5 Key Lessons Every Entrepreneur Can Learn from Barbara Bigford, a Successful Inventor and Entrepreneur

Have you ever been to the beach and what you originally planned to be a great day turned out to be a frustrating day all because your umbrella (meant to shield you from the sun rays) was constantly blown off by the wind?

This is exactly what happened to Bigford over 20 years ago but instead of allowing the frustration to become her norm, she did what most people won’t do. She took a step to find a solution to the problem and today she is the inventor of the product, beach pockets.

Bigford, a graduate of Columbia University (B.S. Oral and Dental Surgery) shared her story at the Women’s Entrepreneurship Event held at the Dr. Edwin Cottrell, Entrepreneurial Leadership Center at the West Chester University on Tuesday, November 19, 2019.

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How It All Started

It all started with a day out on the beach. When Bigford left her home, all she wanted to do want to sit back, relax, read a book and soak in the sun. However, when she got to the beach, she had to spend her time stretching out her two hands to prevent her beach umbrellas from flying away.

If you are a regular beachgoer, you’ll understand that beach umbrellas can truly be frustrating. Not only are they cumbersome to carry but also, they are hardly stable, and you’d have to keep an eye on them most times especially if there’s high wind.

This was what happened to Bigford. In a bid to resolve the problem, she went to a store named Home Depot to see if she could come up with her own solution to preventing beach umbrellas from being blown away by the wind.

That’s how she came up with an invention called beach pockets. Beach pockets is a weight-like product that helps to keep beach umbrellas in place.

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At first, Bigford did not imagine or see herself as an entrepreneur – her idea was to create a solution for herself. It was not until other beachgoers started approaching her to create the beach pockets for them as well that she occasionally thought about it. Then one day, a light bulb was ignited inside of her when her husband told her that if she failed to patent it, someone else will. That’s when it dawned on her that she has invented a highly marketable product and that she needed to take concrete steps in patenting it and taking it to the market. Today, her beach pockets are sold nationally and internationally in big box retail stores like Walmart, Walgreens, etc.

The Key Lessons

Now, let’s take a look at some of the key lessons from Bigford’s story.

1. There’s the Need for Research

When Bigford filed an application to patent her beach pockets, it took about 20 months for it to come through. During that time, she took it upon herself to get out and learn more. She researched, found out about and attended tradeshows that featured beach items/accessories for the purpose of conducting marketing research to determine if she truly had a viable product. This is important because, from the tradeshows, she was able to gather multiple feedback that helped her grow her business.

If you want to become a successful entrepreneur, it’s important to know the value of research. It is better to suspend a business idea that has no real pathway to success than to commit so many funds to start a business with no viable product. Do your due diligence, research and let your decision be based on a sound conviction.

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2. Get Out and Spread the Message

One thing every entrepreneur can learn from Bigford is the power of marketing one’s brand. The job of marketing is not something that can be delegated especially in the beginning days. Bigford took the time to spread the message across the country by herself. This approach landed her opportunities at big-box retailers like Walmart, Walgreens and the rest.

3. Learn Good Time Management Skills

Your idea is grand and people are willing to hear all about it as long as you won’t waste their time. This means that if you have an invention or a product that requires you to give a presentation to people, you should learn how to manage the time. If you are given five minutes to share a presentation, Bigford suggests that you should spend only three minutes. This will make people grant you access and also, they might end up giving you more time.

4. Have Financial Supporters

Sometimes, when you start out, it might seem like you do not need financial help. However, Bigford suggests that even if you believe you do not need financial support, it’s important that you look for and maintain a relationship with people or institutions that can financially back you up. This is because, in the event that you need a large sum of money within the shortest time possible, you can easily reach out to those people who are back you up financially. If you don’t, you might lose big opportunities when they arise.

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5. Have an Exit Strategy

Starting a manufacturing business is hard and that’s why Bigford suggests that every entrepreneur should have an exit strategy before they even get in. Prior to starting her manufacturing company, Bigford knew she needed an exit strategy. She worked on it and when the time was right, she negotiated a licensing agreement with a manufacturing company in exchange for a royalty. This exit strategy gave her the opportunity to free up her time (she was working 17-hour days at some point) and also it has helped her to commit more time to help other entrepreneurs getting their big idea started.

Barbara Bigford has paid her dues and she truly deserves to be celebrated. Have you?

To connect with her or learn more about her work, click HERE.

Thank you for reading! What is one thing you will take away from reading this article? Please share it in the comment box below.

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