Each month the NW Innovation Resource Center writes about a Whatcom County resident who has invented products that solve everyday problems.
Inventor: Scott Baumann
Company: Procreate Brands
Products: Chalktrail, which creates a rainbow in chalk from a bike or scooter; TeeterPopper, a movement toy; and Pop’emz!, suction-cup art sets, are out now; coming up are Tobbly Wobbly and board game Stick Six.
Procreate brands is a consumer product design, brand development and intellectually property company with more than 40 worldwide licensed products responsible for producing more than $30 million in gross retail sales. Scott Baumann is a self-proclaimed “inventrepreneur” who is a multiple award-winning product designer and licensing evangelist.
Q: You have invented and licensed a lot of products over the years. Why do you think licensing is the best option?
A: Licensing has been the best option for me, and I would guess that licensing in most cases is the best option for others. I am much more of a creative – a real idea guy rather than a true businessman. Licensing allows me to remain a creative and let others who have the know-how and resources to do all the heavy lifting. The minute you decide to do the whole business venture with your idea you are no longer an inventor – you are a businessman.
Q: How do you come up with so many ideas, and what makes you decide which ideas to move forward?
A: I am very fortunate that the ideas just come. It has been that way all my life, and I am sure that many other creative/creator types out there are the same. The difference for me now is having the understanding of what tends to resonate with consumers, something that comes with a lot of experience and time in the trenches. I will say, I do think it is important to give your ideas time to breathe. A strong “ah-ha!” moment can be intoxicating – no doubt it is a great feeling – but can be dangerous if you act too quickly. Let your ideas sit for a bit. The good ones have a way of rising to the top over time.
Q: What does it typically take in terms of time and/or money to get the idea to a point of being ready to license?
A: Unfortunately there is no typical. Some ideas take years, cost tens of thousands of dollars and never come to fruition. Then we have had others where a quick photorealistic rendering was enough to get a licensing deal with product on the shelf in under a year. Generally we have found it takes about two years from conception to proliferation.
Q: What have been your biggest challenges in getting products licensed?
A: The ability to move from idea to idea to idea and from rejection to rejection while remaining positive and resolute in your pursuit is challenging. For me the key has been to have more than a few concepts on the table at any one time so that no one concept carries all the emotional burden or potential upside.
Q: What advice would you give to inventors who have ideas they want to license?
A: Understand that this is not a get-rich-quick undertaking. We’ve all heard the stories about it happening, but that has not been my experience. Licensing is simple in concept but often complex in practice. Find a mentor who can help you avoid many of the pitfalls and warning signs. Also, don’t fall in love with your idea. Your idea is not your baby; when I hear people say this I run. Would you ever license your baby to some company you barely know!? Be passionate about your ideas, but save the love for your family and friends.
Q: What are the current products you have on the market or coming soon?
A: I have been fortunate to establish some formidable relationships with some special people who run reputable and highly capable businesses. This is key in turning pro as an inventrepreneur – it is all about the relationships you form along your journey. For my toy line it started with licensing Chalktrail to Fat Brain Toys and five short years later the list now includes a series of Squigz products, TeeterPopper, Pop’emz! and soon we will be releasing Tobbly Wobbly and our first board game, Stick Six. I’ve also been fortunate to have two DRTV releases, the Gripgo and Gadget Grab.
Lara Merriam-Smith is the program manager for NW Innovation Resource Center, a Bellingham-based nonprofit that helps inventors and entrepreneurs bring their ideas to life. For more information call 360-255-7870 or go online to nwirc.com.