Diary of a Young Entrepreneur – market research and PR

In the third of her monthly blog posts charting her journey towards taking an invention to market, young entrepreneur Rowena Mead does her market research and looks forward to product prototypes.
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20th July 2007 at 10:28 am

In the third of her monthly blog posts charting her journey towards taking an invention to market, young entrepreneur Rowena Mead does her market research and looks forward to product prototypes.

Previous entries in the series:

1. Diary Of A Young Entrepreneur – innovation or bust?

2. Diary Of A Young Entrepreneur – protection and prototypes

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After filing for intellectual property protection, market research was my next vital step. Who would buy my product? How many people would buy it? How much would it cost? Designing good questionnaires isn’t easy and it’s always best to trial them which is what I did with mine.

I also needed to find someone to make the product prototypes. My first port of call was the KnowledgeRICH scheme aimed at putting universities with an appropriate skills base in contact with inventors requiring help.

The scheme is completely free – no catches. KnowledgeRICH benefits from any work you end up commissioning. An email is sent out to universities in the area with a brief. Those which might be able to help respond, and KnowledgeRICH puts you in touch with them.

While trying to secure somewhere to do my market research, I’d been advised that generating some publicity would be good now that I’d all my IP applications in place. After keeping my lips sealed for so long, I was desperate to tell people more about my idea. So, after checking first with my patent attorney, I wrote a press release and sent it to a few newspapers.

Doing your own DIY PR is a very cheap way of getting some media coverage, and for me, it was the local York Press which came up trumps. I got a full page in the business section. If I’d have wanted to buy this space, it would have cost me thousands.

But finding somewhere to do my market research was trickier. I thought it would be very easy to approach some local baby groups as I had a child myself and felt sure that I’d be allowed to ask other parents some questions. Surprisingly I had very little success. I searched the business directories and left numerous messages which went unreturned. I even contacted mumsnet, the online forum for parents all over the U.K, but no success there. I think they thought I was undercover for Colgate-Palmolive!

It wasn’t until I was flicking through a local children’s activities newsletter for inspiration that I found the perfect host, a huge indoor soft play centre called Creepy Crawlies. I’d been there myself and knew that there were parents with children of all ages. It would be great. So I called them up, and they said yes immediately. They even asked if I wanted to set up a stand. Fantastic!

I arranged to go for three days, with the aim of getting 100 questionnaires completed. In fact I got 105 questionnaires done and data on 127 children, which was a great result. My stand generated a lot of interest too with parents asking me if they could buy the product there and then.

Analysing all the data was a challenge, but GCSE maths got me through it!

By this point, KnowledgeRICH had been back in touch with the results of my application for prototype help. Definitely another chapter altogether …

Rowena Mead

Rowena Mead is a freelance copywriter and entrepreneur with ambitious plans to bring a new type of children's toothbrush to market. Married with a 20 month old mischievous daughter named Saskia who was the inspiration behind her invention, Rowena shares her business trials, tribulations and successes with SmallBizPod readers. http://www.subservientcopy.com

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