Chapter One: How I got started
It’s true! Most people are too busy merely earning a living than to make any reasonable money. If you have a full-time job with a company you’ll have realised that after years of service you’re still unable to make enough money… right?
The matter is more or less same for self-employed people who work day night sitting before their PC and unable to make sufficient money because there is a standard rate for the job and no possibility of asking more than the existing market rate.
Five years ago, I was also one of the livelihood earning flocks and quite desirous of making extra bucks. I was 26 years young chap and used to enjoy working as an average 72 hours a week including Saturdays and Sundays. Moreover, that was not the end; I had to work a couple of nights each week until three in the morning. Despite my hard working hours, I was earning only a reasonable amount for my age, but the things that used to hound me was not able to make enough saving so that I could pay my mortgage and other expenses.
Moreover, I was certainly looking for some opportunity that could fulfill my aspirations. I tried several ‘get rich quick’ schemes that used to see everyday in my newspaper daily or that used to come to my mailbox. You too know if you have tried any of these schemes, they are nothing more than make you to dream all and you will not be going to become rich even in your dream.
Then suddenly and fortunately, I came across the idea of unlocking my fortune, the opportunity I already have been looking for long. It is a simple concept, and at the better side, you need not to buy any stock or work a full day to make your money. On average, just a couple of hours a week working made me to earn as much that that I was getting in my full-time job. Don’t you think I had unlocked the secret?
Now you must be wondering, what I do actually. Nothing great! I acquire the exclusive right to the distribution of a product from the manufacturers, and then I sell that right on to someone else. Sounds so simple? Indeed, it is simple.
You are getting more curious. O.K. let me tell you how all started, and you will be of the same opinion that the opportunities are endless. You too can turn this idea to your own advantage by using your existing knowledge. My first idea was related to a baby product that was innovative and really useful. Now, not necessarily all baby related products have good potential of earning you decent money. You can think of ideas related to the job you’ve been doing. If you really analyse beautifully, you can be able to find a need in your job only that can fulfill your dream. Write them down as soon as you can identify them – don’t ever give a good idea the chance to get away!
How it all began…
I used to work in a crèche, the place where working people keep their little kids in the daytime to be looked after by us. We had children from 4 months to 4 years. You know how delicate to look after such small babies. Babies younger than one year usually kept in cradles and they often require rocking to carry on their sleep. Whenever a baby starts crying, I have to rush to her, pick her up in my arms and rock her until she falls asleep. I often wonder if the cradle could rock the baby itself, we will not have to do such hard work. This idea led me to enquire for the product that I had thought of, never heard, never seen.
I phoned every wholesaler of baby products enquiring if they had the product. However, it was disappointment all the time and I was surprised why no manufacturer was trying this. I was really amazed why industry was unable to realise this need. I was just about to abandon the idea of finding this hypothetical product when someone lent me an American Baby Care magazine. This magazine put an end to my search for the product that could rock the baby itself. There was a half page advertisement about a product; they have called “A device for rocking babies to sleep”. I was really excited reading about the product. Immediately, I rang the number given in the advertisement.
“Hi. How can I help you?” an American lady asked.
“Hello, I’m calling from England,” I said. “I am interested in buying your “device for rocking babies to sleep”, “Can you tell me who you are supplying over here?”
“I’m sorry; we don’t supply anyone in England.” The lady replied.
“Oh,” I said. “Can you tell me who you have supplied in the UK or Europe?”
“I’m sorry; we’ve never supplied anyone outside of the United States.”
It was then that the idea struck me.
“Would you be prepared to give me the sole UK rights to sell your product?” I asked.
“Sure!” came back the reply.
“Would you be prepared to give me the sole European rights as well?” I asked.
I actually had no idea of what I was going to do next, all happened accidentally but I was sure, I was going to make something good. I was able to find a much useful product that was not available in the UK or Europe, and I was going to hold the sole rights to it. It was going to be great and I was so excited at the prospect that I even agreed to pay the legal documentation to be drawn up and sent over to the States.
I know better that asking for the sole rights to a product is not as ridiculous as it sounds. It is like offering someone that he or she intends to do. This must be a win-win situation for them as I am going to open up a completely new market for their products. It would cost tens of thousands of pounds to open up a European operation that I am going to do for them and virtually for nothing. There is no question of holding them back from granting me sole rights.
Now you understood even though you are no one a company can offer you sole rights. Next thing I must do is making and then using as many connections. I rang the wholesalers I had been talking to before as they did not have the product and were potential buyers. They were virtually delighted to know the product was now going to be available at their stores. The prospects of my business were already showing me golden dreams.
