THE THOUGHTFUL ENTREPRENEUR PODCAST
In this episode of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur, your host Josh Elledge speaks to the Founder & CEO, Marcy McKenna.
Marcy founded the Women Inventors Club to support ambitious women with creative ideas and guide them toward product success. Two statistics that motivated her to help inventors were the low percentage of patents filed by women and the low percentage of inventors who make money with their products. She believes many inventors get stuck in the process due to lacking marketing and product validation.
Marcy emphasizes the importance of thinking about marketing from the beginning and validating ideas before investing time and resources. I couldn't agree more with her on this. Execution is key in realizing dreams, and timing and choice are equally significant.
Marcy shared her five-step product validation process, which is crucial in determining if a product idea is marketable and profitable. She stressed the need to understand if customers are willing to pay for the product and if the numbers work out. This validation process is valuable in learning about the customer, the competitive landscape, and setting oneself apart in the market.
Marcy advised inventors to create initial prototypes at home using readily available materials for proof of concept. She cautioned against hiring expensive prototyping companies immediately, as their results may not align with the inventor's vision.
Marcy suggests playing with the prototype and fine-tuning it before considering professional prototyping. She also mentioned using photorealistic 3D renderings to showcase the product's appearance and functionality, which can be helpful in licensing discussions.
Key Points from the Episode:
- Marcy McKenna's work as an inventor and entrepreneur
- The Women Inventors Club and its mission to support ambitious women with creative ideas
- Low percentage of patents filed by women and inventors who make money with their products
- Importance of marketing and product validation in the invention process
- Marcy's five-step product validation process
- Creating initial prototypes at home using readily available materials
- Caution against immediately hiring expensive prototyping companies
- Use of photorealistic 3D renderings to showcase product appearance and functionality
- Marcy's work with inventors and her efforts to empower them
About Marcy McKenna:
Marcy McKenna is a prominent figure in product innovation and entrepreneurship. Renowned as a keynote speaker, she has successfully conceptualized, developed, and launched over 40 products through various channels, including home shopping platforms like QVC and HSN, ecommerce, and major retailers nationwide.
Marcy's expertise extends to product development, marketing strategy, and consumer product branding, making her a sought-after consultant in ecommerce and traditional retail.
With over 12 years of experience in the Live Shopping space, she is recognized for her proficiency in social media, email marketing, and shoppable video content.
Notably, Marcy excels in hosting Live Shopping events on diverse platforms such as Amazon Live, Pinterest TV, YouTube Live, and others, showcasing her versatility and impact in the evolving digital commerce landscape.
As an Amazon Influencer and Live Shopping Host, she regularly engages audiences, contributing to the success of numerous brands.
07:51 – “Finding out if your idea has a market and is salable is a critical step that many inventors skip.”
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Josh (00:00:04) - Hey there, thoughtful listener. Would you like consistent and predictable sales activity with no spam and no ads? I'll teach you step by step how to do this, particularly if you're an agency owner, consultant, coach, or B2B service provider. What I teach has worked for me for more than 15 years and has helped me create more than $10 million in revenue. Just head to up my influence.com and watch my free class on how to create endless high ticket sales appointments. You can even chat with me live and I'll see and reply to your messages. Also, don't forget the thoughtful entrepreneur is always looking for guests. Go to up my influence.com and click on podcast. We'd love to have you. With us. Right now, it's Marcy McKenna. Marcy, you have quite a list of accomplishments. You are the founder of the Women Inventors Club. You're the founder and CEO of the Live Shopping Academy. And you're the executive producer and show host of Invent Her Live. Your website is Marci mckenna.com. And I know that there's more that we're going to get to that you do as well in this world.
Josh (00:01:22) - Marcy, thank you so much for joining us.
Marcy (00:01:24) - Thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited about this.
Josh (00:01:28) - How could we encapsulate your work and your impact in the world today? Um, particularly if we're thinking about a business owner audience that might be tuning in.
