The Brave Mompreneur With A Big Heart
This Inventor Is All In. Are You?
With a recent appearance on ABC’s “Toy Box®” plus a “Shark Tank®” audition, my client Marguerite Spagnuolo, is winning the hearts of families across the world with her patented cuddly handmade dolls. She crafts the dolls in the likeness of her two grandmothers, which adoring grandchildren cherish as if they were their own grandmas.
“To me, family is the most important thing – it’s everything. When my daughter started asking questions about my grandmothers (and her grandmothers), whom they never got to meet, I quickly sketched out some prototype drawings of ‘Nini’ and ‘Mamu.’ They instantly fell in love with the recreated grandmas,” said Marguerite.
When Marguerite’s daughter drew her own grandma for a book cover, Grandmas2Share® was born, which would forever change the trajectory of this amazing mother, who happens to hold THREE women's poker championship titles including Caesars WSOP, Borgata Summer Open, and Parx Casino.
She is also a former legal secretary for the president and general counsel of the New York Commodities Exchange in the WTC.
That she was in Staten Island, New York, and my patent firm was based out of South Florida made no difference. Indeed, most of the inventors with whom I work are outside of Florida. I sketched out a bulletproof strategy to protect her intellectual property – including trademarks & patents ‒ and I immediately grasped the amazing drive and caring commitment of this mompreneur who wanted to share her ideas with the world.
“John, I really believe this can positively influence children, because it keeps family traditions and cultures alive. If every family in the world has a grandma doll, I will be happy,” said Marguerite.
My job was to help her protect that dream and give her the confidence to enter a competitive marketplace that featured famous “giant killers” such as The Cabbage Patch Kids® and L.O.L. Surprise! Dolls®, of which the latter had recently recorded $1 billion in sales.
Flashback: A mad rush for the #CabbagePatchKids way back in #1983. Do any #inventors remember this scene? A prime example of how a simple patented idea can touch the pulse of a nation. #Patents #Entrepreneurs #Inventors #Innovators #ToyPatents #DollPatents @Grandmas2Share pic.twitter.com/9BQ6JabdZF— Patent Professor® (@ThePatentProf) December 6, 2018
A careful analysis of the entire toy and doll sector showed Marguerite that her idea was indeed novel and unique. The brand assets, including name, symbols and logos, were trademarked, while a non-provisional patent was successfully granted by the United States Patent Office (USPTO) for the ornamental doll design.
Armed with robust patent protection for her doll, our entire patent law firm marveled as Marguerite single-handled built a worldwide brand step-by-step, using sheer willpower and entrepreneurial faccia tosta, as they say in Italian.
"He Truly is The Patent Professor®!"
"John Rizvi and his associates were extremely helpful in obtaining my design patent. The team is completely thorough and patiently walked me through the process! I will continue to use them for each new creation I develop!”
MARGUERITE SPAGNUOLO // Inventor, Grandmas2Share®
Below: Original Patent Drawings USD725720S1 | Ornamental Design for a Doll, Grandmas2Share®
By this point, Marguerite had evolved her doll to include a storybook and special pouch to carry a picture of the child’s grandma. She also took the novel step of including a recorded “grandma message” to endear the doll to the child. Like some other inventor clients of mine, she embarked on a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to manufacture the talking grandma according to the patent drawings we had successfully submitted to the USPTO.
Build, Baby, Build!
Marguerite set a target: She would manufacture 2,000 dolls over a 50-day time frame with 30 days to ship them – just in time for the holiday rush. This ambitious timeline required implementing billing systems, gaining custom clearances (and shipping box licenses), and establishing relationships with a variety of leading shipping agents. As a married mother of two who had been working since the age of 16, one can appreciate the demands and stresses of working late into the witching hour to communicate with manufacturers, distributors and suppliers in different time zones.
“My 4 a.m. is their 4 p.m., so it’s tough having meetings at late hours, then getting up in the morning and doing a full day’s work, as evidenced by the dark rings under my eyes. But it’s worth the effort and the grind,” said Marguerite.
She also had the unconditional support of friends and family as occasional moments of self-doubt crept in, particularly from her loving dad, who called her every day to find out how close she was to receiving the first prototypes and commercially launching her product.
'My dad was my biggest fan."
He would ask: "Did you get the patent? Did you get the trademark? When do the first dolls arrive?" He was always there for me."
She also was buoyed by the knowledge that she had a winner on her hands: An initial focus group of kids demonstrated that they unequivocally loved the Grandmas 2 Share® dolls. These findings gave her the belief in her product as well as the necessary confidence that she could reach a huge audience of children around the world once she had the manufacturing process locked down.
“In my mind, nobody should be without a grandma, even if it’s just through the imaginary process of owning a doll. I was totally committed to helping families build these bonds.”
