Having a brilliant idea is only the beginning. Follow this blueprint to transform it into a business.
1. Assess the competition. Search the Internet and the United States Patent and Trademark Office website (uspto.gov) for similar products. Ask yourself: How is mine better? Then go to the U.S. Small Business Association website (sba.gov) and click on "create a business plan."
2. Nail your prototype. To find a builder, use keywords such as welder, carpenter, 3-D printing, and rapid prototyping, followed by your city. Show your finished product to moms and dads, but don't tell them you invented it. "You want honest feedback," says Tim Walsh, game inventor and author of Timeless Toys.
3. Find a manufacturer. Ask business contacts, store clerks, and trade-show exhibitors for referrals. Search keywords such as "manufacturer" (include your source materials) at ThomasNet.com or Alibaba.com.
4. Protect your invention. A patent gives you the right to sue anyone who copies your invention without permission. It may also help attract investors and be used as a marketing tool to show your device is truly innovative, says Jim Babineau, principal at the law firm Fish & Richardson, in Austin, Texas.
5. Launch slowly. Let orders guide you in calculating how much to make. "You don't want to produce a lot of inventory until you know people want to buy it," says Lori Greiner, author of Invent It, Sell It, Bank It!
6. Don't give up. Entrepreneurs rarely succeed overnight. "Most ventures have lots of false starts until they find the right recipe," says Jeff Kear, co-owner of Planning Pod, an online event-management software company. He would know: Three of the five businesses he started failed; two have been successful.
These sites can turn your entrepreneurial dream into reality.
ChicCEO.com Visiting this site is like using training wheels during your first entrepreneurial ride: It walks you through the process, from developing your idea to writing a business plan to funding your venture.
Kickstarter.com This crowdfunding platform helps you generate financial backing. While you maintain the ownership of your project, the site collects 5 percent of what you raise -- but only if you reach your goal by the deadline you set. Otherwise, all donations are returned.
Quirky.com Submit a sketch or an explanation of your product to this crowdsourcing invention company. Then tune in every Thursday and watch live as a group of industry experts and community members debate and decide which ideas to manufacture. If chosen, you'll play a role in development decisions and share in the profits.
Hootsuite.com Keep track of all your social-media accounts, create and schedule posts, and assess your online engagement as your brand grows. The basic plan is free, so it's perfect for start-ups.
Originally published in the June 2015 issue of Parents magazine.