I have and am going down this road right now. I would recommend doing a preliminary search on your own or through trusted online companies and USPTO. This can give you a feel for what is out there. Then decide if your idea is patentable and worth patenting. I am at the stage of running a few prototypes for field testing. Testing your product will let you know what if anything you may need to change. I am going to give samples to close friends and family to try out so I can get feedback on how it performs before entering it in the market. You can contact specialty stores who would carry your product. I did this and they all want to see the product when it is ready to enter the market. During development and prototype stages, think about your niche market and areas where you could target for distributing where others may not have gone yet. Find out what trade shows may be out there for you to display your product. Example is a Outdoor Expo, these are my target trade shows and thousands of people go through them over the course of a few days. Another idea is affiliate marketing, display your product or website within a will known company. People will go there and see advertising for your product at the same time. I know a great machinist in southern California who I am working with if you need one for molding, tooling, or prototyping.
Rock Solid Innovations LLC