Do you have a new product or service that you have just created, yet you are not quite sure the most efficient way to get your great idea on the market and in front of your customers? Maybe some aid and support are in order especially if your most daunting hurdle is how to acquire financing and professional assistance in order to introduce, offer, and/or manufacture your new and innovative widget.
I feel in a way as if I may have come to your rescue. I discovered a great story supporting the fact that there is room for that next great generation of great products. The best part is there is help in the form of federal and state programs available to get those products on the market. Believe me, there is assistance and guidance out there for the introduction of new products and services. To complete the steps to successfully bring your idea to market you simply need to know where to look for the assistance that you may require. Now let’s look at the story of leanlix and discover how there innovative product went from mishap, to idea, to a tangible product.
There’s got to Be Something Better
Our intriguing tale (no pun intended) starts on a snowy day in early 2010. Sharon Da Dalto was training Grace, her lovable and high-spirited golden retriever. The beginning of the end came when Sharon removed her glove to hand-feed Grace and got bit in the process. Puppies will do that. Personally, my right ear is evidence of that particular fact. Back to our story, at that point Sharon thought, “There’s got to be a better way.” She mulled over this notion as she massaged her cold, bruised hand.
On a relatively regular basis Sharon gives Grace a little lick of marshmallow fluff as a reward for positive behavior. It so happened that the following day after the biting incident Sharon hastily grabbed a jar of marshmallow fluff from the kitchen counter. Grace got a lick of the jar and received her reward. In this case, Grace wasn’t the only one happy. Sharon’s fingers were safe from those razor-sharp puppy teeth. At that point Sharon had the idea of lickable dog treats. The road to end puppies accidently chomping on unsuspecting human digits had begun.
Sharon used her 16 years of business experience with Nordstrom’s in order to create a training reward for dogs. Sharon knew that the treat needed to include the following qualities.
- Low in calories
- Appeal to a dog’s palate
- Easy for dog owners to use
- Priced at the best price point
- A treat dogs are able to lick rather than chew
Sharon utilized Grace as her one-dog focus group. Sharon finally came up with six nutritious dog-friendly varieties after months of experimentation. The final flavors included such creative names as:
- Runaway Frank
- Day at the Beach
- Dishwasher Diner
- Cupcake on the Counter
Relatively speaking, the easy part was designing the lickable treats and naming the flavors. Now Sharon had to face how to go about financing her unique idea.
You’re undoubtedly familiar with the saying, “It’s not always what you know it’s who you know.” Luckily for Sharon she had a great network of business contacts. Sharon had a friend and small business owner who suggested that Sharon contact the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Highline Community College (HCC) in southwest King County. Sharon became acquainted with SBDC advisor Zev Siegl and began meeting with Siegl on a regular basis. Siegl and Sharon collaborated on a business plan, performed market analysis and determined financial projections.
The meetings would typically start with Sharon asking questions and end with devising a list of next steps. Sharon interjects, “To the best of my ability, I did every single thing he asked me to do”. Sharon continues, “Siegl is not only a business expert and objective sounding board, he is a key resource for finding expertise in diverse areas, from copy-writing to private equity offerings”.
The SBDC at HCC is one of more than two dozen SBDC centers located in communities across the state of Washington that provide
- Market research
- Demand-driven training
- One-to-one business advising
These services are available to both new and established small business owners at no cost to the client. As a sidebar, SBDC also is staffed with international trade specialists to assist small businesses in identifying and/or expanding export potential.
SBDC Creates Network Contacts
Brett Rogers, the SBDC State Director says, “The capability to connect clients with experts and seasoned professionals is one of the intentional strengths of the Washington SBDC network”. Rogers adds, “Not only do advisors have their own mental Rolodex of key contacts for specific information, but they also have access to the diverse expertise and experience of more than two dozen other advisors in the network”.
Devising Financing Strategies
Siegl guided Sharon to uncover the information needed in order to understand exactly how much was required to bring the product to market. A commercial loan was one option. However, Sharon and her husband weren’t comfortable with that particular option. From there Siegl suggested Sharon take a look at investor funding. Siegl played a major role in the drafting of a small equity offering that adhered to the standards of the state’s Department of Financial Institutions. This type of offering provides critical protections to:
- The company
- The company founder
Within 3 short months, Sharon’s business was fully subscribed at $85,000. The speed with which Sharon was able to acquire investors is a testament to the attractiveness of the product, the ability to communicate the passion for the product, and the comprehensiveness of the business plan and financial projections.
Sharon concludes, “Everyone’s natural tendency is to focus on what they do well”. Therefore Sharon’s focus tended to be on the creative side.
- The packaging
- The display units
- Promotional materials
Sharon’s SBDC advisor was the key factor when the time came to analyze the financial side and gather market research in order to obtain funding for the product.
SBDC Achieves 97% Recommendation Rate
According to a 2011 survey of Washington SBDC clients, more than 90 percent reported that their business benefited from utilizing SBDC services. Among the questions, respondents were asked if they would recommend the SBDC to friends and business contacts, 97% indicated, “Yes”.
Sharon is counted among those positive respondents. Due to financing from investors, Sharon was able to establish the production facility on June 1, 2012. Sharon’s company, leanlix, is now available in more than 30 stores in 13 states. Sharon gives big thanks to the SBDC. The proud owner of leanlix concludes, “It’s such a great program and more people need to know about it. It can help anybody.”
Learn more about leanlix at http://www.leanlix.com.
Two additional resources available to small businesses
Sound Business Assistance (SBA) is an incredible small business resource. SBA is available through the Metropolitan Development Council in Tacoma. SBA supports individuals who are contemplating starting or expanding a small business in the State of Washington. SBA is a non-profit organization supported by the community.
Existing small business owners will gain tremendous information and assistance enabling those businesses to be more effective in securing financing to expand existing business. SBA offers such services as:
- Free Business Counseling
- Free Business Workshops
- Fee-Based Entrepreneurial Training Course
is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses become established, expand and achieve goals. SCORE offers mentoring, workshops, counseling, and online tools. SCORE has been providing assistance for nearly fifty years.
The work of SCORE is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and a network of 13,000+ volunteers. Therefore, SCORE is able to deliver services at no charge or at very low cost.Tweet