Spending time to solicit and receive good advice for a business is great. Even better: listening to it.
A great idea is meant for sharing.
That's one lesson Keith Basik, a Naples real estate professional and inventor, did not need to learn when he embarked on a recent entrepreneurial project: the Flip Towel.
Basik actually shared his idea with everyone he could. He just needed to do a better job listening to what people say about it.
First Basik envisioned his market. Throughout his education at U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and experience in the Army, Basik exercised. And he sweated. He wiped his face with a towel and dropped the towel on the floor. He watched others sweat, wipe their faces with towels and drop them on the floor. Or they used their shirt, wiping sweat onto sweat.
So Basik imagined building a better sweat trap.
He came up with a towel-and-wristband combination he says is significantly better than a regular towel or headband. The Flip Towel, he says, is a hands free, microfiber towel with great absorption capacity that contours to the users' body.
Basik applied for and received a provisional patent. That gave him a year to advance to utility patent status - or abandon the idea. “In order for you to even start showing people, you need to have your
patent in place,” Basik says. “You need to have 'patent pending.'”
He got a lawyer experienced with patents, particularly for the claims portion of the application. Basik kept the request broad, including “anything from the wrist that comes out over the hand that you use it to wipe with, whether you use magnets or not (he did) and any type of material.”
Basik ultimately won a provisional patent. Then he turned to a long list of potential supporters. It included family, friends, running groups, social media, Kickstarter, a veterans entrepreneurship group, the Florida Gulf Coast University business department, a University of Florida business entrepreneurship program and manufacturers from the United States to China.
So far, Basik has sold early versions of the Flip Towel to people in Switzerland, Hong Kong, New Zealand, England — and Fort Myers. “The response has been real good,” Basik says.
But sometimes, Basik admits, he didn't listen the way he should. When his father had a suggestion for how to improve the unfurling and then replacing of the towel back onto the wristband using magnets, for example, Basik didn't take it to heart — until a runner said the same thing.
Basik also hadn't thought much about where the logo was placed until an early user pointed out that while someone is wearing it the logo is upside-down to others. “You really have to listen to what people say,” he says.
Basik kept revising materials, magnet sizes and design. He also kept talking about branding, marketing, packaging and distribution with individuals, companies and his veterans group. The veterans group is a state program that includes coursework, Saturday classes and mentorship offered at no charge to honorably discharged veterans interested in starting a businesses. “It's a fabulous group,” he says, “always there to help me out.”
Basik has invested $70,000 in the Flip Towel. He also used $15,000 from a month-long Kickstarter campaign and sales of prototypes to reinvest in his product, improving various aspects. And he continues to listen.
What's next in the ongoing push to reach more customers? For one, Basik is negotiating with a company in Minnesota about updated materials for the Flip Towel. He's creating videos and other marketing collateral for a pitch to TV's “Shark Tank.” And he's also talking to another company that might want to buy what he's done so far and run with it.
Says Basik: “We have big ideas and the granule ideas and (we) keep moving forward.”