Next I did was to approach manufacturers of cradles in UK. They too showed interest in the product. The Sales and Marketing people were also enthusiastic in making the product popular in UK. They wanted to know if they could have exclusive rights to the product, and they were willing to pay me a royalty for the rights. All was going well, but then the Managing Director of the main firm stepped in.
He saw the device for rocking babies to sleep as a competition to the conventional cradles. He taught me a valuable lesson that the product should not prevent the sale of existing products, but enhance them, thus giving users a wider choice.
He even advised me to contact people direct with the unique product and make it popular among the end users.
At first, I did not think that it was really a good idea. After all, the market is flooded with traditional goods; people were not likely to be interested in an alternative. Then I realised how I felt the need of the product myself, so I went back to the Yellow Pages and rang the first number I came across.
It really worked and I ventured into the world of wealth.
Since then, I have acquired, and sold on, the exclusive rights to many other products, including:
- A product for gift wrapping presents in balloons
- A device for keeping open bin bags
- A collapsible bin
- A series of novelty door knobs
- Vending machines
By now, you must have realised that this is something you can do too without investing heavily. You have probably already had some ideas to identify products you might look for sole rights. What you say! You could not make up your mind. Do not worry; I am going to tell you how to find products that will allow you to set up your own royalty creating deals.
Chapter Two: How do you get ideas?
So, how are you going to find the products that you can look for sole rights? I have developed some guidelines to zero in on your golden product:
- They should ideally be made overseas and not available in your country.
- They should enhance product-lines available locally.
- They should be compatible with UK safety standards.
- They should be compatible with standard UK equipment (e.g. electrical equipment).
- They should relate to an area you are familiar with.
There are two ways you can find your products. The first is that you think about the products that you have always wanted but never seen for sale, then start looking for that product. The second is that you look at products that seem unique to you, then check them out to see whether anything similar is available in the local market.
You will realise now why my guideline says you should stick to areas you are already familiar with. Otherwise, your brilliant idea may turn out to be a futile thing to the people you hope will buy it.
Use your work background
You must have been thinking time-to-time to have a certain item that would make your job easier. Not you, perhaps all of us think of a product that can help us perform our work better. We some time even think of a Genie whom we wish to bring all heavenly joy for us. No, you are not surely going to get sole rights for him.
Now you have entered the world of sales you need something to keep your brochures in order or something that pops out samples at the press of a button. In a nutshell, you too have to resort to advertising mechanism.
Do you work with your hands? Yes, we all do. Perhaps you have always wanted a pair of extra hands, or something that would easily adapt to hold various items while you work on them. These imaginative words raise curiosity and suitable for making your product popular among masses.
You can find any innovative product people using here and there as your potential product to help you earn royalty. Think of all the brilliant gadgets you have seen people use in their work – the sonic tape measure, the damp meter, the screwdriver with a light in it, the builder’s spirit level with an unbreakable bubble – all of them were someone’s brilliant idea and your potential product.
Use your home or hobby surroundings
There are so many things that you wished for to make your life easier around your home. Some of the things are available now in the marketplace. Moreover, many such products can serve your purpose collecting a royalty on them in coming years.
If you really wish to enlist such products, you will find a long list is needed to accommodate all the products. Your kitchen can be decorated with – the fizz-saver for drinks bottles; plastic ‘bears paws’ for lifting joints of meat; automatic bread makers and many more that you can enlist and I failed to enlist.
In the bathroom – waterproof headrests; toothpaste dispensers; plaque removers. In the living room -‘lava’ lamps; sand pictures; chair-arm trays; scent diffusers. In the workshop – rechargeable screwdrivers, self-adjusting drill chucks.
In the garden -‘plug’ compartment seed trays; rollout paths; click-fit watering systems. For your pets, -the extending dog lead; the vacuum- brush; the flea collar.
For your sports – the little purse that fits on your training shoes; the self-adjusting golf-tee; inexpensive fitness machines.
The choice is really too wide.
Listen to other people
As you can assess the things that can make your life easier, others too think about the items that can be more helpful to them. You can know about these items once you talk to them about their work and the difficulties they have been facing. You will often find that they will spontaneously tell you about things they wish they could buy. Thus you can get the idea of more products to be added to your list.
One more thing that can make your choice wider is visiting foreign countries. You may encounter many useful unique products that are not available in your local market. If you visit France, the up markets there have many such products that can be sold in UK market.
Read trade magazines
Trade magazines are an excellent source of information. The products in British magazines are already available here. Just look for an American magazine like where I found about Shaking Devices for Rocking Baby Cradles. Similarly, you can look for other magazines from European or Asian countries. You should also look for British trade magazines as they give you an overview of what is available in UK. This will allow you to find your unique products. It should also encourage you to look for other associated products that you can seek out.
