Connect with inventors on LinkedIn and read the forums.
There are many forums on LinkedIn that are devoted to the inventor community. Follow the posts that other inventors make and connect with and follow those who seem knowledgeable. You may even be able to message someone and get a response.
Cold call other inventors.
As an entrepreneur, you are used to (or will become used to) just boldly picking up the phone and contacting people you do not know very well or at all. To get business done, the cold call is a must. Try calling your contact and telling them that you are “going to school” on skilled inventors like them and would like an hour of their time at the local diner. At some point after meetings with anyone you value and are learning from, just directly ask, “Will you be my mentor?” Boldness is required.
Check out SCORE.
SCORE stands for the Service Corps of Retired Executives and these folks specialize in free mentoring for small businesses. You can contact your local branch of the SBA (Small Business Association) and set up an appointment with a mentor. They can be extremely valuable at helping you walk through business plans, evaluate marketing avenues for your product and learn general, business good house-keeping practices. SCORE mentors will meet with you over time. They are truly a treasure.
Rookie inventors have to beware of the industry that surrounds inventing designed to profit from unknowing and hopeful people with ideas. Generally speaking, beware of those who want your money and make big promises! However, the most knowledgeable inventors in the industry usually reach a point where they cannot give their time away for free to every person seeking advice; therefore, if they want to help others, they charge a fee. Their time is money. These skilled individuals will offer mentoring on a fee-for-session basis.
Over time, the inventor who seeks out resourceful people and pieces their advice and styles together will find that they are learning what they need for success. Like a quilt-maker, they piece together a patchwork of knowledge they gain from here, there and everywhere.
The goal of finding a vested, longer-term mentor is a worthy one and if truth be told, some of those mentors come serendipitously when we least expect it as we seek out the above resources. Regardless, the entrepreneur who puts in the work to find a handful of trusted sources and advisors has still moved herself much closer to the success she seeks in inventing. If that is you, celebrate and go grab yourself your favorite latte!
Colleen Costello owns Dayton, Ohio-based Simple Living Innovations, LLC, a product development company. She is an independent inventor who licenses the products that she develops. An enthusiastic and experienced educator, she also gives invention education presentations to students at STEM events and camps in Dayton. To learn more about Colleen or request a list of her favorite books and blogs on inventing, connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn.
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