Marcy (00:01:37) - Sure. I know where when you hear all those titles, it's. I wear a lot of different hats, but believe it or not, they do all sort of come together and make sense. And basically, at my core, I am a nerdy inventor. I love to create new products, new inventions. I love to find things that aren't working so well and find better ways of doing them, and turning them into products and selling them. I have a product line on HSN, so that's really where this all starts is with my product line on HSN. That really happened as a result of an invention reality show that I did years ago with Kelly Ripa for female inventors. And so after winning that, it opened the door for me to HSN Home Shopping Network.
Marcy (00:02:20) - And that was about 10 or 12 years ago. And that's where I still am today. During the pandemic, when I had a little bit of downtime, as we all did, I wasn't traveling back and forth all the time, so I did have more time on my hands and I thought, what can I do? How can I help other people that have product ideas? How can I help them find sort of a straighter path to product success than I had? Because when I got started, I knew this much about inventing and bringing a product to market. And so I started kind of, you know, really digging deep to understand what's needed out there. Where are people feeling stuck? And I came across two statistics that were really stunning to me and that I thought, wow, okay, this is where I can be of help for people. One of those is the fact that at the time, 7% of patents that were filed in the United States were done so by women. And so for me, that was just jaw dropping because.
Marcy (00:03:15) - So when was that? That was during the pandemic. So that was about.
Josh (00:03:20) - Oh, recently. Oh my gosh. Oh that's surprising. That's really surprising.
Marcy (00:03:25) - Hey, that's how I thought that. I thought I read it wrong. And so I kept, you know, doing more research, and I saw as high as 8% at the time, but it was somewhere around 7 or 8. I'm thrilled to say that as of now, it is growing. And I you know, I think of Shark Tank, I think of there's a lot of different reasons for that. But we're now up to, I think, between 13 and 14%. So that's we're gaining. But um, well.
Josh (00:03:47) - That, that's, that's remarkably statistically significant. If we're only talking about a few years. That's surprising in a good way.
Marcy (00:03:57) - Yeah. Yes, exactly. Because when I saw that, I thought, okay, which statistic is wrong here? And so I looked at both of them and then did further research.
Marcy (00:04:04) - And it really does seem to be that the growth is that significant right now. I mean, women are starting businesses and creating products in record numbers. It's it's incredible. Um, and so I'm so excited. That's when I founded the Women Inventors Club, was to, to really lock arms with other women that were ambitious and that did have ideas and their creative thinkers. And I wanted to show them that there's a path to do this, that it is not rocket science, that you can when you have an idea for a product or a business or whatever it is, there are steps that you can take to get it on the market and start having success in building a business. And so that's really where that happened. And it's a free, um, it's actually a Facebook group and it's it's hundreds of women now that, that really are locking arms and supporting each other. And we I have experts come in, I do masterclasses in there. And it's just been a really wonderful part of my journey, really enjoying that.
Marcy (00:04:59) - The second statistic that was really staggering for me was the fact that in the inventor community, the percent of inventors who actually make money with their products is only 5%. And that was another one. Like at this time during the pandemic, I had commercialized over 30 different products. And so I had I known that statistic when I started, I may not have started because it's just, you know, those are not great odds. And so again, I wanted to know why why is it only 5%. And so I really have kind of dug deep on that statistic as well and really tried to identify, you know, the disconnect and how can I help fill that disconnect so that more people can have success and, you know, really grow? Actually, I'd love to turn that statistic upside down and have 95% of people have. No kidding.
Josh (00:05:49) - Why do you think that stat is so low?
Marcy (00:05:52) - You know, there's several reasons. Um, what I find with inventors, for the most part, they get ideas in their head and they get so excited about them, which is exactly how I am so passionate.
