QUESTION: Did you ever get close to losing  your invention because you did not make enough sales?

ANSWER: We sold over 2 million kits and Better Blocks had a nine-year life span. That’s because the person I sold the patents to, Kelvin, was very good at direct marketing on TV, but, to make a long term success of BetterBlocks we needed to have a presence in retail stores. Although we did sell in the Toys R Us stores and other retail chains, BetterBlocks never sold in the quantities we hoped for. So, after about 9 years, Better Blocks had run its life by direct response selling and that’s the way that it was.

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QUESTION: You said, “After the success of Better Blocks you had a bit of self doubt. Am I a one hit wonder?” How did you get out of that sort of thinking? Selling yourself short. Was there something in your head that just went snap?

ANSWER: Actually, it didn’t quite go snap. It was an evolution for me. I was beginning to be asked by schools to speak to their students about inventing. What I found was that the kids would not only ask questions about inventing, but start asking questions about entrepreneurship, finances and money. I began to realise that there was not a lot of good information available that would teach kids about inventing, entrepreneurship or how money worked in the real world. That was really the seed from which my next product grew. To share with kids what I had learnt about inventing, entrepreneurship and money. What had worked for my and what hadn’t.

My problem was, I had an engineering background, not an educational background.  Give  me a building block to physically design and make…I can do that. Give me an education program to build, and I have to be honest, I had no idea how to do that! So I spent the next 15 years, researching  educational products, researching the most effective ways to teach kids. I came up with some surprising and highly valuable information on how to effectively teach kids, in fact anyone of any age!

But the bottom line for me was; kids learn best from other kids. If the learning’s fun and entertaining, they’ll learn. If you can get those two ingredients in, then you can build a program that will be great for teaching kids.

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QUESTION: There was “stuff” you weren’t comfortable doing, like asking for what you want. To overcome this you actually took matters in your own hands and took on some personal development?

ANSWER: Yeah, thanks for bringing that up because there is lot of “stuff” i needed to do to be successful that I certainly wasn’t comfortable in doing. I’m 55 now. When I was 28 I had quite a bit of success in motor racing but I was an introverted loner who ran an engineering business, by myself, from my backyard shed!

There was a big chunk of my life that sucked. Because I was an introvert, I found it very hard to go out and meet people. This wasn’t the way that I wanted to live the rest of my life so I started to do programs that brought me “out” as a person. Meeting people, particularly people I don’t know, was, and still is, one of the most challenging things I can do, but I also know that that’s what I need to do to lead a happy successful life.

With my kids entrepreneurial program I’m developing, I’m involved with some people who have enough faith in me and the product I’m developing that they have invested money. If I didn’t challenge myself to meet people I would never have met or attracted these investors. What I’ve found with inventors is, people don’t necessarily invest money in their ideas, but their money in the person. Can this person make their idea work? If people invest money in me and my ideas it’s up to me to do the best I can to make the project successful. If that means I have to get out of my comfort zone and speak up and do things I don’t really want to do then that’s what I’ve got to do! I’m not saying I always do it, but at least I can ask myself, ‘What’s the best thing i can do in the interest of everybody involved? That’s how it works for me. It involves stepping out of my comfort zone sometimes.

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QUESTION: Did you feel at any stage that you were chasing your tail, chasing false leads? Do you tap into and trust, your intuition, your gut feelings? How do you chose which is the right path to go or the path that’s just wasting your time? How do you make that judgment call? When your friend John said “Go ring my mate, this kiwi guy lives in the States, and it will all be sweet?”… and it definitely turned out that way…how did you know to follow this lead?

ANSWER: My gut feeling said, ring him up! Because my attitude is, I have everything to gain and nothing to lose. To be honest, I find it really challenging to phone people. Even doing this RadioTV interview I don’t find easy, but it’s part of what I do that seems to work for me. When look at the decisions I make, intuition does play a part. I have a sense of which choice is going to work for me and the other people involved. Of course experience plays a part in my decisions. That’s how my kids entrepreneurial program came about. It was an idea that I thought had major benefits to a lot of kids, parents and teachers which just felt right! It hasn’t always been an easy road, because experience is gained by making a lot of mistakes. But for me it comes down to deciding “Okay I think this project is a good thing”, and off I go and do it.

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QUESTION: Is successful inventing more about who you know, than what you know?

ANSWER: Very good question. Thank you. Let me tell you a little story. Part of being successful is certainly about who you know. With Better Blocks, there was a pivotal point when Better Blocks quite clearly was on the road to success… even though I didn’t realise it at the time. I’d written a business plan, spent two years travelling around Australia asking for venture capital in all traditional channels of raising finance, but I was unsuccessful. I realised that a part of the problem was the way I approached raising venture capital and the other part was, I just hadn’t spoken to the “right” person yet.

One day I was talking to my sister’s boyfriend, John Wilkie. He was a carpenter. He built and installed beautiful kitchen cupboards. Not the kind of guy you’d expect financial expertise from, right? So, while I was talking to John about BetterBlocks he casually said “Why don’t you ring up my mate in America? He’s a New Zealander living in the US and he’s doing very well in direct marketing.” I rang up Kelvin and the end result of that call was a $45 million business. Now, you can’t write that into a business plan!

Certainly, it is who you know and what you know, but it’s also speaking to people, listening to them, being very aware of what they are saying. People will always offer you advice or opportunities. Just follow these opportunities and see where they go, because, my greatest successes and new inventions have come out of doing just that. You need your business plans to give you a guide to where you are going and how you can “probably” get there, but always be aware of what’s in left field because, like I said, who would have ever thought a carpenter would be the key to Better Blocks becoming a successful business. So I thank John Wilkie from the bottom of my heart for that comment.

This post is part of my Radio Coaching Interview. To listen to this section please click here.

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www.WarrenWilsonInventor.com
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