by: Geoff Ficke

This week I had the opportunity to launch a new product at the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association’s annual trade show in Orlando. This is an annual fair that brings together the manufacturers of all size to present and introduce new wares for the youth market. As in all industries, the competition is fierce, the innovations many and the marketing strategies are endlessly varied.

During lulls in the action I walked the floor and did a bit of networking. I had the good fortune to meet a woman, standing at the smallest, most sparsely merchandised booth in the show. As we chatted she opened up to me about what her goals were for her product, at this time and at this expensive, high-end show.

Her display consisted solely of a single prototype of her invention. She had no packaging, no graphics, no branding, none of the elements present in glowing abundance at every other booth on the trading floor. She was also scared. Her expressed fear was that she would be dismissed as a dreamer for attending such an event with no bullets in her gun.

Despite all of her perceived disadvantages, this lady had a really great product concept. Her invention was novel, a true product improvement over the existing universe of competitive brands currently being marketed. I thought she had an excellent chance to find a partner, a license or sell her patented concept and told her so.

Each day I would see this nice lady several times and I noticed a subtle change happening at each meeting. She was gaining confidence. She was seeing her product concept being exposed to a very tough crowd and people were confirming her assumptions about product potential. Her experience at the show was proving invaluable in energizing her for the task ahead of making her invention market ready.

The last time I saw this lady she was positively glowing. A senior executive from one of the largest companies in the industry had visited her stand. Then he returned with subordinates. She had been invited to corporate headquarters to formally present the prototype to the corporate team and commence negotiations for a license deal.

Now this is a great step for her but she realizes she has a long way to go before she closes a license deal. I know this after several days of exposure to this woman, if the deal does not happen I will see her at this or another show down the line with a fully branded product ready for sale. She will not stop until she achieves her goal.

My consulting firm looks at hundreds of new invention and product submissions each year. We actually engage about a dozen in an average year. A very high percentage of the items we pass on nevertheless have real commercial merit. What they invariably lack is a person such as the lady I have described in this article.

The ability to take an alternative path, expose your idea to a critical marketplace and take a risk is what separates successful entrepreneurs from dreamers. The word “no” is something all of us dread hearing. And yet, overcoming “no” is the hurdle every entrepreneur must learn to accept, understand and handle. I tell my clients, “no just means not today”.

I meet many people who simply give up. Their reasons, really excuses, are endless. I could not raise the money. I was misled. I have three kids. My partner took off with the plans. I can’t sell. These, and countless other complaints are indicative of a fear of success. Not everyone is constructed with the “right stuff” to succeed as an entrepreneur.

I was personally and professionally re-energized after my brief, meeting with my new entrepreneurial friend. She had taken an uncertain, risky and novel road to launching her product. Her courage was to be admired. She confirmed my belief that the road to success is open to all with the drive, ambition and positive attitude essential to face and overcome the obstacles that inevitably must be encountered. Markets are brutally competitive. Only the strong will survive in this jungle.

Author's Bio: 

Geoff Ficke has been a serial entrepreneur for almost 50 years. As a small boy, earning his spending money doing odd jobs in the neighborhood, he learned the value of selling himself, offering service and value for money.

After putting himself through the University of Kentucky (B.A. Broadcast Journalism, 1969) and serving in the United States Marine Corp, Mr. Ficke commenced a career in the cosmetic industry. After rising to National Sales Manager for Vidal Sassoon Hair Care at age 28, he then launched a number of ventures, including Rubigo Cosmetics, Parfums Pierre Wulff Paris, Le Bain Couture and Fashion Fragrance.

Geoff Ficke and his consulting firm, Duquesa Marketing, Inc. ( has assisted businesses large and small, domestic and international, entrepreneurs, inventors and students in new product development, capital formation, licensing, marketing, sales and business plans and successful implementation of his customized strategies. He is a Senior Fellow at the Page Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Business School, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.