The State of the American Dream
Despite these difficult times, the spirit of invention and ambition is still alive and kicking.
August 20, 2009 - 12:22 am
The United States government is effectively calling the shots now at General Motors. Legislation has been proposed that would start capping the pay of at least some private sector employees. President Obama’s proposed health plan would put yet another 1/6 of the U.S. economy under government management. The party in power in Washington wages class warfare against the “rich,” “profits,” and “speculators.” With such demonizing of wealth and the increasing involvement of the federal government in the private sector one might think that the “American Dream” is dying, that the idea of an entrepreneur building a better mousetrap and striking it rich is as obsolete as telephones connected by a wire.
The American Dream, though, is not dead. At any time of day you can turn on your television and see the realized dreams of inventors on display in infomercials from direct marketing companies like Telebrands, Ontel, IdeaVillage, QVC, and HSN.
I recently had the opportunity to see those dreams at a early stage when I was invited to pitch Telebrands on an idea of mine for a consumer product along with about 30 other entrepreneurs and inventors at Telebrands’ headquarters in Fairfield, New Jersey.
Telebrands’ business model involves a fairly rapid turnover of their product line, replacing all but only the very best sellers after only a year or two. That creates a voracious need for new gadgets and gizmos. Hence the inventors days.
As one might expect with gadgets and gizmos, the majority of inventors were men, but there were a few pitchwomen as well. With Telebrands’ most successful product to date being the Ped Egg foot smoother, this should come as no surprise. Most of the products directly marketed on television are aimed at women one way or another. There was ethnic and geographic diversity among the inventors as well with some coming from as far away as Key West, Oklahoma, and Las Vegas.
There was also quite a variety of ideas/products being pitched. Some were circumspect for intellectual property reasons, but like any proud parent, most of the inventors were eager to share their stories and what product they were pitching. The products ran the gamut: a child’s lamp shaped like an angel whose halo lights up, a tanning bed that lets you tan on both sides without turning over, cooling wash cloths, a device that collects rainwater to water your plants, a grasping assist designed to reach tight spots like retrieving items from your garbage disposal, something that lets you hold a baby while leaving your hands free, a spa/hot tub cleaning system, and an applicator system that looked like a cross between a toothpaste tube and a sponge painting pad. But wait … there’s more! What pitchathon would be complete without at least one “ab cruncher” device?