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Saturday, February 24, 2024

College 101: Getting the Word Out About a Product

I am studying industrial design, and it is really encouraged in my program to design stuff that is useful to a specific audience. But I want to go a step farther. I identify as a young entrepreneur, and I have got an idea that I really think will be successful but I don’t have that many connections that could pay off for a product like this. So how would I do that? How would I get the word out about something I’ve built? And what are some other next steps that I should take?

It is one thing to come up with a great idea. It is something else entirely to take advantage of that idea and to try to get it to market. Entrepreneurship is defined by a mix of good luck, persistence, and know-how. While we can not give you the first, and you seem to have the second, we can definitely offer you a little bit of the third to help you on your way.

First, you may want to consider taking an independent study course to pursue this project, or even a semester off. The fact is that demonstration products are often of a higher quality than those manufactured in student workshop. It may take you another few months of prototyping to get something ready for show-and-tell. When it comes to prototyping, Entrepreneur Magazine suggests partnering with a professional developer to bring your product to life, factory-ready.  If you are designing an industrial part, a potential customer may want to use it on their machines then and there, which means that your part must be ready to withstand that kind of pressure and use. Looking into a partner to help you with that type of advanced industrial design will be well worth the time and investment, as it will also help you widen your circle of associates in your chosen field. 

Let’s face it, though: prototyping requires money, and as a student, you probably don’t have a lot of it. It’s times like this you should look to your institution for grants that may support your work. Colleges and universities often offer competitive scholarships for research, which your project would likely be considered. The Small Business Administration offers grants and loans to entrepreneurs, which may be useful for your cause. If you are close to graduating, or are able to afford a few months off, you could consider joining a startup accelerator. An accelerator will offer you the time and space to work on your product, the chance to network with other startup founders, and, at the end, the chance to pitch your product to investors.

If you are looking to cast a wider net, there are tons of databases that offer information to new and startup businesses. For a small fee, you can purchase contact lists to individuals and businesses in your field of interest. InfoUSA, one of the companies offering this type of data, has over 2.1 million businesses in their database. If you are interested in utilizing a service like this, there are a few different routes to take. You can craft email campaigns to appeal to different demographics and possible businesses. Alternatively, with a little bit of upfront investment you can roll out a direct mail campaign, which, in these tech-dominated days, will draw more attention to your product and your work. 

Entrepreneurship is a long path, but with hard work, a bit of luck, and the proper resources, you’ll be sure to find success. 

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