After you scream Eureka! ( or something else) when the hottest idea since sliced bread and peanut butter pops out of your head, you need to build a prototype or model so you can show people who do not have your vision exactly what your idea looks like. You don’t have to spend a ton of money on a prototype. You want to have a model which you can use to show family, friends, buyers and investors how your idea functions. You can use existing products to make your prototype or you may want to invest in an inexpensive mold to make your idea even more realistic. You don’t have to make an expensive steel injection mold. There are many prototype companies in the USA who can build one for you.
When I made my first prototypes of my NITELITE golfball, I went to a machine shop with a polycarbonate 2 inch rod. The machinist then made some round balls the size of golfballs on his lathe and drilled one hole in each ball for a lightstick. These balls did not have dimples, but I wanted to see just how much light a lightstick would produce emitting from inside the ball. One night I took a fungo bat and hit the daylights out of these prototype golf balls That was the first time I had ever seen a working prototype of a lighted golfball. I was pretty darn excited and knew exactly what my next step was. I had golfball molds made as fast as possible and introduced the NITELITE golfballs at the 1986 PGA golf show in Orlando, Florida where it took off like a rocket to the moon.
In 1975 my brothers and I were on a beach in Florida playing touch football with some girls. Someone asked me what we were going to do that night and I said “keep on playing touch football with the girls.” Someone then asked, “How are we going to see the football?” I said, “Light it up!” We did not light it up that night but when we got home to N.H., I made a prototype from an existing hollow, plastic football with holes in it. I threaded a metal rod through the length of the football and secured it with wing nuts. A small flashlight was then attached to the rod. My brothers and I then went outdoors at night in January with three feet of snow on the ground and played our first game of NITELITE tackle football. I found a company to make the footballs, introduced them at the National Sporting Goods show and started making touchdowns.
My Dad was signed by St. Louis as a pitcher and played in the minor leagues in Texas. He had a great curveball and he told me that if I could make a baseball that was easy to throw a curve with, every hitter in the USA would buy some. I went to work making almost 60 prototypes. I did everything to a baseball that I could think of. I added all kinds of things to baseballs to help make them curve. I also removed pieces from baseballs to make them curve. One day I threw one of my prototypes to my Dad and he said, “How the heck did you throw that curve!?” That was the instant that the AUTOMATIC CURVEBALL was born. Molds were made as fast as possible and soon curveballs were flying out the door. During spring training one year, 14 Major League teams bought these amazing baseballs and that led to selling thousands of curveballs to high schools and colleges.
Prototypes have a series of evolutions. You will make your prototype and then a day or a week later, you will think of how to improve it. Or someone may suggest how you can improve it. Pretty soon your beat up Ford- like prototype turns into a beautiful Cadillac and you are off to the races. A prototype saves time in trying to explain your idea to people and will make your selling job a lot easier. Drawings are good but they are not nearly as good as a working model. I always say that C.N. Is Believing! (seeing is believing!) People love it when they don’t have to think so the best thing to do is do their thinking for them. It will help you get from A to B a lot faster with a lot less blood, sweat and tears in a lot less time.
Next week I will talk about Do You Need a Patent and How To Get One?
Until then, go full speed because you never know if you will be given 2 innings or 9. Keep swinging, watch the spin and you will hit your homeruns!