Marcy (00:06:04) - We put our heads down and we start tinkering and, you know, creating. And lots of people go down that patent route right away, which can burn a lot of time and a lot of money. Um, the prototyping we get on these little hamster wheels that are not necessarily needle movers for bringing a product to market. And so when we get stuck on that hamster wheel, so many times the money runs out, the time runs out, we get distracted, things get put on the back burner and we don't see it through to fruition. And so again, it was, you know, looking at that, the other thing that I really found interesting and I would say this is probably true for businesses across the board, the critical importance of marketing, marketing in the very beginning of the process, when you come up with an idea, marketing needs to be a major part of that, even the product development process. Because if you're thinking about how you're going to market that product, that may change the design of the product and may ultimately make it successful when it might not have been, if we weren't thinking about if we didn't have that marketing hat on in the very beginning.
Marcy (00:07:08) - So I'm seeing a lot of, um, inventors kind of skipping that altogether. The other critical step, probably even more critical that many inventors skip is product validation. Finding out if your idea, if there's a market for it, if it's salable, if you can create a business around it in the beginning before you start diving in with the money and the time and the resources. Very few people do that. And if they have they done that, many of their ideas might get pushed aside. But typically someone that has one idea has many more. And so most likely there's another one in there that's a really good one that you can have success with. And so I'm really trying to.
Josh (00:07:51) - Yeah. So there's definitely I mean there's a lot of minutia that's involved. Right. And so it's I think, you know, I don't know, I'm sure there's a million and a half quotes around good ideas or hey, great. Listen, everyone's got brilliant ideas or they're, you know, brilliant ideas are commonplace.
Josh (00:08:08) - It's the execution really is. It separates those who realize their dreams versus those who just, well, you know, thought about this way back when never, you know, just didn't see it through. Um, like, even going through, going through the Patent and Trademark Office and going through that, like, that's doable. It's it's doable thing. It's and then it's a.
Marcy (00:08:30) - Step in the process. The problem is where people get stuck as many times they're they're doing that step at the wrong time. Uh, they do early. And so they can patent something and have a claim around something that isn't valuable in the end. And they may have to start all over with that. So understanding the right time for that and also the right protection. So that's that's a good point. When you say patent trademark because many times a trademark is much more valuable than a patent. And so and I really talked to a lot of people about that, because when you're thinking about patenting an idea, product and idea, it's a lot of money and a lot of time.
Marcy (00:09:08) - And so not only that money that you spend going through the process, but then you have to ask yourself, why are you doing it? Because if you're worried that someone's going to knock you off, then play that out. Let's say they do knock you off. Are your pockets deep enough to be able to spend $1 million, depending that part? And if they're not, you might want to rethink it.
Speaker 3 (00:09:29) - Yeah.
Josh (00:09:29) - So what would be a great way? Because obviously a big part of this I think is validating the idea and the concept. And I think it's pretty easy for a lot of us to say, well, I have an idea. Let me just post it out there on social media to my friends and then get their opinion. And then that's going to be the indication of whether I should move forward or not. Which, uh, what's what's wrong with that?
Marcy (00:09:52) - That is all too true. Unfortunately, that is what people do. And so many times I'll say, how did you validate the product? Well, I reached out to exactly what you said, my friends and my family, and they all love it.
Marcy (00:10:03) - And I think that's so.
Josh (00:10:05) - I don't mean to make light of this, but this is such a common trope in this world.
Marcy (00:10:10) - Yes. And that's why I actually did put together. I did it for myself originally, but a five step product validation process that can I can kind of hand to people to walk through themselves so that they can find out whether this is a good idea that can make money or not. And so a big part of it for me is, yes, people will say, yeah, I really like that. Yeah, that really solves a problem. But I want to know if they're actually going to reach into their pocket and take money out. Yeah, to pay for that. And how much is that? And then can I make the numbers work to meet the number that they're willing to spend to solve the problem that my product solves? And so there's just five steps that I go through that, um, really at the end of that, in addition to finding out whether it's going to sell or not sell.
