story by Kara Nardoni, special to The City Wire
Editor’s note: The Supply Side section of The City Wire focuses on the companies, organizations, issues and individuals engaged in providing products and services to retailers. The Supply Side is managed by The City Wire and sponsored by Propak.
Few things are as integral to American culture as innovation. In 2012, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office received over 300,000 patent applications from people and organizations across the country — the highest number of applications to date.
In January 2013, Larry Robertson and Andrew Bojie founded AON Invent and All Products Design, a Northwest Arkansas company that capitalizes on the market’s insatiable need for innovation by helping area businesses, consumer packaged goods companies (CPGs) and inventors develop their initial ideas into market-viable and profitable products.
Bojie, an engineer by trade, first formed All Products Design in 2011 using his 18 years of experience as an inventor and product designer to provide other innovators with the blue print they need for mass production.
Robertson is also an entrepreneur focusing on high tech, retail and the financial service sectors. He previously worked as a corporate manager of business development for Sam’s Club and understands what buyers look for in new products.
This duo branched out earlier this year with AON Invent, headed by Robertson, to help prevent inventors from wasting their life’s savings on developing, patenting and licensing bad ideas. Instead, for a small fee, AON Invent assesses and analyzes an individual’s invention.
If the invention is determined to have market potential, it progresses through Robertson’s step-by-step development system, where it is first engineered, designed and tested by All Product Design and then presented for feedback to a panel of industry experts.
It is only the inventions with a proven capability to fill a consumer need that AON Invent give the green light for manufacture and places in the hands of the CPG companies that supply to America’s biggest retail chains.
ALL PRODUCT DESIGN
All Product Design works more directly with CPG suppliers, providing them with consumer product design and development services. Bojie and his team specialize in transitioning initial concepts for consumer products into 3D production ready files that can be used to create a prototype or even go straight to manufacture.
It is standard for American CPG companies to rely on design resources in China to develop their ideas and create product prototypes – a process that typically takes 7 to 18 months.
Without the hindrances of a language barrier and time difference, APD is able to create manufacture-ready product designs for suppliers much faster, usually in just two short weeks. Bojie and Robertson also cite the cultural differences between America and China as another factor that affects the length of the design process. Because designers overseas lack insight into Western markets and the needs of Western consumers, it takes them much longer to achieve a product design that is viable for many CPG companies.
APD’s efficient business model helps suppliers react quicker to change and minimize the overhead and systematic inefficiency associated with outsourcing product design to Chinese companies, Bojie said.
According to Bojie, CPG companies using APD’s services have made great strides in pushing out their competition. For example, one well-known supplier has seen a 300% increase in sales of a product redesigned and engineered by APD.
APD’s material optimization analysis helped another CPG supplier reduce their raw material cost by 48% and their product packaging cost by an additional 30%, Bojie said.
“What we offer is so significantly better than the model every company is using at the moment that it sounds too good to be true,” he said. But, it really can change their world.”
Getting a product from an idea stage to mass production has its fair share of challenges, but Bojie and Robertson offered some tips for innovators to consider:
• Understand the difference between an “idea” and an “invention.” An idea merely recognizes the need for an invention, while an invention actually solves a problem. Edison didn’t have an invention until the light bulb came on.
• Know when to ask for help. Trying to manage the often inherent tendency creative people have to build their own airline, when they simply need to buy a ticket.
• Focus on problems that are worth solving while realizing that we all occasionally give birth to an ugly baby (metaphorically speaking of course). Unfortunately, in the world of innovation, there are a lot of ugly babies.
Robertson and Bojie are pleased with the growth of their business units though they do admit to experiencing a few challenges along the way.
For instance, like most small companies, AON Invent and APD relies on word-of-mouth advertising to supplement a small marketing budget. However, they have found that their clients are reluctant to share their positive experiences with others, wanting to keep the competitive advantage AON Invent and APD provides a secret from the competition.
While it is a testament to their success, Robertson and Bojie agree that it is a frustrating problem and one that they hope to solve with a social media marketing campaign.
Robertson and Bojie say that All Product Design’s Bella Vista location gives them an advantage – that, and they are the only business providing the bundled service.
“Eventually, we want to be considered the official portal of innovation,“ said Robertson.