Want to Learn How to License Your Ideas? Start Here


Most people are motivated to learn about the product licensing process after being struck with a specific idea that they cannot stop thinking about. But if you’re creative, and regularly imagine new ways of experiencing life, I recommend that you begin mastering the art of licensing by applying your ingenuity to novelty gifts.

The novelty gift industry is perfect for beginners for many reasons. For one, inventing novelty gift products is fun. These products exist to spark joy and make people feel good. Companies that produce novelty gifts are constantly looking for new ideas. They carry a wide array of products for all seasons and reasons. And finally, the requirements to submit an idea are minimal: You do not need a prototype or a patent for licensing consideration. That’s the main reason why it’s easier to get started in this industry.

Basically, your task is to make everyday items slightly different in a way that puts a smile on someone’s face. You’re not solving problems; you’re being humorous. The designer Rebecca Chitty, who creates novelty gift products for museums, has some excellent examples on her website.

Here are my tips for licensing your ideas for novelty gifts.

1. Study the company’s product line extremely carefully.

Pay special attention to price, materials, and their stated mission. Your goal is to make it easy for them to say yes. Show them something that fits within the framework of what they already do.

2. Become an idea factory.

By exercising your creative muscle consistently, you can teach yourself how to come up with a lot of ideas quickly. Do not expect to license your first idea. It happens, but it isn’t typical.

3. Bring your ideas to life.

Sketch it out. If you’re not great at drawing, partner with an illustrator who is, or try a design program online. 

4. Don’t give up too soon.

Keep submitting your ideas and asking for feedback. You will learn as you go. Remember, licensing is a numbers game.

5. Give it time.

Companies may take plenty of time to review your submissions and get back to you. If you are polite, you will be perceived as a potential asset, not a pest.

6. Enjoy the work.

You’re creating products that make people smile, after all. 

Recently, I had the pleasure of helping a 14-year-old license his novelty gift invention to Genuine Fred. When Connor Owen was 12 he came up with the idea of a bookmark that doubles as a whoopie cushion. With the help of his younger sister, who designed a prototype and provided funding to order a small run of inventory, he began selling his invention online and at a local candy store, where it quickly sold out.

In time, he realized he would benefit from bringing on an experienced partner with excellent distribution. Now, his Bookie Cushion is receiving rave reviews online and will be sold in Barnes & Noble soon.

By starting in the novelty gift industry, Owen was able to learn the skills of product licensing. Now, the sky’s the limit.

When I asked him what advice he would give to people who want to license their ideas, he told me, “Information isn’t enough to produce results,” which he learned from entrepreneur Derek Sivers by listening to The Tim Ferriss show.  

“One of Derek’s points that I love is, ‘If more information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs,'” Owen said. “Sivers emphasized that you have to put the work in.”

He’s right. Many people with ideas don’t believe they’re capable of bringing them to life, so they never even try. The licensing business model breaks down barriers by letting creative people focus on what they do best.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

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