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1046 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48226

Patrick McInnis

If ideas are a dime a dozen, then Patrick McInnis can find them even cheaper because he gets product ideas in bulk as the CEO of Fathead.

There was the guy who came up with swinging team towel that consisted of a piece of plastic attached to a towel with a team logo on it. When the fan waved the towel in a circle it made noise. McInnis passed. Then there was the guy who came up with patches of hair in the shape of a sports team’s logo that fan could put on their hands. McInnis passed on that one, too.

"I get some crazy ideas," McInnis says. "It's intriguing because they put a lot of thought into how to represent their team."

Fathead launches 1-2 new products each quarter. Most of them are rooted in its original product, a large wall decal of sports stars and other celebrities. The downtown Detroit-based company currently has dozens of products in its portfolio, ranging from wall decal graphics of famous people to Fashion Fat Dots, a small circle decals users can put on the navigation button of their iPhone, to customized wallpaper.

"We want to create products people are proud of and want to show off in their homes," McInnis says.

Fathead needs a large pipeline to fill its its product idea needs. It solicits product ideas from staff, asking them to submit ideas that aren’t directly related to their jobs. Fathead is also a member of the Quicken Loans family of companies so it also gets ideas from the workforce from the assorted Quicken Loans firms. And then it gets ideas from its fans.

The 8-year-old company gives its employees a $300 prize for best idea each month. However, it’s not often it pays for ideas. Giving royalties to fans who submit ideas is rare, too. Fathead has only done three of those deals over time.

The one thing Fathead is consistently looking for is for the idea to be rooted in its original product, a wall-mounted decal of a sports celebrity. It’s part of McInnis' philosophy of defining what the company is and excelling at it.

"Does this invoke an emotion in somebody?" McInnis says. "Does this make them passionate about their team."

McInnis is careful not to stray too far from that. He looks for ideas that have to do with some sort of decal and that engage people's passions. Sports teams and celebrities are an easy target, especially for teens. Musicians and actors also rank highly. Other ideas that became products include customizable wallpaper decals and dry-erase decals.

"When we look at opportunities, we have to look at things that fit us," McInnis says. "You have to maintain focus."

McInnis points out the focus is important because it helps enable Fathead's growth. Early in the company's life it began to stray into new products that had little to do with decals and wall graphics. McInnis nixed those ideas when he saw they were taking away from Fathead’s core mission.’

"Once we put our focus back on graphics that's when we started to grow again," McInnis says.

- Written by Jon Zemke

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