June 16, 2011 -- It is easy to spot the red "As Seen on TV" logo on the shelves of many retail giants, including Bed, Bath & Beyond, Walgreens, Target and Walmart. The man behind the iconic symbol is A.J. Khubani, a self-made man born in New Jersey to Indian immigrants. And although his infomercial empire is fast approaching a billion-dollar value, he told "20/20," his climb to the top wasn't easy.
Watch the full story on "20/20" Friday at 10 p.m. ET.
The Montclair State University alum graduated in 1984 as the country was coming out of a recession.
"The prospects of getting a job were ... very dim," he said. "I got an idea to sell products through mail order, directly to consumers. And so I started experimenting with that while I was in college."
Khubani, 51, said that inventions have always interested him. He recalled watching his father -- whom he called a "tinkerer" -- in their workshop as he created electronic gadgets.
Inventing "is like any other talent -- you have got to have a real desire and interest in something to do it," Khubani said.
Khubani dived into his life savings of $20,000 in 1983 and took a chance on starting his own business, which eventually evolved into TeleBrands Corp. Four years later, he would have his breakout success when he stumbled upon a big idea called Amber Vision Sunglasses.
"They were kind of these funky-looking glasses ... that helped cut through the distorting blue rays, and they retailed for $10," he said.
Within three years, the glasses grossed up to $150 million. And that was only the beginning of his blockbuster infomercial success. Hundreds and hundreds of inventions later, Khubani is the man who can take a simple idea from everyday life and turn it into gold.
Fairfield, N.J.-based TeleBrands is now in more than 100,000 retail stores in the United States, and the company has also grown internationally. Khubani says that with everybody focused on coming up with high-tech ideas, "somebody has got to focus on low-tech," and that is where his company comes into play. Khubani says he's always thinking about the next big idea.
"I can't get it off my mind. So I naturally think about it all the time. ... When I go on vacation, when I go out with my kids. ... If I take a walk on the beach ... even if I go … shopping. ... I am always looking and thinking," he said.
How do these ideas come to life and make it onto people's TV sets? Some ideas are Khubani's very own, including the multimillion-raking PedEgg, while other ideas are generated from the public.
Because of the high volume of calls daily to his company from wanna-be inventors, he decided to create "Inventor's Day," a pitch-fest that is part "American Idol," part "Shark Tank." It is a day for inventors from across the country to come out and show off their best inventions to Khubani.
The contenders have only five minutes to wow him and potentially launch their own invention, including their own infomercial and a $1 million contract. As glamorous as it might sound, he cautions all inventors, "Don't put all your hopes and dreams in one product, because the odds of that one product being successful are pretty slim."
Bring Your Inventions Here
Indeed, Khubani told "20/20," only one out of every 10 products presented to his company is chosen for testing. And out of every 10 that are tested, typically just one is successful. So in the end, about 1 percent of products pitched to Telebrand actually make the cut.
"The odds are not that great. ... We make it look easy, I think, because we run so many products. But we test a lot. We test-market hundreds of products before we end up with the ones that we market," he said.
So before you think you've got the next big thing, Khubani suggests following some basic steps. First, he says, do some research.
"I can't tell you how many times people walk in, and I'll say, 'Well, have you looked it up online?' And they'll say no ... and I'll Google it ... and there is 10 others being sold already. So that's not worth anything," he said.
Once you have an original idea, go to www.uspto.gov and file a Provisional Patent Application to protect your idea.
Then sketch out your invention and create your own prototype, "without spending a lot of money," Khubani said.
"It doesn't have to be a professional prototype for us to be interested," he said.
Khubani stressed that no matter what, the invention has to be a "really good idea," and if he can't understand a product in the first 10 seconds of a presentation, it is a failure.
"I think people have got to get it right away," he said.
To pitch your idea to Khubani's company, send TeleBrands an email at InventorsDay@TeleBrands.com, with all the details of your invention.
Khubani is confident in the future of his 28-year-old business.
"We really have figured out what works," he said. "And for us, it's just doing more of the same. We are launching more products than ever before ... at least one new product every single month," he said. "We have expanded internationally as well. ... [We're] now in over 100 countries around the world."
Watch the full story on "20/20" on Friday at 10 p.m. ET.