FORTUNE Small Business:

Turning your invention into a business

First step: Write a good business plan and find a partner you can trust.

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(FORTUNE Small Business) -- Dear FSB: I invented a new way to produce electricity for which I am about to seek a provisional patent. If I get the patent, I know that there are potentially millions of dollars that could be made with my invention, but I don't know where to go from here, and financially I am not in any shape to go it alone. Please help!

- S. Guilani, Milwaukee, Wis.

Dear S.: If you're not in financial shape to bankroll your own business, you'll need investors who believe in your idea and then a plan on how to execute the idea after you've actually raised some money, according to Ben Lerer, founder of startup Thrillist.com.

"I believe that all really good ideas will find investors - the hard part is executing on the idea once you've actually raised the money," Lerer said.

Thrillist.com is a male-oriented e-mail service based in New York City with distribution in several cities. Lerer raised $1 million from investors and turned it into what he says is a multi-million dollar business that's growing by 10% to 15% each month.

"In order to find people willing to invest money in anything, you need to move past the idea stage. Invest time and energy, if you don't have money, to get it to the point where others will be interested and there's an actual tangible product they can touch or see," Lerer said.

That will require creating a business plan.

For tips on building a business plan look here: A business plan that will get you a loan

Another place to look for business planning advice is the Small Business Administration's website.

The next step is finding investors. Lerer's advice: start with people you already know and ask if they're willing to help out or point you in the right direction.

"If that doesn't turn anything up, the best approach is to research companies in your space to see how they got their start and who funded them," Lerer said. "The key is to put as many lines as possible in the water, so you're never left back at square one if a deal doesn't work out with the first person who seems interested."

Perseverance is essential, as is finding a partner to help see you through the difficult early stages of building a business.

"Trying to build something is 100 times harder all on your own," said Lerer. "Obviously finding the right partner isn't easy, but I think it can be the key to a successful business and can help make the early stages of money raising and product development that much more efficient."  To top of page

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