Have you got an amazing idea?
Is it something that will change the world?
Would you give up everything you have to turn your idea into a reality?
If you answered yes to those three questions, it’s likely that you have a bit of entrepreneurial blood in you. However, being entrepreneurial does not necessarily mean that you are business savvy, nor that you have the skills and practical expertise bring an idea to life.
This is where most people go wrong.
Often, people think that those three things are the only factors in raising capital, when investors barely consider them at all.
Admitting you need help is a difficult thing, and it becomes especially hard when you aren’t sure who or what to ask for. When all you have is an idea (even if you’re clear on that idea) it’s easy to become paralyzed by where to go next.
Seeking a patent for your idea may seem like the right move, and depending on the type of idea, you may be right. In 2015, there were almost 650,000 patent applications in the US, compared to only 300,000 in 2000, due in part to the rise of services like InventHelp.
However, patents are expensive, can take a long time to be issued, and even once you have one, they’re exceptionally hard to enforce if you have no entity with deep pockets behind you.
Finding mentors and advisors might also seem like a good idea, especially if you’re looking to put together a solid team to build your product, but you need to be clear on what these people will do for you. If they’re simply people who will answer an email once a year, they’re not very helpful.
If they will give you their time, money, and domain expertise (at a minimum), then they’re worth your time. But attracting people to an idea is difficult unless you’re a charismatic person, and keeping them around for very long is even harder.
Before spending your money on filing a patent or your valuable time on finding mentors and advisors, you need to validate your product.
As an investor, the main question I want answered about a product is:
How will this make me money?
As the founder, therefore, before you ever come think of coming to me, you need to have that answered back, front, upside down and sideways. Prove your concept.
This means you are going to have to put real time and effort (and probably a lot of your own, your friends and your family’s money) into talking to people, gathering data, building a prototype, and building buzz about what you’re doing before getting to the phase where someone else will put substantial money behind you.
Coincidentally, this is why the majority of Kickstarters and Indiegogo campaigns fail — if you try to launch them before you’ve validated your product, then you’ll quickly find that people aren’t interested. Instead, wait until you’ve gotten a moderate amount of interest in the form of a mailing list and social followers before attempting to crowdfund.
Stop wasting time trying to get other people interested in putting money behind your idea; instead, build something for them to be interested in.
When New York State went into quarantine in mid-March, Jeffrey Costello and Robert Tagliapietra had just moved JCRT, their direct-to-consumer shirt company, to a new office on Pier 59 in New York City. Founded in 2016, JCRT celebrates all things plaid and camouflage, with colorful patterns named after David Bowie and Kate Bush albums and movies such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Stuck in a rentalhome in rural New Jersey,the married Costello andTagliapietragot to work. Heartsick that the city that had been their base and home for years was the epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak, they wanted to do something to help friends on the frontlines.Costello began sewing masks from whatever sample fabrics he had on hand.Tagliapietra boxed them “by the hundreds” and the couplesentthem to wherever they heard PPE was needed.
“Everything was sort of unknown at that point,” Tagliapietra says. “We were very happy to be able to even do that.”
After sewing about 600 masks (“My hands were tired!” Costello jokes), they were able to reopentheir factory in the Dominican Republic, which been closed due to government quarantine and curfew rules, and began producing masks for sale and donation, giving more than 12,000 to first responders. They’re donating a portion of their retail sales to the New York City Covid-19 Emergency Relief Fund, benefiting health care workers, supporting small businesses, and vulnerable workers and families. Without any marketing other than their social feeds, Tagliapietra and Costello estimate they’ve sold 45,000 masks through JCRT and raised more than $65,000.
Now they’re selling masks and collared shirts made from a black, red, and green plaid, with proceeds going to Movement for Black Lives. Over the Father’s Day weekend, which also included the commemoration of Juneteenth, they donated 100 percentof the sales of those goods to the organization.
JCRT is a second act for Costello and Tagliapietra, who previously founded a women’s wear business called Costello Tagliapietra in 2005. Their runway shows were written up in glossy fashion magazines and the founders got a lot of press for their shared plaid-on-plaid aesthetic and impressive beards, which led to theirbeing dubbed “the lumberjacks of fashion.”
Keeping their operation small also allows the foundersto decide where and how to focus their energies, including supporting the causes they careabout. They’re nowat work on another fundraiser, this one for Pride month,with proceeds going to the Ali Forney Center, a New York City-based program for LGBTQ homeless youth.With their factory up and running, JCRT also continues to release new designs, sellingdressshirts, pants, jackets, bags, and accessoriesthrough their website.
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