Sunday, June 03, 2007

How To Make A Million Dollars From Accidental Invention

ToddlerCoddler is a specially designed cushion that keeps toddlers' heads from slumping in their car seats. Initially developed for her own kids by Susan Dunk, a friend prodded her to develop the product for market. She and her husband left their first trade show in 2003 with orders for 119 units.

"My mother and I sewed," Susan recalls. "My father, father-in-law and husband stuffed them. My 3-year-old put the labels on. My son knew how to run a tape gun at 4 years old."

They were long days, but manageable. However, when independent retailers started showing interest, she realized she needed help and began looking for a manufacturer to take over production. Her company has now developed several different products and had close to $1 million in sales in 2006. If orders come in from retail giants such as Costco and Target, as expected, that number should jump considerably in 2007.

Duley knew he needed help from the start and sent out 35 bid proposals--15 in the U.S. and 20 overseas to facilities he found online in China, India and South America. While he initially wanted to work with a U.S. manufacturer, that proved to be more difficult than he anticipated. "Every single American company either didn't respond or backed out on the due date," Duley says. "Every international company provided quotes in a timely fashion and suggested ideas to make the manufacturing process more efficient."

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