The seven hour car drive started early. I went through all the phrases over and over. Speaking loudly in the car to myself imagining an imaginary audience.
Expanding for me?
When I arrived to the retailer headquarters they were in the middle of doubling their storage facility. Obviously a good sign, they would be needing space for my new rubber rings.
I met the purchasers and made a two minute pitch. They liked the flashlight and the nifty solution to direct the beam to the right spot. As a finale I also produced the sketch from my sleepless night and the superior purchaser left the meeting room.
He came back with the chief in command and this bossman instantly decided that they should have the one without the flashlight. They quickly left again and I sat there trying to kill the awkward silence talking about the weather with the remaining assistant.
The meeting took less than 30 minutes and most of the time was spent telling me how great they were to do business with. I was extremely relieved and had to phase my self before getting in the car for the long but cheerful drive home. Adrenaline and nosegoblins made it a safe ride home.
On my way back, only 500 meters from my home after another seven hour drive. I got a quite expensive speeding ticket. This day was a real emotional roller-coaster ride that ended with a sting.
My Lampowitz flashlight holder was working perfectly. But I couldn’t sleep the night before my first meeting with a big retailer. Something was nagging me big time.
A worrying problem Ironically the main concept of my invention was it’s greatest weakness. The flashlight was causing a lot of trouble.
It cost a lot more than the holder.
Cheap lights had severe functionality problems.
Extra packaging expenses.
Battery might go flat during storage.
All modern machines already have built in lights.
You don’t really need a flashlight when screwing.
Thoughts were spinning -”What if I just got rid of the problem?”. And I went from bed to my computer, made a scetch of the prototype without the flashlight. Printed it and had a short but good nights sleep.
How much money should I charge the retailer for this type of product? A simple question you might think?
Big shot buddy In search of competent advice I got hold of an old friend and a high rolling international business man used to make huge international strategy’s and other big shot stuff for mega corporations.
Out of the league
It was really nice of him to take time and help me out but his range of expertise was above and beyond this task. And I was so clueless that I hardly knew what to ask. The one thing I knew I didn’t know was pricing and margins. What should I sell my little drill bit holder for?
Sadly my friends approach went completely off. He was used to negotiate deals for million dollar high tech equipment and now tried to implement that knowledge to my tiny rubber holder. On top of that I wasn’t really providing any helpful numbers to the equation. The conclusion was that I had to sell over 100.000 units just to go break even. This was waaaay of the spot and would haunt me for quite some time
The correct answer to my first and most important question was answered over two years later. But during that time I desperately went on a crazy rampage ruining many of my business prospects. But that’s another story I will go to depth with further on.
It quickly became clear that cheap flashlights from China would be a problem and high quality ones were expensive.
Keeping down the costs
My new found Chinese friends/competitors were very clear that the cheap flashlights I was aiming for came at a high price. Most of them would probably not work and some of them wouldn’t work at all. You read correctly, cheap novel stuff don’t work that well.
Every step counts
Apart from the hassle of packaging, battery and switch button checks there was risk that a majority of the flashlights would be defective. I was aiming for a rather low consumer price but the main feature of my flashlight holder was about to ruin it all. It would be much better if my flashlight holder didn’t hold a flashlight.
At this point I was only putting in time and effort. So I carelessly carried on without a solution to this dilemma. The prototypes were developing nicely and there was probably a solution just around the corner.
It soon turned out that my rather crappy idea transformed into something great and the fear of sneaky bastards almost paralysed me again.
The flashlight was working fine. I even added a small tongue to direct the light beam with. But when I added small drill bit holders something happened. The need for a flashlight is limited and the drill bit holders turned out to be extremely useful.
By adding drill bit holders this gadget suddenly got a lot more useful. The idea of having the bits attached to the machine wasn’t new. But doing it this way was both more versatile and completely unique.
Suddenly, having a really good product was frightening. This was no longer a simple learning experience and messing things up wasn’t an option any more.