One of Craig Nabat’s goals is to help five million people quit smoking over the next two years. It’s a lofty ambition that Nabat is driven to accomplish through his Freedom™ Quit Smoking System, a multi-faceted program that focuses on the physical, psychological and educational aspects of assisting cigarette smokers to overcome nicotine addiction. The in-home system is based on a similar process that takes place at Freedom Laser Therapy in Los Angeles, which Nabat founded in 2003. Since then, the clinic has helped more than 10,000 people quit smoking.
Although Nabat sees himself as an innovator, he is a rare individual with both the capacity to invent and the heart and soul of an entrepreneur. “I was just a guy with an idea who learned the entire invention process step by step,” he says, admitting that, as a result, he is a graduate of the School of Hard Knocks.
Nabat’s foray into the business world began at age 12, when he sold fireworks to neighborhood kids. By age 15, he had a successful car-detailing business and in college, Nabat and his girlfriend sold humorous t-shirts in dormitories. Through that experience, Nabat polished his sales pitch and learned quickly how to overcome rejections.
A sociology major with a minor in business, Nabat spent a year at Arizona State University before returning to his native Detroit to complete his degree. During his final year at Michigan State, he began reading books on business, marketing, and product and personal development to pursue his dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur. In the process of reading more than 600 books, Nabat says Think and Grow Rich, the landmark bestseller by Napoleon Hill, became his roadmap for life.
Upon graduation, Nabat and a close friend established a fund-raising venture selling pepper spray to students, which merged into an import/export company when the two decided that was how they could be the most successful. The business partners sold surplus goods, including clothing and computers, around the world. During this time, email was gaining momentum as a medium for conducting business. Once Nabat recognized the endless global opportunities for manufacturing, marketing and distribution available through this new means of communication, he committed to creating his first product.
Finding It the Hard Way
As with many innovators, Nabat is a problem solver. After misplacing his TV remote control countless times, at age 19, Nabat envisioned a domino-sized device that could locate lost items by clapping in a specific pattern. The idea, which simmered for four years, ultimately evolved into the FINDIT Key Finder, a device that, with three claps, can locate anything from remote controls to eyeglass cases to keys. It took seven years and more than $1 million of family investments to bring the device to market, but the FINDIT Key Finder launched Nabat’s inventing career.
While experienced innovators tell novices to invent products in fields they know something about, Nabat does not subscribe to this philosophy. In need of microchip technology, his sister, Jacqueline, one of the nation’s leading engineer recruiters, gave Nabat a list of 12 experts, whom he met, one by one. The search led to a computer chip manufacturer in Mountain View, Calif., that helped develop the FINDIT microchip technology.
Nabat conducted a detailed patent search, but expresses that patents are the least important aspect of the invention process. Infringement, however, is another matter. “Due diligence is paramount,” he says. “Make sure there is no prior art. Make sure you’re not infringing.”
Nabat was 25 by the time he headed to Taiwan in search of an Asian manufacturer to finalize the development of the FINDIT. His journey led to a meeting with his future business partner, an innovator in consumer electronics, whom Nabat calls his “mentor and brother.” Nabat says the meeting was a life-changing experience, because he had searched for years for someone who could turn his ideas into reality. With Nabat’s marketing expertise and his manufacturing partner’s knowledge of product development, the two knew the union would eventually sell millions of innovative consumer products worldwide.
Nabat says all inventors who want to bring a consumer electronic product to the mass market should attend trade shows in Hong Kong, Taiwan or China. “If I had traveled to Taiwan earlier in the process, I could have brought FINDIT to market much sooner and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in research and development and, more important, time,” he says.
Spreading the Word
Nabat took advantage of the commercial acting courses he took at Arizona State and became the spokesman for the infomercials he developed to sell FINDIT—a marketing technique he continues to employ. He also pitched the device on QVC and became the familiar face behind various marketing strategies, including mail-order catalogs, retail packaging and store displays. He views the experience—conceptualizing, inventing, manufacturing, marketing, advertising, television commercial production and the distribution process he went through getting his idea to market—as an invaluable education he never would have received elsewhere, even at a top-notch business school.
