It all started with a jewelry organizer.
In her early days as an entrepreneur, Lori Greiner would come up with an idea, not pursue it and then kick herself later when someone else actually did. Finally, in 1996, Greiner invented a plastic earring organizer that sold out in four minutes and started her down the path of entrepreneurship.
Now, the “Queen of QVC” has landed a gig as a “Sharkette” on ABC’s hit TV show “Shark Tank,” where she invests in budding entrepreneurs like her former self. Greiner not only offers the entrepreneurs a sizeable check, but she offers years of experience to help guide them on their journey. Here are her top ten tips for hopeful entrepreneurs.
1. Ask The Important Questions
According to Greiner, it’s critical to know every detail of your product. Is it for a mass audience or a niche market? What makes it unique? What does it cost to make? What are your margins? If you don’t know the answers, then you have a bigger problem than trying to find an investor.
2. Do Your Own Market Research
The only way to get the most accurate answers to the questions above is market research. Greiner says to look beyond your friends and family (and their innate desire to support you). You don’t have to hire someone to do market research—this is something to do yourself. Greiner did her own market research by going to different neighborhoods and showing the prototype of her earring organizer to people on the street. Based on their responses to her basic questionnaire, she knew she had something big.
3. Don’t Overspend
Overspending is a common problem in the early stages of launching a product, according to Greiner. People might hire more staff than they need, rent an office when they can work out of their homes or invest in too much inventory when they have too few sales. Her best advice? In the beginning, keep your company lean and mean.
4. Be Likeable!
When you’re asking someone to invest in your idea, you’re also asking them to invest in you. Be open to constructive criticism, be able to communicate clearly and effectively and make sure you have honest and ethical practices.
5. Packaging is Critical
Greiner says she often spends months creating the perfect packaging with her protégés. When designing packaging, Greiner says she considers eye-catching colors, font styles and images because people can see faster than they read.
6. Be Persistent
The journey to success is a marathon, not a sprint. Just because the first few (or several dozen) potential investors don’t believe in you or your idea, doesn’t mean there isn’t someone out there who will. If you have a truly good idea, exceptional product and solid business, you’ll find an investor.
7. Separate Personal and Professional
You’re not going to like everyone you work with—be it a client, manufacturer, supplier, etc. Separate your personal feelings from your business and laugh your way to the bank, Greiner says.
8. It’s ok to only have one product
You can still be a success and bring in millions of dollars with a single product or service. Unlike some of her fellow Sharks, Greiner says there is nothing wrong with putting all you have into one product or idea as long as it’s a winner!
9. Avoid borrowing from friends and family
Investors and venture capitalists understand that the money they give you may never be paid back, but family and friends may not have the same understanding. Avoid straining (or worse, ruining) relationships and don’t accept money from friends or family.
10. Protect your idea
With 120 patents to her name, Greiner understands the importance of protecting your ideas. It can be hard to protect your intellectual while preforming market research, but it’s well worth the investment. Greiner’s final piece of advice is to never put your idea online without a patent, because it can go viral fast and someone is sure to make a knock-off.