FOUNDER CRAIG NABAT
LEARNED FROM HIS MISTAKES
Nabat, owner of Ambitious Ideas Inc., says you may need to be
flexible to build your brand.
Nabat was searching frantically for his TV remote control when the
idea hit him. There must be a business opportunity in helping absent-minded
people like himself (a college student at the time) find things
they constantly lose, like keys, glasses, and cell phones.
was born FINDIT, a small electronic device that attaches to anything
and beeps when you clap your hands in a specific pattern.
Nice idea. But
the hard partwhich anyone whos ever started a business
knowswas yet to come:
1 ) Financing
2) Building it
3) Selling it.
For Nabat, a
sociology major who minored in business and financed his company
via business loans and family investments, the road to success has
been bumpy. Originally, he figured on spending about $30,000 to
get his product to market. We spent most of that on research
and development, says Nabat. I never thought it would
end up taking $700,000 to launch my company.
But it did.
And now at age 30, Nabat is the owner of Ambitious Ideas, Inc.,
plus considerably more business smarts about product development
has encountered a constant stream of challenges and opportunities.
Unaware of just how complex the creation of an electronic device
could be, Nabat, who outsources tasks to outside contractors, worked
closely with a team of six engineers, starting in 1992.
It took years
of development to get this seemingly simple product right. Nabat
went back to the drawing board time and time again. I had
to donate the first batch to a school to protect my reputation.
He says. I hear they used them as an art project.
Ambitious Ideas has created from scratch or completely revamped
24 products, including the FINDIT Book Light, FINDIT Eyeglass Cleaner,
FINDIT Briefcase Alarm and Locator and FINDIT car locator. Nabat
sells the products through his Web site, infomercials, print ads,
the Home Shopping Network, mail order catalogs and other outlets.
His Web site was one of three nominated for an Electronic Retailing
Association Best Retailing Internet Design award in
lengthy development process, Don Azars, executive producer at dapTV
Associates in Los Angeles, remained a believer. Hes
not only an inventor but he also has strong marketing sense,
says Azars. Some people are good creators who just dont
have a feel for the marketing side. Craig has a unique combination
some of what Nabat says hes learned along the way:
the people you NETWORK with find out youre SERIOUS about
the business, they want to help.
make the mistake of falling in love with their creation, says
Nabat. But I wanted to build a brand, so I was flexible about
how to make and sell my original concept and kept looking for other
products that would be compatible.
Also, too many
inventors are paranoid about someone stealing their idea. Nabat
says. But since 97 percent of new products fail, almost no
one is going to bother. Even patents and registered trademarks
dont provide full protection, because you can be tide up in
court for years.
WIN WITH THE BASICS
What many inventors
dont realize, says Nabat is that being secretive prevents them
from building successful networkssomething he credits as the
single biggest secret of his success.
the people you network with find out youre serious about the
business, they want to help, he says. Being secretive
about what youre doing only hinders that process. The way
to stay ahead of would-be imitators is to establish your product
as the original, offer a great guarantee and improve and expand
your line constantly.
A majority of
sales for Ambitious Ideas products so far have come through one
and two minute infomercials on television.
Early on, Nabat
himself did the pitch. In one initial seven-minute slot, he sold
900 FINDIT unitsenough to make it clear there was public demand
and keep everyone involved with Ambitious Ideas excited. "What
I didnt think about, however, is that these are done live,
and if you really want to use a shopping network, you have to go
to the TV studio all the time, says Nabat. Youre probably
better off hiring a professional to do the on-camera pitch for you.
can help you avoid common pitfalls as well. For example, Nabats
first infomercial, which he wrote violated many industry rules,
including the one which says not to make fun of the potential customer
and the product. People thought my ads about losers
were funny, but they didnt buy the product because they didnt
want to be personally attached to the loser label, he says.
The most productive
TV ads have been per inquiry, which stations can run
whenever they have unsold time. The station gets paid only on the
basis of how many products are sold (or inquiries made) as a result
of the commercial.
We pay nothing for the commercial, but give up about 40 percent
of each sale. Per-inquiry deals also work for inserts with
credit card bills and Ambitious Ideas works with marketing companies
which specialize in this low budget approach.
believes a small, emerging business shouldnt rely on any one
marketing gambit, so he buys time in premium slots as well and keeps
the full profit margin. Lately, the company has tried another approach
to media, hiring movie and TV placement firms, which Nabat discovered
by simply searching Hollywood on the Internet, FINDIT
will appear in The Pledge with Jack Nicholson (in a
store display) and in Driven (a 40-foot product banner),
a car racing film with Sylvester Stallone.
recommends business wire services as a low-cost way to help
get out press releases.
OUTSOURCE ORDER TAKING
to handle order-taking yourselfespecially if you aspire to
a high volume. What many aspiring telemarketing tycoons may not
realize is that in most cases, the company selling the product probably
is not taking the orders. An outside call center service
is the way to go.
center is a difficult thing to manage yourself and one of the most
important, because its the primary contact point between your
business and your customers, says Nabat. But most call
centers arent very good. I found that you have to ask around
the infomercial industry and get referrals to the top firms.
Theyre expensive, but worth it, he says.
MAKE YOUR OWN WEB SITE
Ideas Web site (www.ambitiousideas.com)
has been central to its success. We have our commercial on
there, lots of product information, a humorous audio chat about
FINDIT, my personal story about the development process, package
designseverything to make it informative and entertaining.
Nabat also registered
his site manually with search engines to get it higher up on the
response list than automated programs would do. Next, we want
to try out a firm that works each month to move it higher on those
lists, he says.
DO THE LEG WORK
ways have helped Nabat push the boundaries of possibilities for
his firm. One is the library, where he reads everything he can find
on inventing, marketing and infomercials. The other is the simple
In the beginning,
he tried mailing and faxing his press releases, before he discovered
commercial wire servicessuch as Business Wire (www.businesswire.com)
and PR Newswire (www.Prnewswire.com).
which can send one out to thousands of media for about $500.
have been a tremendous amount of free publicity. Readers Digest
picked FINDIT as one of its top 10 Christmas gifts for 1999, resulting
in a flood of sales.