Favorites ()
Opus faculty Michael Garrison shares his insights on entrepreneurship with Twin Cities Business podcast host Allison Kaplan

What's an Accidental Entrepreneur?

By Michael Garrison, Professor of Ethics and Business law and Senior Associate Dean of Opus College of Business

When you stumble upon a great idea, what’s the best strategy? How do you become a successful accidental entrepreneur? Dave Kapell, founder of Magnetic Poetry, is a great example. He stumbled upon the idea of putting words on magnets while writing song lyrics.

When inspiration strikes, always have a strategy for success. Talk to smart people who know the industry/market and are willing to help you. Be cautious about who you disclose things from time to time. And do your own due diligence if you don’t understand the market you’re entering into.

There’s no one size fits all for being a successful entrepreneur. Sometimes you need a patent; sometimes you don’t. In some cases, entrepreneurs have first-mover advantage, meaning nothing else was similar in the market at that point. But a patent is still important to consider for your unique product ideas.

Just look at the biotech, medical device and manufacturing markets -- they all require a patent. The patent case on car windshield wipers is a famous example. The gentleman who developed them in the 1960s secured a licensing patent, but his idea was used without his consent. The only way he could recover any investment was suing the car manufacturers for patent infringement. Had he not had the patent, he would have lost that idea. 

Consider seeking legal counsel at some point in time. The United States Patent and Trademark Office provides a ton of resources about patents. There's no shortage of information online either. Legal counsel can advise you not just on patents, but trademarks, trade secrets, and other ways to protect your idea. The key takeaway is that an idea without legal protection is pretty much fair game in the market.

Interested in hearing Dave’s story about becoming an accidental entrepreneur? Check out the full episode on the “By All Means” podcast with host Allison Kaplan.