For our Inventor Spotlight, we’re highlighting Brian McLoughlin! Brian is a long-time inventor and has been an active Edison Nation member and Insider since 2012!
We wanted to get to know Brian a bit better to learn about his background and his EN experiences so far…
Where is your home town?
I was born in West Point in the military base hospital and spent the years until four living in Ireland. When I was old enough to start school my parents moved back to New York. I grew up in Rockland County, a suburb outside of Manhattan.
Where do you currently reside?
As they say – everything in life goes full circle. Funny enough when I bought my house I ended up being a mile away from the West Point military academy. I knew I always wanted to live on the Hudson and this area is really four seasons beautiful.
What is your professional background?
Would you believe I wanted to be a weatherman? I am fascinated by weather. So much that I have traveled to be part of it, even when danger was present. However, I never really shook my love for electronics. I decided to switch to electrical engineering later on and have been knee deep in transistors, capacitors and microchips ever since.
How did you initially hear about Edison Nation?
Funny story – my fiance (now my wife) has been in sourcing for 18 years. I was working with a large electronics company in New Jersey and she was working on creative for a product. We sat with the owner of the company about design, cost, timeline, etc. He asked if I had ever heard of Edison Nation. I told him no – but I loved the name. He then asked me to look into it and see if they could match him with a concept or product. After two days reading everything I could I wrote him back, “Go For It, and add me as a friend.” Safe to say I was impressed enough to join myself.
Have you ever collaborated with another inventor(s) on a project? If so, how was that experience for you?
I have an office in a larger company that does different forms of retail and branding. Every day I have someone walk in and ask for an opinion or to join in a meeting to collaborate. Since I do a lot of prototyping and proof of concept work I always give my honest opinion. In the last 12 years I have probably been part of about 80+ projects in some form or another. This doesn’t include projects my wife and I do independently.
I think collaborating is important as everyone has a different skill set. Sometimes as inventors or “tinkerers” we have tunnel vision. We lock our self into a path and never veer without being offended by others comments. I found that being that way can be the nail in the coffin so to speak. Contributing is a large part of product development. Notice I don’t say “inventing”. Inventions do not sell; products do. So if you have taken the time to provide a proof of your idea it then must be made into something tangible and that can generate revenue. Anything other than that is basically a hobby. I love my hobbies as they keep me well rounded but I never want to be known as a “broke inventor”.
I find people who can’t accept criticism or contribute to a team effort are not useful in our industry. Never be afraid to ask for help!
What are some general industry trends you have noticed recently?
The last two years have been brutal in my opinion. Not only is it getting harder to keep ahead of technology but the cost of manufacturing is rising faster than anytime in history. Even worse is the largest buyer of goods based on branding and value is slowly dying off. There is a huge panic among seniors that they will out live their nest egg. This means less purchases and lower retail pricing to achieve penetration.
Lower retail pricing sometimes forces vendors to not only make less on the space provided in retail, but a high return rate on a product can cause a loss in that space. It’s very scary to think the product that sells for $4.99 is sold at wholesale for $2.50. Not to mention the distribution costs, marketing costs and return rate can quickly eat a large chunk of the manufacturing vendors profit. To mark up only one time will never recover the cost to even run that business.
Today many companies aren’t willing to take chances based on liability alone. There are a million great ideas floating around, but the ones that can yield the highest returns are the only ones worth selling in that limited space. This, however, is very different all together if you focus on the younger population.
Car companies learned ten years ago that adults entering the work force are not buying cars like previous years. This prompted massive investment into technology to make the car more enticing and fit the lifestyle so many are choosing. Today’s younger customers are buying way less than ever before. However, for the first time they are spending more on the items they do buy. This is what Apple cashed in on.
If you can sell a product that has a higher value price wise to the consumer you can generate much higher profit margins. I often yell at the television when I watch “Shark Tank” and see a successful entrepreneur walk into the tank who is doing fantastic direct sales and asks for a partner to rush into retail. Are you kidding me! You found a niche to carve that is making profits after all costs and you want to chance all that right down the drain going after a market that clearly doesn’t exist in the retail world?
I like Edison Nation for a few reasons. One is they have a group of professionals who truly understand the market, but they also have avenues to move product outside of brick and mortar. You have no idea how valuable that is!
