Image of inventor and entrepreneur, Marcy McKenna, creating a prototype in her workshop.

Secrets To Prototype Success

inventing 101

Prototype success is much harder than you might think. For many, figuring out how to have a prototype made can be a complete mystery and a major challenge. I created this video to help you through the process and to set you up for success as you take the next step in bringing your product idea to life. I share the multiple prototype development strategies that I've had success with and that can save you a ton of money and also dramatically reduce the amount of time it takes to get a prototype made to your liking. If you're hiring a company or an engineer to create your prototype, make sure you don't miss the important tips and communication strategies I include that can help ensure the prototype they're hired to deliver aligns with your vision and expectations.

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Below is the full transcript of Secrets To Prototype Success.  Please note in this episode Marcy is speaking extemporaneously – she is unscripted and unedited. 

Hey there it's Marcy McKenna back with another video and if you are an inventor or an entrepreneur or you're someone who just has a great idea for a product and you're considering having a prototype made for that product idea then this is a video that you want to watch because it could save you thousands of dollars and so much time and so much frustration. You have no idea. So let's go ahead and get started.

 I am so glad you're here because the topic of this video is something that comes up a lot when I'm consulting with inventors and entrepreneurs. Inventors and entrepreneurs who have hired somebody to create a prototype for them early on and sadly, these conversations that occur usually have a lot of frustration tied to them.

 They have spent a lot, usually thousands and thousands of dollars on a prototype and what was delivered to them many, many months later. So a lot of wasted time and frustration in that process. What was delivered is far below what their expectations were. Sometimes it so bad just you've got to trash it and start over.

 So, in hopes of helping somebody else who's getting ready to do the same thing, set themselves up for success when hiring somebody to create a prototype. I wanted to create this video to bring attention to those things that you need to consider when you're hiring somebody. This is a lot of money that you're going to be spending on a prototype if that's the decision that you've made.

 The first thing I want to say is, before you do that, have you exhausted all of the other means for creating a prototype? In other words, have you created a prototype on your own at home with the tools and things that you just happen to have around the house or maybe you take a trip to Home Depot or Ace Hardware and pick up those little things that you might need to create a home grown prototype.

 You're creating a proof of concept. You want to make sure this thing actually works. So that's what I always recommend straight out of the gate. And then from there, what I recommend, if you've seen my other videos, you already know this is to hire somebody or even have somebody work for free that just wants the experience to create the next level prototype for you.

 For instance, I give the example of my very first prototype. I went to a local college. It was a city college. And they have a wood woodworking program. So I went to the wood shop and I looked for somebody who would be willing to create a wood prototype for me and for my product. And sure enough, I found actually a couple of different people, but I hired one  and did not have to pay them very much money.

 They did a great job. They were just so happy to be able to be a part of something exciting, something that could someday be a true product on the store shelves. And sure enough, that product did end up selling on HSN and QVC and Lowe's and oh, gosh Bed, Bath and Beyond and the Container Store and all over the place.

 So sometimes people just want to be a part of something like that. So that is sort of second level prototype and that one was enough for me to go and present the product to the big retailers. To get their buy in on it. So sometimes that's all you need. And then the third thing I want to tell you about is the idea of doing a 3D rendering.

 A photorealistic 3D rendering or even a 3D animation. Instead of a prototype. Now lots of times you do need that working prototype but sometimes the product is simple enough where it can be represented especially if you're going to be licensing it and not manufacturing it yourself. It can be represented on a sell sheet  and on a website landing page with a really great rendering that makes it look like the product already exists.

 So that's an option as well. If you've looked at all of those different options and you've decided, okay, now I'm ready for the big guns. Now I'm going to go hire somebody. The reason I'm creating this video today is that I did just get off a consulting call today with a woman, wonderful woman with a great product idea.

 And she came to me with such frustration $6,000 on a prototype and she was actually ready to spend even more than that. So this is the initial stage of that prototype and what she showed me today that was delivered to her was awful. It broke my heart because you know, if you're an inventor, you know how excited you are about your idea, you know, in your head, what your vision is for that.

 And when you meet with a big prototyping company, you envision that what they deliver you is exactly what's in your head. And when it comes and it's sort of a crude representation of, if you could even call it that, of what your vision was, it's just, it's, it's heart wrenching. It is just there are no words to how disappointing that can be.

 So not only because you've lost all that money, but in her case it had taken six months to get to this point. And she really feels like she needs to basically throw it in the trash and start over. So I want to set you up for success when you have those meetings with those bigger companies, because you probably will spend a lot of money and it probably will take quite a bit of time.

 So you want to make sure that you. Have taken every step possible to set yourself up for success. Not just you're setting yourself up, but setting them up for success. You guys are on the same team. So many times I find that inventors turn their idea over. Maybe it's a presentation or something over to the engineer.

 And then they walk away and they just wait. They can't wait for the moment when the engineer says it's ready to come pick up. Or we're going to put it in the, we're going to ship it to you. And they can't wait for that moment when they do the unboxing. And. Then it is just a major fail. So if you've exhausted all of those other resources for creating a prototype, if you've made one yourself, if you've maybe hired someone that was inexpensive, could be even a freelancer on free up or any one of the freelancing sites that are out there these days.

 But if you've done that and now you're ready to move on to a real professional style prototype and you're actually going to hire an engineering person or an engineering firm to do this for you, I want to ensure that you're setting both yourself. And this company or this person up for success because so often what I find and I get it, I've been there.