Though FINDIT television and internet sales were strong, the unit had a tendency to false trigger. Worried about returns, Nabat pulled the product, but he was not discouraged. “You have to believe in yourself,” he says. “The lesson I learned along the way is that you can’t quit; you must visualize that success is right around the next corner.”
“None of this was easy, and there were a lot of dark days throughout the process,” he adds. “Most inventors are unaware of how long it takes to bring a product to market and the ongoing stress it places on you and your loved ones. The research involved is extensive and cumulative. You may not hit a home run the first time around, but you will learn the process. You’ll learn about manufacturing, creating names for your product, trademarks, how to position the product, setting up distribution channels and protecting your intellectual property. Keep in mind, if it takes 10, 20 or 30 years to launch a product or products, you only have to be right once to be successful.”
Nabat has had his own share of disappointments. FreshCloz, a garment bag that takes advantage of Ozonic TechnologyTM to neutralize germs and bacteria in fabric, and eliminate odors debuted in 2010. “It was a great idea with an amazing product design, though it was over-engineered, causing it to be too expensive. It had an awful name, too,” Nabat says. “It was an excruciating product development and marketing nightmare to the tune of $500,000.”
Reflecting on this failure, Nabat says that with proper preparation inventing can have rewarding results. “You have to know what your competitors are doing,” he says. “Find out who creates what and learn about retail price points before you invest a single dollar. Find a niche. What makes your product different? What is your unique selling proposition?” With a “passion for driving products,” Nabat eventually made the decision to concentrate on home-use consumer electronics for beauty, health and wellness, although his next big idea came about in an unexpected manner.
Up in Smoke
A former pack-a-day smoker, Nabat tried for years to break his nicotine addiction. He unsuccessfully tried patches and gum, but it wasn’t until he learned about a treatment center in Canada that employed low-level lasers to help smokers kick the habit that he finally was able to rid himself of the desire to smoke. Excited about his own results, Nabat took his mother and close friends to the clinic, and almost all of them, surprisingly, were able to quit.
Soon afterward, Nabat handled marketing for George Lucio, owner of the clinic and a leading pioneer in low-level laser therapy to treat addictions. Through Lucio and an acupuncturist, he learned about the positive effects of low-level lasers on the human body.
After discovering that there were no similar quit-smoking treatment centers in the United States, Nabat established Freedom Laser Therapy, a state-of-the-art, nicotine-addiction clinic in Los Angeles. “I chose Los Angeles because I wanted to attract celebrities who desired to quit smoking, but my ultimate goal was to influence star clients to assist in changing the public perception that smoking is a deadly and addictive product of our past—not our future,” he says. “Celebrities’ lifestyles are followed and idolized by millions. If Hollywood portrays smoking in a negative manner, the rest of society will begin to do the same.”
It certainly didn’t hurt his publicity efforts, either. Nabat became a familiar face around Hollywood. He was featured in numerous magazines and newspapers and on shows such as Access Hollywood, TLC, VH1, Fox News and even The Doctors.
Freedom Laser Therapy’s client base also grew through Nabat’s unorthodox marketing approach. He bought signage on top of Hollywood taxis and paid a commission to drivers who sent smokers to the clinic. He wrapped a red BMW Z4 convertible with his Freedom logo and website, which, even today, draws attention wherever he goes. “I drive down the road and drivers stop and ask me how Freedom can help them quit smoking. It is really cool when it happens,” Nabat says.
He also advertised on city benches, TV and talk radio, even integrating himself with Howard Stern in a radio commercial that ran for four years in Los Angeles and Detroit, where his two clinics were based. Within 12 years, Nabat assisted more than 10,000 quit smoking, but his clinical experience laid the groundwork for a much bigger vision.
Nabat and two of his most dedicated team members went through the lengthy and challenging process of franchising the company. There were 800 people interested in opening their own Freedom Laser Therapy clinics when, on the very day the Federal Trade Commission franchise documents were to be finalized, an onslaught of negative national press was triggered by a nonprofit organization that questioned the validity of the center’s advertising methods. Overnight, Nabat went from being the toast of the town to defending his reputation. Because he didn’t want to get franchisees drawn into the fray, he painfully abandoned franchising Freedom Laser Therapy. But, there was light at the end of the tunnel: Nabat switched gears and set out to design an in-home version of the techniques offered at Freedom Laser Therapy.
