We have all been there. You get an idea all of a sudden, and it keeps on buzzing the whole day. You get excited at the prospect of turning it into reality and releasing it out in the market.
With determination, you start working on it but you get hit with many questions: “How do I start?”, “How do I market?”, etc.
We came across Karina Rabin who, along with her husband Jared Rabin, has successfully launched Hang-O-Matic which now sells at more than 12,000 retail stores. Here, she shares her insights on dos and don’ts during your journey.
Tell us a little about you and how you got started as an inventor?
Karina Rabin: My husband Jared Rabin was the one that invented the Hang-O-Matic when he was in college back in the year 2000. We met in 2008 and I helped him further along by pushing him into getting it manufactured and I contacted all the retail stores that we are in.
What is the first thing a new inventor should consider?
They need to ask themselves if they have the MONEY and TIME it takes to get the product into the market. A lot of people this year have this thought that, once they build it, then the investor will just come along or the licensing deal will appear on their front doorstep. That is not the case at all. In fact, inventing is really expensive and getting the product to market is very time-consuming. They need to consider their current lifestyle: does it allow them to put the time into this and can they afford it with their current finances? Whatever you decide, don’t quit your day job. You must go into this with a mindset that you can do it on your own and should the assistance come along then it’s welcomed with open arms but not required.
What should a new inventor do after they have determined the target market?
This is difficult to answer without knowing where they have been prior to figuring out their target market, but let’s assume that they have created the product and are ready to market it with full source. The next step they need is to contact the retailers where “that target market” shops or if they were planning on having an e-commerce store, then they would do target advertising around “that target market”.
What are the things an inventor should avoid?
Cutting corners! Do not cut corners to save a few dollars. When you cut corners, you only get the wrong information or hire the wrong people that bring you a step back rather than a step forward. If you do skip step 2 and 3 to get to 4, then you will end up spending more money and ending back up at step 1 and lose a lot of time in between. We cut corners by hiring an inexpensive packaging designer and then didn’t test his work. We didn’t do a focus group to test his design and printed 50 boxes which were shipped to Jo-ann’s Stores and those boxes ended up not selling, we never received a re-order, and we had to hire another packaging designer. However, we didn’t learn from out 1st mistake and did the same thing the 2nd time and lost Michaels Stores this time. Both craft stores are a pretty big deal in our industry with our Picture Hanging Tool. We couldn’t afford to lose them, but we did. But, 3rd time’s a charm, we hired an “As Seen on TV” packaging design company that tested the box for us and since then it has been smooth sailing with our product. We have gained more retailers and received re-orders, Hobby Lobby is now one of our largest craft customers.
How did you finance your business, and how have your finances changed as you’ve grown your business?
We have been watching Shark Tank for 4 years prior to launching Hang-O-Matic and we often heard that once you receive a PO from a large retailer that banks will welcome us with open arms and fund our orders. Well, that didn’t happen for us, because the three banks we went to didn’t have a relationship with the retailers we had POs from. We appeared on a reality TV show with four inventors who didn’t believe in and support our business and ultimately we were faced with selling our dream home that we build from dirt. We were willing and able to do what it takes to get Hang-O-Matic into retail stores. I am excited to share that in four years we became profitable and were able to afford a new home.
We were able to increase our business line of credit and as we grew into more retail stores, we learned how to negotiate with our vendors to COD to 30 days from 60 to 90 days.
What secrets have you learned in terms of marketing your product and getting it into stores?
Two Words: Sales Pitch! This is by far the biggest secret sauce that I have learned and perfected as we were pitching retail buyers online via email. Buyers seek new products every day and entrepreneurs pitch retailers every day. There’s only so many hours in a day that a retail buyer has time for, and I had to figure out how to stand out among the rest. The Pitch must be written like an elevator pitch that the buyer would understand. The pitch has to include the why, the how, and the what in order to get the first foot through the door and I followed up, followed up, and never stopped following up until one buyer wrote me back and said, “Stop! I got your email!” That opened up the conversation, and now the Hang-O-Matic is selling more than they expected on a weekly basis.
Any strategy you follow while pitching your product?
Absolutely! My pitch is relatable, different than your general,”Hi, I’m Karina and I’m the co-founder of Hang-O-Matic, an all-in-one picture hanging tool. I would love to chat with you further.”
This is what most people send. I don’t mind my pitching being a little longer. In fact, it should be longer. It should talk about what your product does, what it is for, and the biggest missing piece that many have is “Why should the buyer talk with you?”. And, the pitch cannot be vague. You cannot tell anyone that the reason they should talk to you is that there’s nothing on the market like it. That is not true and they know it. Everyone has some sort of similar friendly competition. Perhaps two Shampoos are not the same, but they are still Shampoo.
What advice would you offer other inventors developing products?
Please, please, please: before you choose to become an inventor – and I said choose not decide – before you choose, please ask yourself, “Can you afford it?”, ” Do you have the strength to fight through all the challenges, and do you have the time to deal with it because its a LONG journey to success and no one gets wealthy overnight”. Inventing is not a get rich business by any means. Unless you have created the newest sponge and the sponge gets used and purchased again. Hang-O-Matic is an All-In-One Picture hanging tool that measures, levels, and marks the wall at the same time. It is THE 1st tape measure of its kind to Level and Mark, but people only need ONE.
Interviewed by: Sparsha and Surya.