Inventing and Selling a Product

Interview with Kevin Leahy, Founder of The SpoutOff

Many people get product ideas while going about their daily lives. Kevin Leahy, saw a need for a better gutter system, invented one, got it manufactured and now sells it to consumers. He has some great advice on how to invent and sell products!

Keven Leahy has been working on The Spoutoff since 2007 in his home in Wayne, Pennsylvania.

Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?

I have invented, developed, manufactured, marketed and am beginning to sell The SpoutOff (www.TheSpoutOffcom). Having been in the rain gutter business for over 17 years, I came to realize that clogged gutters are NOT the problem, clogged OUTLETS (where the gutter meets the downspout) ARE the problem. If the outlet is clear in a rain gutter, water (always following the path of least resistance) will ALWAYS flow out of that gutter even if there is debris in the rest of the gutter. Conversely, a gutter can be pristine clean but if the outlet is clogged, water will NEVER flow out of that gutter. It's all about the OUTLET.

So, if it is going to rain tomorrow and a homeowner thinks their gutter is clogged they do one of two things: 1) get out the ladder, climb up to the outlet (where the gutter meets the downspout) and clean out the outlet. Instinctively they know they have to clean the outlet and they may or may not clean the rest of the gutter. 2) Nothing... they just ignore the clogging and that is not good. And most choose #2 because it is a dirty, dangerous, time-consuming, pain-in-the-neck task.

What The SpoutOff does is enable this same homeowner to check and clean her/his 1, 2 even 3-story outlets from the safety of the ground. No ladder needed, no tools needed. It takes less than 1 minute to check and clean an outlet. The SpoutOff is simply a combination of 4 parts that replace present outlets and downspout straps (that have no utility) and provide the benefit to the homeowner of being able to clean their outlets while standing safely down on the ground.

So what I have done, exactly, is not just uncovered a real problem and talked about it, I designed, tested, manufactured, marketed, sold and provided a real, practical solution to a real and pervasive problem.

How did you come up with your business idea?

Which would you rather have? A clean gutter with a clogged outlet where water will NEVER flow out of that gutter, or a gutter with some debris in it but a clean outlet where water will ALWAYS flow out of that gutter? Once I realized that properly flowing rain gutters were all about the outlet being clean I knew I could figure out a way to keep this critical area clean in an easy, fast, safe and economical manner. And I did. I made the outlet bigger and I made it easy, fast and safe to clean. The SpoutOff was born.

Who did you hire to help you? Bookkeeper, Accountants, Lawyers ...? Would you suggest others do the same?

I hired a Bookkeeper and a Lawyer immediately and as soon as I had product to sell I hired an insurance agent to provide me with proper insurance. I use my personal accountant. I do suggest others do the same. I also used the Internet to find a manufacturer. I found many, did my due diligence with five and settled on the two companies that presently manufacture SpoutOff components.

Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?

I did and still do operate from my home. Challenges were minimal and benefits were as low overhead as possible, especially beneficial at this start-up stage.

Have you outsourced any portion of your business? Has that worked for your business?

As stated above I hired 2 manufacturers to produce all SpoutOff parts. Part of my due diligence was learning from their present customers that both these manufacturers communicated very well. Everything doesn't go perfectly all the time so good communication is extremely important. Both manufacturers have worked out very well.

How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?

Although envisioning, inventing, developing, testing and manufacturing The SpoutOff has been challenging, getting the product to market is even more challenging. Having determined the primary market to be rain gutter installers, roofers, home improvement companies and handyman services... you have to get them to 1) know about your product, 2) understand it, 3) believe that it will benefit THEM (what's in it for me?), 4) believe it will not cause them any problems, and 5) believe their customers will like it and buy it with little or no selling on their part. You have to get them to change what they are doing. This is a monumental yet classic marketing task. It is doable for The SpoutOff because The SpoutOff provides all the features, advantages and benefits that both Installers and Homeowners want.

I have simply developed a product that makes it easier, faster, safer and more cost-effective to complete an often ignored task that needs to be done, but without The SpoutOff too often is ignored... not good!

It sounds like The Spoutoff is a great product, Kevin! Many entrepreneurs contact us about taking a product idea to market. I think you've given everyone lots of great advice. Thank You!

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