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Got a great new product idea? All you need is a Catalyst!

Rick Cusick is the founder and managing partner of Catalyst Brands, a San Francisco company that designs, markets, and wholesales innovative new consumer products. After having been Senior VP at Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, and EVP at high-end vending provider ZoomSystems, it’s obvious that Rick knows a good product when he sees one. He can also help fund its creation, sell it to retailers, merchandise and market the Bejeezus out of it, and give ideas on how the product should be packaged.

After doing all of this, he still finds time to go home to enjoy life with his wife and sons, for whom he coaches baseball, contribute to charities like Andre Agassi’s charter school, and dispense his wisdom to marketing consultants-slash-bloggers… hence, thecommich’s undying admiration and appreciation for this modern-age Rennaisance man.

With the New Year upon us, and new ideas certainly fermenting in your heads, I thought it would be a good idea to pick Rick’s brains on what makes a new product a GREAT product, and how Catalyst brands can help would-be entrepreneurs realize their dreams.

They say it in Casablanca and thecommich agrees – everybody comes to Rick’s.

thecommich: What questions should a wannabe entrepreneur ask him/herself before investing the time and effort to pursue a business?

Rick Cusick: There are many, but certainly the keys are understanding the current market, identifying a compelling reason to be, vetting all the value propositions (emotional, intrinsic and economic), and “crossing the chasm” that you have the will and wherewithal to create success.

thecommich: What separates a merely “good” product from a GREAT one? How does a business owner push their product from “good” to “great?”

RC: There are a lot of good products that don’t make it – consumers don’t need more “good.”  A great product is one that hits the target consumer square in the face with a core obviousness. It should leave them asking themselves “why didn’t I think of that?”  No one says that about good products, only great ones.

thecommich: With this in mind, how do you determine that a proposed product will be a good fit for your company?

RC: This is a bit of art and a bit of science, but primarily we look for three things:
 – the market opportunity has to be unique (not just big, but unique)
 – the product has to have a reason to be relative to the competitive landscape, and
 – we have to believe consumers will go crazy for it.

Check the boxes in those three, execute well and you will generally meet with success.

thecommich: Why did you decide to combine 3 unique and specialized functions into one company? Is it possible for clients to avail of just one or two services but not all three?

RC:  We saw a unique opportunity in the market to verticalize our efforts. Rather than build a firm that performed just one of these functions, it seemed a greater challenge (and corresponding greater opporutnity!) to control the execution and influence of all three. Thus we manage the creation of new products, the communication of the brand value, and the supply chain.
To answer the second question, we think that the most effective process for us is to influence the entire vertical. That being said, innovation and passion are what drive us, so if an interesting opportunity presents itself we would consider it.

thecommich: Let’s say I am a business owner and have launched a product. Interest and buyers have been slow on the uptake. How long should I wait before I start to worry that I’m on the wrong track?

RC: The core dilemma. When does persistence become a detriment? We have come across dozens of start-ups that wanted to do it themselves, and in many cases, it cost them hundreds and thousands of dollars and ultimately their business. This is exactly why entrepreneurs should consider partnering with a firm that has a proven capability to launch a brand or product. This is why we feel so strongly about our model.

thecommich: Any success stories you’d like to share?

RC: We identified a void in the sporting goods space and got very excited about the potential. Within 60 days, we had executed a partnership with a multi-million dollar brand in the space to create and market the product. We are currently in production. It has worked out perfectly as Catalyst has provided ad complement to their core competency and they have allowed us to leverege some of their key skills.

Additionally, we have partnered with an entrepreneur to create and eco-luxury beauty brand. In a matter of months we have laid the groundwork for her to quadruple her business in one year.

1 Comment

  1. Danni
    January 4, 2010

    Nice interview. Will pass it on.

    It's really coming up with something new. Even in in my world, clients are no longer buying just designs, rather good ideas.