One day, Patricia Nolan-Brown was driving in downtown Boston with her young child in a rear-facing car seat in the back seat, as required by law. On arriving home, she complained to her mother about the frustration of not being able to see the child as she was driving to make sure that she was okay. In her book, Idea to Invention, Nolan-Brown describes how she told her mother that “Somebody should invent some kind of a special mirror so you could see your kid in the stupid rear-facing car seat.” To which her mother replied, “Why don’t you invent one?”
Nolan-Brown did just that and transformed that one day of frustration into a lucrative career as an inventor and entrepreneur who would sell millions of her products. In Idea to Invention, she emphasizes that you don’t have to have a business degree from Harvard or trust-fund seed money to invent and sell products. “The first thing you need to know about me is that I’m an ordinary person,” she writes, and her book is clearly designed for readers who are looking for the basic steps for turning their dreams into reality.
What It Takes
Successful people, according to Nolan-Brown, display the following characteristics:
- They are inquisitive. “An inventor’s best friend,” she writes, “is curiosity.”
- They have the nerve. Many people have great ideas but don’t have the self-confidence to make it happen.
- They have a strong voice.
- They communicate passion and truth.
- They have energy.
- They keep their bodies healthy and their minds sharp.
- They nourish their dreams. If their passion or commitment begins to fade, they find inspiration and courage in workshops or seminars, biographies and autobiographies, mentors and networking, and a variety of other sources.
- They are tenacious. They believe in what they are doing and refuse to give up.
Not coincidentally, the first letter of these six success personality traits form the acronym INVENT.
Once Nolan-Brown has explored the six personality traits, she offers readers her six steps to invention.
Think it. It all starts with an idea. Start with what you know; then think outside the box.
Cook it. Is your idea marketable? Will it sell? What does a prototype look like? These are the questions that need to be answered to start moving the idea from just an intellectual concept.
Protect it. Nolan-Brown guides potential entrepreneurs through what they have to do — and they might not have to do — to protect their idea.
Pitch it. Entrepreneurs must know how to generate excitement around their idea, which might involve social media, trade shows and more.
Make it. Should you license the idea and have others put it together, assemble the product, or outsource it to an overseas manufacturer?
Bedazzle it. This is the bells and whistle phase, making sure the product attracts buyers for years to come.
Every chapter in Idea to Invention is filled with concise, practical advice. In the “Make It” chapter, for example, she explains the advantages and disadvantages of licensing. She warns that online submission companies are paid to do what you could probably do just as easily. She explains some of the basics of starting a business, describes the challenge of outsourcing manufacturing, and offers the essential steps for at-home DIY assembly.
Nolan-Brown ends the book with an inspirational chapter called “You Can Make It Happen.” But perhaps the true inspiration is found through the clear and practical information she conveys, which reinforces that anyone can follow in the footsteps of this “ordinary” person.