you don’t need a prototype or patent for licensing. This is the main reason why it is easier to get started in this industry.

Basically, your job is to make everyday objects look slightly different in a way that makes someone smile. You don’t solve problems; you are humorous. Designer Rebecca Chitty, who creates quirky gifts for museums, has great examples on his website.

Here are my tips for empowering your fancy gift ideas.

1. Study the company’s product line very carefully.

Pay close attention to price, materials, and their stated mission. Your goal is to make it easy for them to say yes. Show them something that fits into what they already do.

2. Become an idea factory.

By constantly exercising your creative strength, you can teach yourself to come up with many ideas quickly. Don’t expect to fire your first idea. It happens, but it’s not typical.

3. Bring your ideas to life.

Sketch it. If you’re not good at drawing, partner with an illustrator who is, or try an online design program.

4. Don’t give up too soon.

Keep submitting your ideas and asking for feedback. You will learn as you go. Remember that licensing is a numbers game.

5. Give it time.

Companies can take a long time to review your submissions and respond to you. If you are polite, you will be perceived as a potential asset and not as a nuisance.

6. Enjoy the work.

You create products that make people smile, after all.

Recently, I had the pleasure of helping a 14 year old license his novelty gift invention to Genuine Fred. When Connor Owen was 12, he had the idea for a bookmark that doubles as a whoopie cushion. With the help of his younger sister, who designed a prototype and provided funds to order a small inventory, he began selling his invention online and at a local candy store, where it quickly sold out.

Over time, he realized he would do well to bring in an experienced partner with a great cast. Now his bookie cushion is receiving rave reviews online and will soon be sold to Barnes & Noble.

By starting out in the novelty gift industry, Owen was able to learn the skills of product licensing. Now the sky is the limit.

When I asked him what advice he would give to people who want to license their ideas, he replied, “Information is not enough to produce results”, something he learned from entrepreneur Derek Sivers listening to The Tim Ferriss.

“One of Derek’s points that I love is, ‘If more information was the answer, we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs,'” Owen said. “Sivers stressed that you have to work.”

He is right. A lot of people who have ideas don’t believe they can make them happen, so they never even try. The licensing business model breaks down barriers by allowing creatives to focus on what they do best.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.


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