Do you find that invention ideas come to you or do you have to go after them?
Oh man this can be either seen as a curse or a blessing. I have been deep in the product world for a third of my life. In that time I have filled hard drives up with renderings and supporting research. Ideas come into my head to the point that one time I asked a doctor to prescribe something to slow me down up there. Six months on the pills I had lost who I was. My mother told me something was different and I had become “normal.” Today to hear that word “normal” makes me shriek. I had spent so much time fighting myself thinking I had a problem instead of embracing my “gift” for creativity. Today, I tell my son he can create what ever he wants. Three-headed dog drawing, space man on a pirate ship, car with eyes. If that’s what his mind is telling him he needs to put down on paper and it should never be bottled up.
Everyone of us has nights our partner comes down to ask us to go back to bed. Where you are sitting at dinner and talking, but in the back of your head you are mentally rendering your idea. Embrace that! Feed that! Never once work to be “normal.”
What advice would you tell others hoping to score a licensing deal?
In today’s retail world it makes absolutely no sense to go into business if you are an inventor. Inventors do not stop on one idea. Mark Cuban once said he hated to work with inventors because they are always onto the next idea and never grounded. If you want to run a business to occupy the in between time, chase the sale or focus on one product then you are probably not a inventor. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that either. In any context it would be the right thing to do. However, if the challenge is as rewarding as the outcome and you cannot sit still when an idea pops into your head, then my friend you are an inventor.
Licensing allows you to focus on your talent while others try and produce capital to fund your next project. Anyone on Edison Nation should have no interest outside of licensing. In my opinion it’s the fastest way to achieve success. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a customer for your product, it means you solved a problem and are onto the next.
What are some other fun facts about yourself that you’d like to share with the EN community?
I love boating. In high school I had a boat before a car, and in college in Arizona I had a boat to escape the heat. I spend as many summers down in LBI at our shore home enjoying the ocean breeze, fishing for dinner and slowing down.
I’ve also contributed to about 18 patents, which I’m very proud of.
What inspired you to start inventing?
Anytime my mother or father bought something new and I could take apart the broken item. I literally would turn anything I could find in pieces into something else. It wasn’t until after college that I realized you can make living doing that.
When did you come up with your first great idea?
I won a school science fair in 1990 by creating a pair of pajamas embedded with aluminum foil and speaker wire to interact with video games. In some awkward way it was a virtual reality suit set of thermals. My cousins started calling me “brain box” after that. I’m horrific at sports so I needed to do something as a child…
You have been an EN member since 2012, can you provide us with some details around your experiences and journey to date?
No G8 yet!!! Kidding. I’ve always said it’s only a matter of time. Catching fish in the ocean is very hard. In a barrel not so much. Edison Nation is a barrel of focused ideas submitted by creative people. It’s only a matter of time until the right hook lands a connection.
I actually have had a great time reading all your forum comments and banter. I told my wife we will one day take a trip. Her response was “great, but how will I get you to leave the office?” My reply was simple “turn off the power and I’ll get bored.”
Any additional details you’d like to share?
Yes, the chances of becoming rich on your first deal is very unlikely. It gets better on the second, third, etc. If you do not have the money to spare chasing your invention DO NOT DO IT. I have seen people lose everything doing this. You are fighting for that space between two price tags and it is a war of opportunity being fought every buying season. Your amazing, super duper item will not get that space if a not so super duper item makes more money for the retailer. It’s a simple fact and it’s true.
Invent simple, then re-invent until it’s as simple as it needs to be. If diapers make more than a self cleaning baby butt wipe, the diapers will win that space every time. If you feel comfortable reaching out for help DO IT. If you show your item to a million people and it’s actually a good item, it will be made. I have been knocked off twice. It hurts. A lot.
Lastly, remember a company like Edison Nation is putting more than time on the table to show your item. They are putting reputation, experience, relationships on the line each time they show your item. Too many bad ideas may turn off a strategic partner. The person who is seeing your idea pitched at a meeting does not know your story. They do not know you kept a car two years longer to fund prototyping your idea. You cannot be upset that someone does not “get” your idea. As inventors, you put your thoughts out to the people who make decisions. Not every decision they make is always right. However, they hold the chips and therefore its their right to make the call.
Have you ever thought, “wouldn’t it be cool if…”?