Brighter Days Ahead
While Nabat’s goal was to manufacture an in-home version of Freedom Laser Therapy, he had no knowledge of the technology involved. Before work could begin, he and his business partner had to learn how to develop in-home devices that used laser and light technologies. They also had to follow stringent manufacturing and advertising compliance regulations for medical-grade devices.
Intense research and development led to the Freedom Quit Smoking System, which uses high frequency light and tranquil sound waves, a homeopathic craving control spray and audio therapy in what Nabat considers a holistic approach to instilling the behavioral modifications necessary to quit smoking. “Smokers require 10 days to quit,” says Nabat, explaining that it takes that long to rid the blood stream of nicotine and toxins. “The first three days are the critical period when nicotine withdrawal occurs.” Even with nicotine out of the system, the psychological effects remain long after quitting. Nabat’s quit-smoking system addresses both the physical and mental aspects of weaning oneself off of nicotine addiction, but he says the smoker must first make the commitment to quit.
Since early 2015, Nabat has sold approximately 1,000 units. He is currently in negotiations with Walgreens and CVS to carry the Freedom Quit Smoking System in 2016. In an effort to kick off his campaign to get five million people to quit smoking over the next two years, Nabat plans to spend $1.2 million promoting the product on TV.
Pharmacies aren’t the only health-focused companies interested in Nabat’s idea. This past September, Freedom Laser Therapy exclusively partnered with Health Fairs Direct, a leading corporate health and wellness fair operator, to fast track the company’s goal to assist five million to quit smoking within two years. HFD will present the Freedom Quit Smoking System nationwide to corporations, insurance companies and health care practitioners.
On average, an employee who smokes costs a corporation $6,000 annually due to loss of productivity, sick days and increased annual health benefits premiums. The Freedom Quit Smoking System is covered by employees’ Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA Rx), creating an opportunity for employers to reduce the numbers of smokers without necessitating an out-of–pocket expenditure.
Laser Hair Restoration
After the successful launch of Freedom Laser Therapy, Nabat became even more intrigued with the benefits of lasers. He was introduced to the owner of a leading chain of laser hair loss treatment centers with more than 30 years in the hair restoration industry. He passed his knowledge along to Nabat, who had recently undergone hair-transplant surgery. Nabat became fascinated by the laser hair therapy technology and was determined to develop a laser hair restoration system for home use.
A three-year journey produced the iRestore® Laser Hair Growth System, a hands-free laser therapy device for men and women to combat hair loss. The system uses low-level lasers to stimulate hair follicles, increasing blood flow and metabolism while blocking the hair-loss effects of the male hormone dihydrotestosterone. Nabat says the treatments increase hair density and the thickness of existing follicles and awaken dormant hair follicles.
The device, which sold well in Skymall, hit the market in 2011, but Nabat took the product off the market pending FDA clearance. By the end of this month, Nabat anticipates being awarded FDA clearance for his new, sleeker, full-scalp iRestore device, which includes a clinically backed hair-care line. “iRestore will become the market leader of home-use laser hair therapy devices,” he says.
Throughout his product-development experiences, Nabat says he has tried to surround himself with the smartest people in various fields of expertise. He encourages novice inventors to explore options for learning how to take products to market.
“You should purchase audio books from Audible,” he suggests, “or watch online videos of entrepreneurs who tell the public how they became successful. Watch interviews with successful business leaders, inventors, innovators or entrepreneurs. Use new platforms, such as podcasts, YouTube and Apple TV, to accelerate learning, and take notes. A couple hours of research a day will provide the inspiration and knowledge to help you get your idea to market.”
While Nabat is already moving on to the next phase of his life, he sums up past experience: “Inventing is not for the weak-hearted. You must believe in infinite possibilities.”
*Craig Nabat participates in high-profile celebrity gifting suites with the purpose of either educating celebrities on how they can quit smoking or influencing them to motivate people they know to quit.