For instance, in the field of catering, hygiene requirements have led to a system of colour coding for cutting boards and knives. The boards are marked with a coloured dot, and the knives have coloured handles, so that chefs do not cut raw meat with the same knives that are meant to be kept for dairy products. You can think of other items that could be colour coded in the same manner. You can carry this colour coding idea into tools for other purposes as well and thus you can enhance your product list.
Use lateral thinking
If somehow it is difficult for you to trigger off new ideas from existing ideas, try thinking as many uses you can do for a familiar everyday object. For example, consider as many uses you can think of a brick. You may come up with long lists that are only actually two uses – as building material (make walls, paths etc.) or as a weapon (hitting someone on the head). But after a little exercise you come up with long lists of really novel uses – door-stop, ashtray, match holder and striker, step-ladder, car-jack, wheel chock, foot warmer, ruler, paperweight, cooking utensil stand, and many more that I could not enlist here.
Although finding a unique product that is not available in your local market is important but even more important is the assessment of the selling viability of that product in your country’s market. The product is unique is not sufficient to make it to sell in the UK market. It’s not true that the item which is being sold in the country of origin like a hot cake will be sold in UK with the same speed.
So you need to assess every item that comes to your attention, in terms of its marketability in this country. You have to take into account the traditions and culture prevalent in UK. This will often make you to reject a number of products not suitable for UK culture. I too have considered this proposition, and rejected many products such as bow ties and cummerbunds in unique designs, and a machine that prints pictures on dinner shirts. They sell well in America, but they have no takers in UK. The reason – the men’s evening dress market in UK is very conservative.
I have also rejected a piece of computer software for self-hypnosis, because it could cause all sorts of legal hassles.
Probably the best way to check whether a particular product will sell in the UK market is to try selling it to the wholesalers. Wholesalers are the primary indicators for market potential of your product. The most important thing, you must not forget that never tell the wholesalers where the products come from under any circumstances. Do not say who manufactures it, or which country you brought from, or how you found it, or even what other products that manufacturer produces.
If you let the cat out of the bag, the wholesaler could go straight to the manufacturer and cut you out off the scene. Your finding will remain just as a sweet memory. You better prepare an agreement to safeguard your interests. In addition, if the wholesalers anyway show interest in finding the country of origin of the product, be assured the product has a potential market in UK. If it would not be a viable product, they will not have bothered to know the country from where you brought the product. I would rather say try half a dozen wholesalers in different parts of the country, to see if they all react the same way. Their uniform manner of reaction is a good sign for your prospective business.
- Make a list of all the things you have always wanted but could not find in the shops
- Ask your friends what things they’ve always wanted but couldn’t find
- Read as many trade magazines as you can
- Start talking to wholesalers
Chapter Three: Finding Suppliers
Whether you’ve thought of a particular useful product using the above concept that you want to locate, or you just want to search to see what is available, the first thing you have to do is find some likely manufacturers. I find most of my products manufactured in America, and I built up a good range of contacts there to help the products delivered to my place. However, its not only America, the whole world is available to you where you can you can find your unique product. As already discussed, setting up an overseas operation is an expensive proposition for any manufacturer. The farther away they are, the more daunting for them to establish an overseas market. Moreover, for UK if the manufacturer is from a non-English speaking country, he has to face real problem to establish contact here.
You can deal with the language-change problem with prudence by doing all your business with them by letter (or fax) and your local Chamber of Commerce will help you with translations if necessary.
Now you must be thinking it is possible to locate product manufacturers by visiting wholesalers to see who makes similar products to the ones you are looking for. It certainly is useful to visit wholesalers to see what is available generally, or to get an idea how well various items sell. But most wholesalers are far too clever to tell anyone where they get their stock from, and they also take all the labels off so you can’t find out anything. To locate wholesalers, look in the Yellow Pages (your local library will have them for the whole country); or in ‘The Trader’ – a monthly magazine published by the same company as ‘Exchange and Mart’, and it is itself full of fascinating advertisements, which will give you a good idea of what is available now.
For more direct methods of finding suppliers, start with your nearest City library, where you will find directories on international trade. I always find the librarians very helpful, I tell them what I want to find out and they help me locate the right directories. The main thing you need to discover is which countries make the type of products you are interested in.
Once you locate the country producing goods of your desire, the next stage is to write to the Commercial Attaché at the Embassy (in London) of your chosen country. From mow you will find two ways you can go from here. The first is that you mention in your letter that you are interested in importing a certain category of products and that you would like to be get in touch with the manufacturers in your country. I bet you will receive a flood of brochures through your letterbox. The disadvantage with this approach is that these manufacturers usually want you either to import the goods yourself, or to act as a local representative for them, working full-time visiting customers and passing the orders back to them. More possibility is that you end up working as a full time agent if you follow this path.