 Is that we're so excited about our idea and so excited to see it come to life and what that prototype is going to look like and how it's going to function that we sort of eagerly hand everything over to this person that we're going to be working with on it. And then we walk away and we sit and wait and we, we cannot wait for that moment when they call or they email and they tell you it's ready and then they're going to ship it to you and you get to unbox it and see the finished product.

 Right? I mean, it's pretty special moment. Or you get to go pick it up and you get to meet with them in person and you get to see it for the first time. But sadly, what I find, more often than not, is that moment turns really bad. When you open it, it's so far below what your expectation was. Sometimes it's unrecognizable from what you envisioned it to be.

 And as you can imagine, that is so heartbreaking, so heart wrenching, and I don't want that to happen to you. So, to set yourself up for success when you hire somebody, it's imperative that you look at this as a partnership. It's imperative that you not be sitting on two separate sides of the table, but rather you guys are coming together to take this vision for your product idea and bring it to life together.

 So, communication during that whole process is key. Super important. And again, so often we just go away and wait for that moment. But what you should really be doing is insisting on photos every step of the way. If they're looking at different kinds of components to add in to make the functionality of your product better, you want to see those components.

 You want to make sure you approve every component in the process. Don't go. Cover your eyes and wait to be surprised so every single element, but up front you want to make sure you're detailing every Possible thing you can detail everything that you know that you want you should be putting into a document I use there's a platform that I love called Snagit that makes it really, really easy to communicate what I want to someone that's creating a prototype for me or to the manufacturer of my product ultimately.

 And so it lets me cut and paste different things that, you know, maybe in my case when I'm making luggage or something, I, there's a zipper pull that I really love. I can cut and paste that and then I can comment details on it, make it bigger this way and, you know of a millimeter bigger this way. So every detail is communicated.

 So there is nothing that is left up to translation or interpretation. So I try to think of, even though they're very intelligent, I think of them as four year olds just for the sake of. Avoiding future revisions, if I can think of them as four year olds and spoon feed them every single thing and talk to them in very minute detail, then the finished product is going to be what I envision it to be.

 But rather if I talk vaguely and I let them, you know, kind of do their own thing, so much is left up to interpretation that the finished product is nowhere near. What the vision was. So I really would encourage you to use platforms like Snagit and others. There's other tools that I use as well to make sure that I am turning over to them a very detailed document with pictures, with images, with everything they could ever want or need to execute my vision.

 So super, super important. The other thing is outlining Exactly what you're expecting in the end. Are you expecting them just to turn over this prototype and then you guys are done? Or do you want to know what the cost of goods are? Do you want to know what the production lead time is going to be for this and why it might be longer for this product over something else?

 Do you want them to suggest other materials that maybe you hadn't already thought of? So Every engineer is different, and some of them automatically will do all of that, but some of them are very literal, and they will only do exactly what you tell them. So, you'll find yourself disappointed if they didn't, in the end, you're looking at this product going, well, why didn't you do that better?

 Why didn't you find something that helps it open and close easier than this does? Well, you didn't tell me to. So that should be written down, that you want them to suggest, whether it's materials, components just ideas for product design, that you're looking at this as a partnership and you want their help and their suggestions.

 Definitely outline that. Say it, and then write it. Everything should be in writing so that you can reference it later. And that they can reference it obviously during the process. And then if some things aren't, you're feeling like things are maybe going off the rails a little bit, you can go back to that document.

 And you can sit down with them and go over it again and make sure you guys are aligned. So those things are just so crucial. And yet so few people do that, do it, do things, do it that time. On a such a detailed level, that is really what's necessary for success when you're prototyping. And then the other thing is how you're going to pay for it, whether you're paying hourly or what is it a project based contract.

 There's so many different ways to configure it. So, you know, really think about that. I tend to, to. Not like doing the hourly because that there can just be so many issues with that. And, and I just, I just don't like how, how it's just too vague for me. I like to have a project based relationship. Also something else is if you're going to be paying for components along the way that you want to approve those costs because you ultimately know how much, what is that sweet spot that your customer is going to be willing to pay.

 So you need to make sure that the prototype that they're producing is going to be able to be manufactured for the cost that will lead to the retail that your customer is willing to pay. Because if you end up with this prototype that is, looks amazing, functions amazing, but then you find out that the cost to produce it is up here when you need it to be here, then it's all for naught.

 Then you have a really cool sculpture to put on your living room shelf for everybody to see, but you don't have a product and you don't have a business. So it's not, you're not just hiring someone to create something that looks good. You're hiring someone to create something that can make the numbers work so that you can create a business and make money or that you can license it to a company that will do that.

 So lots of things to consider. My point being in this video is to not go into it blindly. Yes, we're passionate. Yes, we get excited. But let's slow down and think through all of the elements that are important. And I know I covered a lot in this. So what I've done is I put all of this into a document that you can download for free that is going to kind of advise you on those different points that you want to be communicating.

 To whoever it is that you're hiring. The contractual points that you want to make sure are included. So you've got all that there. And then I've also included links to some of the tools that I use when I'm trying to communicate most efficiently with the people that I hire. So I'm hopeful that all of that is helpful for you.

 And again, you can, I'll link it below and you can download that. And if you're new to my YouTube channel, I should have welcomed you in the beginning. So welcome. And I would encourage you to be a subscriber because by subscribing, it doesn't cost a thing. I know a lot of people think that

 subscribing to YouTube costs money, does not cost any money, but you do get notified every time I upload new content and I do have a lot of great content planned in the near future. So I do hope you subscribe and I hope to see you back inside my next video.






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