How to take weird and wonderful ideas to market

SquidLondon is the design company behind the rather wonderful Squidarella, an umbrella that changes colour as it rains. Co-founder Emma-Jayne Parkes took the product from blueprint, to patent, to profit. Here's her advice to other start-ups looking to get their wacky new products off the ground.

by Emma-Jayne Parkes
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

My co-founder Viviane and I met at the London College of Fashion where we were studying design and development. The seeds of our business were planted on a rainy day in our university canteen in 2006 when we came up with the idea of umbrellas that change colour in the rain.

After spending our time at university designing different things for different projects, we really wanted to make our idea a reality and we knew the only way to do this was to go to market and do it ourselves. Taking this initial idea and turning it into a business wasn't easy though. Like most first time entrepreneurs we found it hard to know what to do next. Although, with such an innovative product in our minds, we knew protecting our idea early on was really important.

We visited the British Library Business & IP Centre initially to learn more about how intellectual property applied to us and our product. The centre helps businesses at all points of innovation, from assessing the originality of an idea, whether there is a market for it, to how to successfully protect an idea and turn it into a commercial success. 

There are a number of processes a business needs to go through in order to get a product to market, protect their intellectual property and to make sure they'll make a margin.

Protect your idea

Intellectual Property (IP) is about protecting your original ideas: the aspects of your invention that are unique and innovative. If you have an invention that you want to commercialise, you need to find out if it already exists, understand your IP and how it can be protected.

Is your invention original? It is important to search to see if anyone has already published or used a similar invention to your own, as this may mean that you cannot protect it. You can conduct a quick search yourself using free websites.

Research your market

Before you commercialise your invention, it’s essential that you find out if there is a market for it by researching your potential customers, the size of your market, trends and the major players. Market research can also help you to identify new ideas and find inspiration.

Producing a prototype, manufacturing and branding

There are a number of elements that are essential in taking your invention from idea to market. You need to develop a prototype, manufacture your product and also get your branding and design right.

Marketing and sales

Marketing means understanding your customers and providing them with an appropriate product, whilst also promoting it in a way that makes people want it. Market research can help you understand more about what the consumer wants and the trends that are taking place.

Turning an idea into a money-spinner is a long process. We had the initial idea in 2006, registered the company in 2008 and finally started selling our first products in 2009. But persevere and make sure you cover all of the above, and you'll get there in the end. Just like us.


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