Marcy (00:10:54) - So let's say we think it's not saleable. We put that aside. But if it is, and that would be the great news, then what you have learned during that process is invaluable when it comes to having success with that product and rolling it out because you have learned so much about your customer, you've learned about what your customer will pay for this, you've learned about what the competitive landscape is like and how you can set yourself apart. So all of that can be uncovered upfront. And when you have that arsenal behind you as you step into to product development and sourcing and manufacturing, or maybe you're just wanting to license the idea, then you've got all of that information when you go into a meeting with a potential licensee. So it's, you know, it's a win win all the way around and it doesn't cost hardly any money to do, does not take a ton of time. And yet, for whatever reason, it seems to be the most overlooked step in bringing a product to market.
Josh (00:11:54) - Yeah.
Josh (00:11:54) - So, you know, kind of extending on that idea of go to market, it's like, okay, well, I've gotten a lot of great feedback. I've had some great customer conversations. I've had a lot of people say, yes, I'm absolutely interested. I would absolutely buy that. Then you go through the, you know, I don't know, like I think the next confusing thing might be, you know, really coming up with a prototype or, you know, that sort of thing. And that can get really confusing. Like let's say you want to develop a handbag, for example, which I see in your background, right? Is where do you go? How do you get something designed like that? And that can be very confusing.
Marcy (00:12:29) - Yeah. And that's a great question. And prototypes come up a lot. Um, I always recommend that you make your first few prototypes on your own at home with things that you have or things that you can get at Ace Hardware or, or whatnot, for proof of concept, making sure that it works.
Marcy (00:12:46) - And, you know, of course, it depends what the invention is, um, and what's readily available to you. But I really recommend that you play with it. You work with it yourself before you go hire some fancy company to do that for you. Yeah, because.
Josh (00:13:00) - That could get expensive.
Marcy (00:13:02) - Oh, you have no idea. And that's because you think, you know. And so you give it to them and they bring you a prototype back for however much money that cost. And it's so off mark for what you envisioned. So then you're going back and forth or trying to find a new prototyping company, but when you play with it yourself and really know that that okay, now this thing works, even still, what I do before I go actually have a real one made and many times I don't even have a real one made is I have a photorealistic 3D rendering created that makes it look like this product exists, because then that helps me fine tune the measurements and the material and all of that.
Marcy (00:13:41) - And many times I'll take that and I can license the product just with that, because it looks like the product exists. And so the buyer or the licensee can really they see it, they see exactly what it is, how it works. If you create a great sell sheet around it, it's amazing what you can do.
Josh (00:13:59) - Yeah. Um, Marcy, talk a little bit more about how you work with your inventors. Like what is your how do you engage? And I know you've got multiple programs and you even offer consulting around this, right? Coaching around this I do.
Marcy (00:14:15) - And that has kind of that was never intended in the beginning. Um, but I just have so many requests for it that I've kind of restructured my business in a way. And I get it just feeds my soul so much to work with inventors. And I would never work with inventor that I didn't believe in their product. I'm very honest about that because I only want to work with someone if I feel like I can add value and help them, you know, cross the finish line and really build a business and have success around the product.
Marcy (00:14:40) - So really for me, it really did start with the Women Inventors Club and just wanting to help. And so sort of altruistically tying people together and saying, we can do this, ladies. And then these sort of offshoots have happened as I've. Talk to more and more people, not just women, but women and men that reach out. And when I'm hearing where they're stuck, I'm realizing, gosh, I know so much about that. And so I have set up different consulting programs around sort of those core things that people really need help with. And again, I go back to that marketing piece where I find that many times people will come to me because they think they need help with the prototyping and the product design. But really the bigger piece is that marketing. So I really try to help people with that. And that's that's actually where my live shopping academy came from, was having my own product line on HSN and seeing firsthand what live that live connection can do when it comes to marketing your product and building your brand and, you know, really connecting with the customer on a meaningful level so that, you know, they're become part of your tribe.
