Key steps to working with your children to prototype products, earn money for college!

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Following my earlier blog, where I listed “Five ways to find quality time with your children” where the central focus was time management, we now turn to prototyping products, yes to help your children build their college fund! If you think this idea is far fetched, please have a look at my reasoning in my other blog here. My main point is we can create a triple win scenario where 1) children can apply their creativity in the real world through new product design or improvement, thereby attracting the attention of any college, 2) companies can tap into a new source of creativity, and 3) parents have an alternative funding source for their children’s college fund.

Here are the key steps:

  1. Read One Simple Idea. Stephen Key’s book is based on his 35-year’s experience as a product designer who struck over 20 licensing deals with manufacturers in different industries to earn substantial amounts in royalties. He also has a YouTube channel where he  explains his 10-step plan in further detail. While the process does take time, I think it’s quite achievable for anyone who puts his or her mind to it. Even Key admits, he has neither engineering nor any specialized background to improving products. But he does have a passion for creating new things to make everyone’s lives just a little better. Big helpful hint: you don’t need a full patent to get a licensing deal; just a preliminary patent via the US Patent Office will suffice. (Please note, I currently have no connection with Stephen Key beyond reading his book and watching his YouTube channel.)

  1. Find an industry that interests you and your children that practices Open Innovation. As product cycles become shorter and shorter, companies just don’t have the resources to creating new products on a regular basis. Some industries, like kitchen appliances and pet products, are willing to share their profits with outside designers. These Open Innovation companies even have a link on their website that explains where outside designers can submit their ideas.
  2. Learn about the buyers and sellers in the market. Once you find the industry that interests you and your children, try to learn about it as much as possible. This is one of Key’s most important steps. It’s the only way to speak to the manufacturers at their level and keep you in the licensing game.

Start of a licensing deal?

  1. Prototype with 3D printing. Key says in his book that even a 2D drawing is enough to result in a licensing deal. But he nevertheless supports using 3D printing in his YouTube channel. I think creating your own 3D printed prototype is a good way to establish and protect yourself, as it will add to your documentation that the idea is your own.
  2. Have fun! Key says licensing is a numbers game; you might not get a deal until you’ve submitted many designs to many companies. But I think this is part of the fun! How many famous inventors, entrepreneurs and leaders have not seen failure in their life before they began to succeed? We all want to know what DOESN’T work as early as possible because it will help us get to the things that DO work sooner. This in itself is a great life lesson for our children.

More to come on this topic!

3D printing + licensing deal = ticket into a top university?

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OK this topic about licensing will likely result in quite a few blogs, so I’ll start with a series of questions to set the stage.

  1. Are children really more creative than their parents?
  2. Can we parents work with them to invent a new product using 3D printing to prototype?
  3. Would a manufacturer really accept our idea and how do we protect it?
  4. Can my child really earn his own college fund?
  5. Would a licensing deal help if and when our child applies to university?

Out of this list, I think most of you will agree that the final question is the easiest to answer. Of course a university admissions board would welcome a child who played a leading role in a product idea that has been successfully sold to a manufacturer. They might even offer the child a scholarship based on ingenuity and leadership. Universities are centers of cutting edge research and advance thinking. If your child can demonstrate creativity that’s also proven commercially viable, universities would certainly embrace him or her with open arms. It’s a natural fit.

The other questions, however, will need more time to answer. I’ll explore the world of licensing in the coming blogs and report back to you. (What I’ve seen so far seems promising!)

Before I end this blog, let me say this: 3D printing can play a big role in this process because you can design as many prototypes as you want using freely available 3D modeling software. (We just added the very powerful Fusion 360 into our Starter Kit.) If you want your design 3D printed but don’t have a printer, just search on line for the nearest 3D printing service bureau. You can send them the file and they can send you your prototype in a few days or even sooner. This is the WHOLE POINT of 3D printing; the power of creating new products is now in the hands of the people, not necessarily controlled by big corporations. More to come!