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Your Great Idea Could Lead You to the Poor House

poor houseI’m sure you’ve heard the stories of crazy little inventions that go on to make their inventors millions. And you might have even thought how simple it was and then say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Take, for example, the case of Doggles. They are goggles for dogs and it’s more than a cute accessory item for purse dogs. They protect dogs from sun’s glare, block UV rays, and protect against dust, debris, and wind. Military dogs are wearing them. Rescue dogs wear them for protection against the extreme conditions in which they work. They sell for $19.95 and the company has sold millions of pairs.

It’s a simple concept and it looks like someone has made a fortune from it.

It’s stories like this that can lead you straight to the poor house, if you’re not careful. That’s because on the surface it looks like it’s just one easy step from having an idea to putting millions of dollars in the bank. In actuality, you have to design, build and test a new product. You probably have to design, build and test a couple of times. If you want to continue making money, you’re probably going to need some intellectual property protection. At this point, you haven’t made a dime and you could easily have spent $100,000 or more.

Now you have to convince someone to buy your product. You have to determine how you will fulfill orders, and where and how you will sell. Depending on the product, it could easily be another $100,000 or more to stock up with inventory, get your website going, and make the contacts to start selling your product.

And you still haven’t made any money. Next you need to find your customers, and even more importantly, your raving fans. That means building customer lists, marketing, advertising, promotion, and more. And finally you are ready to make money, hopefully.

A friend of mine recently told me the story of one of his clients who created an amazing coffee table book. It was beautifully illustrated and demonstrated simple ways to go green in everyday living. It had a retail price of $25. And the client had discovered a brand new target market: the homeless. He had developed a well-illustrated coffee table book that demonstrated how to be more ecologically aware in everyday things and wanted to sell them to homeless people.

The entire project cost him $70,000 and he never made any money. How much could he have saved by first running a little test of the market?

Taking an untested product to market can be the fast track to bankruptcy.

I’ve been a CPA for a long time now, and the biggest challenge I have is with clients who want to start a business and are following the above plan. They don’t have the time or the money to make it work, and so it’s doomed from the start. And instead of looking at the plan, they are looking for more money.

Instead of starting out with nothing, what if you could start your business with something? Find something to sell and start selling that. You don’t even need to pay to build an inventory and hire staff to ship a product if you work as an affiliate marketer. The seller pays you when one of your referrals buys. The seller has the inventory and ships the product. You just collect your fee! The most successful affiliate marketers create interest and sales through websites and Internet marketing.

There is one more benefit for the affiliate marketer. You are creating lists of possible customers for more products. You’re learning how to market, and you’re building a big Internet platform. With that background, you’re in a much better position to test market your new product before you put hundreds of dollars into building and testing it. You’ll have money. You’ll have a customer base. And you’ll have experience.

Build before you try something new, especially if it’s your first business. Otherwise, you’re likely to build a problem that money can’t fix.


Diane Kennedy, CPA US Tax Aid. Diane Kennedy, CPA helps business owners legally pay less tax. She’s the New York Times best-selling author of “Loopholes of the Rich,” “Real Estate Loopholes,” and 7 other best-selling financial and tax books. She’s also a business owner and real estate investor. Her motto is “It’s Your Money. Keep More Of It.”