Marcy (00:15:45) - And so when I saw that, I thought, I want to scream this from the rooftops and teach everybody how to do it and show everybody how easy it is, and so that's kind of something else that's, you know, just recently spun off and is just a ton of fun. And it's so exciting to see people, you know, starting and going live and selling. And they can't believe how many products they sell when they go live. So that's been a ton of fun to do as well. There's the Women Inventors Club, which is still this free organization. I would love anyone to join. Um, and then on my website, you can see all the different other ways that I work with inventors.
Josh (00:16:19) - Yeah. So your website, Marcy's the best website to send folks to. Marcy mckenna.com.
Marcy (00:16:25) - It is. Yes. Marcy mckenna.com. Marcy with a y.
Josh (00:16:28) - Yes. We got the direct link in the show notes. Click around to our listener. Right now you're going to find that or again Marcy with a Y.
Josh (00:16:35) - McKenna mckenna.com. And not only that Marcy but you have a lot of really good resources. So even if someone is just at the ideation stage right now, you have a lot of good resources on your website and on your social media where folks can plug in. I also should point out, Marcy, that you are a content creator as well. You've got a well, you're a big content creator, but specifically explain just a little bit about inventor.
Marcy (00:17:04) - Yes, inventor live um, is actually a it's sort of a live shopping show. But really, when I conceptualized it, it was about pulling the curtain back, having a guest on who was a female, who has had success in the entrepreneurial space, either with a product or a business, more typically a product, and pulling back the curtain on what it took to go from that idea in her head, or on the cocktail napkin all the way through to where she is today. And so, you know, I'm a big shark tank junkie. But what I find with Shark Tank is there's a there's a missing piece there.
Marcy (00:17:35) - The people that are on Shark Tank have already had success, and they're looking for money to take it to the next level. I want to find out what it took to go from this idea to that point where they had success, and to inspire other people who are watching. They're getting educated, inspired, entertained during the show. But then also you're seeing that product that that female had created and you're able to buy it right then and there from her. So it's kind of a, you know, kind of a hybrid of live shopping, but also just kind of, um, infotainment, as they call it.
Josh (00:18:08) - The final thing Marcy I want to share is the grommet. Uh, tell me just a bit about this. This is really cool. I'm. I'm getting sucked in already.
Speaker 4 (00:18:16) - Yeah.
Marcy (00:18:17) - I'm so excited about this. Because the grommet. Many of you probably know of The Grommet, it was created many years ago, um, as an online sort of marketplace platform by two women, two women founders who are amazing.
Marcy (00:18:30) - And really, they're those sort of hidden gem, very cool, very clever, undiscovered products by makers and inventors. Um, not those big, you know, products that we see all over Amazon. So they're the really cool ones. And we get to hear the stories behind the inventions. We get to meet the makers and really understand how they created it and why and all of that. And we just launched I just launched a live shopping show in conjunction with them. So I have a co-host, Greg, on Grommet Live, and we feature our top picks. We each pick the ones that we think are most exciting for the week. So that's on every Friday at 10 a.m., uh, West Coast and 1 p.m. East Coast. And so each week we have somewhere between 5 and 10 different products that we feature. And we do giveaways. And it's just a ton of fun. But for me, I love the fact that I have a platform that I can have these smaller makers and entrepreneurs be able to tell their story, and I can sing their praises and really share it with the world, because The Grommet really has a big audience.
Marcy (00:19:32) - So it really represents a really big opportunity for smaller entrepreneurs and independent inventors, makers, product based businesses in general.
Josh (00:19:42) - Marci McKenna. Wonderful conversation. You're the founder of the Women Inventors Club, founder and CEO of Life Shopping Academy, and the executive producer and show host of Inventor Live and so many other things. Marcy, again, your website, Marcy mckenna.com. Marcy, thank you so much for joining us.
Marcy (00:20:00) - You are so welcome. Josh, thank you for having me. Really enjoyed it.
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