The following is a guest post from the inventor I mentioned in my recent Friendly Good News post: Alan Beckley. We happened to hire into Boeing within six months of each other in 1980 and had almost identical jobs (as seen from the outside, at least). We both left Boeing eventually, though at different times and for different reasons. We, like so many other people, are redefining our work selves, which is why I am posting his story here. Regular readers have witnessed my story. Here’s part II of III of his. (For more of his story, check out his blog for inventors; Ideaworth.
Engineer to Inventor – In 3 Easy Steps – by Alan Beckley (aka @SavvyCaddy)
The American Dream: this is my journey and transition from what I did then to what I do now.
How I struck it Rich as an Inventor of a Sell On TV Product
After a brief and successful two-year period selling my Savvy Caddy wallets on QVC ended, I soon found myself selling wherever and whenever I could as a vendor for my wallets. I worked 7 days per week selling at military bases in BXs and PXs, later at VA hospitals and at gun shows on weekends.
I met a lot of interesting people and made a lot of new friends, but my schedule was grueling, often working 16 hour days, including managing my online sales during the evenings. I was barely scraping by and paying the bills each month; I knew there was a better path for my product but my mounting debt and miniscule time gave me few options.
I saw DRTV (direct response TV or infomercials) as my last best chance to achieve my American Dream – a means to enjoy the fruits of prosperity and get my life back.
I had a rock solid conviction that my wallets would be a hit selling on TV commercials, then in retail stores, catalogs and on home shopping networks. The esoteric world of the DRTV industry seemed a glitterati of a few uber-successful inventive products surrounded by a vast wasteland of wannabe winners – many good or even great products – not destined for DRTV success.
I vowed to do whatever it took to join the glitterati, not the wannabe winners; but how?
I assembled my marketing material and began contacting each of the key players in DRTV. There are perhaps a dozen companies that manufacture, produce and distribute the lion’s share of DRTV products. So, I approached one at a time, rather than submitting to several at once. I felt that if several rejected me simultaneously, others would be unwilling to even consider my product. It turns out that the rejection rate is so high and the success chances are so slim it didn’t much matter.
I persistently presented my product over a four year period to everyone of note in DRTV; not once, but multiple times.
The response was eerily similar with each company: my product was interesting but not a DRTV product. None of my contacts could enunciate why specifically the wallets were not suitable for DRTV. I was convinced that they were wrong; I just needed a champion, an advocate who believed in my wallets enough to give them a test drive.
In early 2014 I found my advocate: Bob Greenstone, CEO of Permission Interactive.
Unlike everyone I’d previously contacted, Bob saw the potential of my product for DRTV. He decided to risk his own money to test the wallets: first with a web test to thousands of recipients. When the web test was successful, he worked with a production company – more capital risk – to shoot a commercial and then do a TV test: run the commercial on live television. The TV test was also successful and Bob knew the product had strong potential for DRTV success.
He took it to Allstar Products, showed them the test results and they liked what they saw. We signed a licensing agreement with Allstar Products to manufacture, package, and distribute my product everywhere.
This year Allstar Products did a nationwide TV campaign for my product, now named the Wonder Wallet. After thirteen years of hard work, my product has joined the DRTV glitterati. Wonder Wallet sells in Walmart, Bed Bath and Beyond, CVS and many other retailers across the US and Canada and on home shopping giant HSN.
My American Dream has finally been realized: my product is a huge commercial success and my life has been transformed.
I no longer work 7 days a week; the license royalties cover all my expenses and more. I manage my new found prosperity carefully: I live on about 1/3rd of my income, I set aside another 1/3rd for taxes, and a final 1/3rd for debt reduction, investments and charities. If my royalty payments go up, that is great, but since I live on considerably less than I make, I am okay if the royalties decrease (which is very likely over time).
Since I no longer must work for a living in the conventional sense, I am now free to use my time as I see fit. I have done some traveling and will be working on home refurbishment. I now take the time to work out and get physically fit. Lastly, I have already begun working on developing other products for the market: my own and those of other inventors.
Life is good.