Finding Success

Craig Nabat
Craig Nabat, owner of Ambitious Ideas Inc., says you may need to be flexible to build your brand.

Craig 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.

Thus 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 part—which anyone who’s ever started a business knows—was yet to come:

1 ) Financing it
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 and marketing.

Ambitious Ideas 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.”

Since then, 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 2000.

Through FINDIT’s lengthy development process, Don Azars, executive producer at dapTV Associates in Los Angeles, remained a believer. “He’s not only an inventor but he also has strong marketing sense,” says Azars. “Some people are good creators who just don’t have a feel for the marketing side. Craig has a unique combination of both.”

Here’s some of what Nabat says he’s learned along the way:

“When the people you NETWORK with find out you’re SERIOUS about the business, they want to help.”
--Craig Nabat


“Most inventors 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 don’t provide full protection, because you can be tide up in court for years.


What many inventors don’t realize, says Nabat is that being secretive prevents them from building successful networks—something he credits as the single biggest secret of his success.

“When the people you network with find out you’re serious about the business, they want to help,” he says. “Being secretive about what you’re 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 units—enough to make it clear there was public demand and keep everyone involved with Ambitious Ideas excited. "What I didn’t 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. You’re probably better off hiring a professional to do the on-camera pitch for you.”

Professionals can help you avoid common pitfalls as well. For example, Nabat’s 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 didn’t buy the product because they didn’t 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.

Says Nabat, “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.

Still, Nabat believes a small, emerging business shouldn’t 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.

Craig Nabat
Nabat recommends business wire services as a low-cost way to help get out press releases.


Don’t try to handle order-taking yourself—especially 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.

“A call center is a difficult thing to manage yourself and one of the most important, because it’s the primary contact point between your business and your customers,” says Nabat. “But most call centers aren’t very good. I found that you have to ask around the infomercial industry and get referrals to the top firms.” They’re expensive, but worth it, he says.


The Ambitious Ideas Web site ( 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 designs—everything 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.


Two low-tech 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 press release.

In the beginning, he tried mailing and faxing his press releases, before he discovered commercial wire services—such as Business Wire ( and PR Newswire (
—which can send one out to thousands of media for about $500.

The results have been a tremendous amount of free publicity. Reader’s Digest picked FINDIT as one of its top 10 Christmas gifts for 1999, resulting in a flood of sales.


Article by Scott S. Smith - Photographs by Scott F. Stewart


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