A better option is that I do. I ask the Embassy to let me have a list of all the trade publications that cover my area of interest. I also ask the British trade magazines if they can let me have details of their overseas counterparts. Once I know about these magazines, I communicate with them via telephone or fax and ask for a sample copy and details of subscription rates to be sent to me by Air Mail. This is more suitable way of working.
Once I have seen the sample copies and zeroed in on the most useful one, I take out a year’s subscription. The easiest way to do this is by credit card, because you don’t have to worry about exchange rates or have to pay your bank for a non-sterling cheque. You may find these magazines listed in the trade directories, but to be sure you have the latest information, it is best to go through the Embassies.
Just like British trade magazines, these magazines carry advertisements and feature such as ‘What’s New’ sections, which will give you the names of the manufacturers you need. Then you need to telephone them and ask who they supply in England and take it from there. You may have to ask for the Export department, or for Sales and Marketing.
If you encounter with a language problem, just ring off and send a letter instead. Fax is quickest.
Before you telephone, check the difference in times. It might possible the time you are making a call is an odd hour for the country in question. East Coast America is always at least 6 hours behind us, (that is, 6pm here is noon there), and the West Coast can be 9 hours behind. Europe, east of a line that runs from Denmark to Tunisia, is at least 1 hour ahead of us. They all have some sort of ‘summer time’ that may not start and end at the same time as ours, and they mostly start work at 8am instead of our 9am.
You should also be prepared, when you telephone with all sort of information. They will ask you who and what you are. Surprisingly fewer people do this homework, but you need to have your answer ready in case they ask questions. I usually avoid this sort of question by saying that I hold the sole rights to a number of products which are similar to theirs, and believe their product will enhance my range. This one line introduction makes them to smell business.
I’m going to tell you how to negotiate the deal in the next chapter, but now I am going to tell you about a super new way I’ve found to locate these products.
The Information Super-Highway
You must have heard of it. Don’t you? I use it every day, probably you too. I have contacts throughout the world that I ‘talk’ to regularly by electronic mail and I am a member of several of the main information providers who run forum discussion groups. These include forums on ‘Ideas and Inventions’, and I often find messages from people who want to market new products. They also offer news corners, advertisement columns, and what they call ‘CB simulators’, which are real-time discussion groups. To give you an idea, a 10 minute probe on one of these forums produced one person offering 97 ideas to market, and others who could offer:
- Water absorbing granules.
- Impenetrable fabric.
- A vole monitor.
- A water recycler.
- A microwave oven cleaner.
- Shirt garters (to stop your shirt riding up).
And a number of other ideas which might have been new to the people who had posted the messages, but weren’t new to me, like a walking frame on wheels for old people.
To get onto the super highway, you need a computer with a modem which connects you to the rest of the world via the telephone line. This modem will also allow you to send and receive faxes without having to buy a separate fax machine. Then telephone CompuServe on 0800 289 458 or Cix on 01492 641 961 and ask them how to proceed. They have some user-friendly Software to simplify using their system, and you should buy it, because it makes the whole thing pretty easier. They will send you explanatory manuals too that will guide you through whole process.
I go to trade shows and exhibitions whenever I get an opportunity. If you have Trade Magazines with you, you can have all the information about forthcoming Trade Shows. This is another advantage of having trade magazines. There’s no use in looking for new products at the British shows, because other people find out about them too, and don’t forget your whole business is based on finding products before your competitors do. I particularly found trade shows in foreign countries a good source of finding suppliers.
It’s worth telephoning the show organisers if you unable to make to the actual show. Tell them that you have other commitments, and are disappointed for not making this time to there, but it would be so kind of you if they send you a copy of the catalogue. I assure you that they almost always do this, and you then have the addresses of all the exhibitors.
Incidentally, once you found the product that seems like an ideal product, and the people who make it, make sure that they are the only people who make it. There is no point in your obtaining exclusive rights from one manufacturer of lots if other people make the same thing.
- Use a City library to find out which countries manufacture the items you are interested in.
- Get the address of that country’s Embassy and the name of the Commercial Attaché.
- Write to him and ask for a list of the trade magazines for his country.
- Write to the UK trade magazines and ask for details of their overseas counterparts.
- Contact the magazines and ask for sample copies and subscription rates.
- Attend trade fairs and exhibitions domestics as well as overseas.
- Contact likely manufacturing companies and ask about the products that interest you.
- Consider joining the Information Super Highway.