A key milestone was a sold-out book-signing event at Learning Express, which officially unveiled Grandmas 2 Share® to the world. Her table was submerged with a sea of moms who wanted the dolls signed ‒ all convinced she had a best-seller on her hands.
Marguerite, independent inventor, poker player and entrepreneur, was now in full swing and “dared mighty things,” in the immortal words of President Theodore Roosevelt. She established contact with local retailers who were willing to sell the dolls in stores and investigated renting kiosks in two malls for the holiday season. She also set up an Amazon seller account and reached out to the marketing director at QVC® for distribution channels. And, just like my other client, Giselle Firmin, who created a natural hair care line, she established a direct selling outlet via her own website, Grandmas2Share.com.
“My ‘Shark Tank’ application is already filled out!” she proudly exclaimed as she refined her manufacturing, distribution and marketing channels.
“My goal is to create not just a product, but a brand... creating a ‘Grandma’ from EVERY country! I anticipate this being the biggest hit since The Cabbage Patch Kids®.”
Family is Everything
With the world at her feet, tragedy struck.
Just when everything seemed to be falling into place for Marguerite, her dad became ill, requiring a rushed flight to Florida to be at his side. Meanwhile, her dolls were flying off the shelves in New York during a busy festive season. One week before Christmas, purchasing agents called to confirm that “Grandmas” had sold out.
Could she replenish?
In a fateful decision, Marguerite flew home to New York to dutifully fulfill the excess shopping demand. A few days later, upon waking up on Christmas morning, she received the sad news that her dad had passed away. Instantaneously, her world collapsed beneath her as she mourned his loss, riddled by guilt at her decision to leave his side.
“I pretty much died inside that day, too,” she said, letting everything she had built go. Shattered, she curled up on the couch for eight months and dropped all thoughts of building her fledgling brand.
Meanwhile, Marguerite’s initial entrepreneurial steps continued to bear fruit, culminating almost a year later with news that her Amazon storefront had sold out. As she digested this news, she also remembered her dad’s unwavering support and enthusiasm for Grandmas2share®.
“This news worked as a trigger to get me up and moving, because my father would not have wanted this journey to die. I think of him every day, and it motivates me every day to succeed.”
In a whirlwind of entrepreneurial activity, Marguerite established herself as a master brand-builder, launching the following pitch inside ‘Shark Tank®’ audition. (She made it to the video submission rounds, a precursor to the main show, before being eliminated)
“My name is Marguerite Spagnuolo, and I am here today to offer you a piece of my company, but I’m not giving it away. I’ll need $50,000 in exchange for 20 percent. Now, let me show you why it’s money well-spent.”
While the “sharks” passed on her idea, she made powerful new friends and mentors for her doll, including original shark Daymond John, who interviewed her recently on his Twitter channel.
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By the way you can join the conversation on Twitter, where you will find Marguerite and other inventor clients of mine blazing new trails into the entrepreneurial landscape. Click the link below to follow me @ThePatentProf and ask ANY patenting question which you have on your mind. Onwards & upwards, inventors!
She followed this up with appearances on ABC’s reality inventor show, “The Toy Box®,” making it past the knockout round. One of the show’s illuminati toy legends, Jim Silver, was quite taken with her idea, reminding viewers that grandparents are responsible for 5 percent of all children’s purchases in the United States ‒ which amounts to a whopping $1 billion annually.
A Toy Empire
Marguerite was squarely focused on building a toy empire around her initial two dolls, Nini and Mumu, with further innovations ready to be unleashed. These included prototyping three new models with different ethnicities and cultural backgrounds.
“I eventually want to unveil a doll for each and every country of the world, reflecting their values, history and cultural journeys,” she said. The newer models also allow grandparents to record their own custom messages for their grandchildren, making the dolls truly reflective of the bonds that bind families together.”
During local events and television interviews, Marguerite outlined the dangers of the “Internet Age,” noting that “kids spend their days on iPads, computers and cellphones – they don’t have any conversations anymore. All you see are their heads down at dinner and with no idea what their grandmother’s maiden name was.”
Her message is being received loud and clear. She recently announced on Twitter that news personality Megyn Kelly will showcase her dolls on “#MegynsMonthOfMerry,” highlighting mainstream media’s continued interest in her inventing journey and her passion to bring families closer together.
Marguerite’s daring and caring approach to forging closer family bonds using the power of ideas and patents is a testament to the Golden of Age of Inventing that we all live in, which allows micro-entrepreneurs to reach new audiences using their own ingenuity, drive, and the plethora of marketing platforms on-demand, including YouTube, Kickstarter and Twitter.
Her singular message is built around core values, something which resonates with families around the world.
As she spends her days and nights building her brand and introducing new products to the world, I stand squarely behind Marguerite’s brave entrepreneurial efforts and look forward to helping her acquire new patents and trademarks in the future.
All that’s left to be said, perhaps, is “Grandma, we love you.”
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