Inventing A Product for Winter Weather HandsBy Amanda Lewan on November 29th, 2015 /
It sounds like everyone’s dream: invent a totally new product, and watch it like sell like mad. For Karen Smoots, their product has been brought to life and the selling streak has now begun.
The entrepreneur invented a new type of product for Michigan’s winter weather, one that offers a smart and better way to dry gloves and shoes. The idea came to her three winters ago, during a really wet winter.
“I’d throw gloves into the dryer and it would take so long for them to dry,” she said. With kids at home constantly with wet gloves and shoes she knew there had to be a better way. So Karen along with her husband’s help created a product to dry gloves, a simple solution that places the gloves over a heating vent.
Friends started asking for the product which led down the path to launching their business, Green Glove Dryer, a 2015 Best of Michigan Business Winner.
The product is now in over 40 stores, with 1,300 sold during their “proof of concept” year, Karen says. The startup has also nailed some big offers, closing a deal with Bed, Bath & Beyond that started with a phone call.
“I picked up the phone and cold called our local Bed, Bath & Beyond store,” said Karen Smoots. “We hadn’t even made a product at the time yet, but the idea was forwarded to a buyer in New Jersey.”
That phone call led to invaluable feedback on packaging and market. Eventually, they purchased the product and it was a rush to land a first big deal for the startup.
That outreach is what drives the company forward, as Karen says each and ever day she’s calling and selling her product. It comes naturally to Karen who has a degree in Business Marketing and Sales and spent five years as a sales representative with Johnson & Johnson. Sales is also where she recommend most entrepreneurs focus their effort on, once the product is taken to market.
“If I had one piece of advice, it’s to go back to the basics of selling. Pick up a phone and go see these people,” she said. “Nobody is as passionate about the product as you are. If you can’t sell then maybe entrepreneurship isn’t for you.”
As a working mom who took a leap of faith, she also is a role model for those with an idea and a will to do the work. But she warns it’s more work than you might think.
“It’s a lot of work. You’ve got to be prepared the first few years are full of work,” she said. “Especially for the women, you have to be mentally prepared going into it. Be in the mindset that it’s hard work.”
And one last great note from Karen, who’s hoping to build her brand over the next 5-7 years selling the unique product around the world.
“I hear a lot of people who say they’ve hit a wall and don’t know where else to go. That’s when you pick up the phone and start calling. That’s when you hit the pavement. That’s when you ask for connections to new stores. You can’t be afraid to ask for contacts.”
Check out the Green Glove Dryer here.