How One Mom Took An Unusual Route to Launching Her Product on QVC!
As a busy mom, what if you could style your hair in fun styles within minutes? Meet stay-at-home mom, Chrissy Sparrow, inventor of The Styl Styk Hair Part-ner. Learn how she got herself in front of the QVC team, ignored their initial rejection letter, and ended up getting her product on the air! I enjoyed her story and thought that you would too.
Mom Invented: Tell us about your company.
Chrissy: The Styl Styk Hair Part-ner is a unique set of hair styling combs designed to help women create different zig zag parts and other fuss-free hairstyles in seconds. The Styl Styk can help camouflage dark roots between coloring and highlighting, update a current hairstyle without a cut, and give layered styles a little extra volume quickly and easily at home without a trip to the salon.
The Styl Styk Hair Part-ner has been featured on QVC and HSN Home Shopping Networks and CNBC's The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch.
Mom Invented: Why did you start this company and when?
Chrissy: I came upon the idea accidentally while attempting to style my hair in my bathroom at home. This inspired me to develop a product to help other women (like me) who struggled with styling their hair at home.
Mom Invented: Describe yourself and your family. What is your background and how does it relate to your company?
Chrissy: I'm a a "Stay at Home Mom" who accidentally became an Entrepreneur. I have a background in Sales, Merchandising, Communications and Marketing. My background has helped me stay motivated over the years as well as finding different and creative ways to break through with my product invention.
My son, who is now almost 14, helped me when I used one of his old school pencils as a handle for my first prototype.
Chrissy: The "aha" moment was in the bathroom where the idea for the Styl Styk was born. That Christmas, my husband had taken my crude prototype and designed a new one for me. He wrapped it in my stocking (in newspaper!) as a gift. Now that I could go around showing other women what I could do, I knew I had to start taking the steps of starting a business as well as protecting myself.
Mom Invented: What was the biggest learning curve in terms of developing your product?
Chrissy: After taking my 3rd generation prototype to a beauty expert in the industry, she made recommendations to improve the prototype. She really liked what it could do, but she did not like the way it looked. She thought that it looked like a weapon or tool. She suggested that it be more fun and feminine. Since I had already spent 2.5 yrs and a lot of money developing the prototypes, I was not happy about making any changes! But I am glad that I did, because it was the color and shapely design of the Styl Styk that caught the eye of a National Breast Cancer Organization!
Mom Invented: What secrets have you learned in terms of publicity and marketing your product?
Chrissy: Be creative! That is how I got my foot in the door at QVC. Even the folks at "The Big Idea" gave me an award for my creativity in getting noticed.
Mom Invented: What steps did you take to get on to QVC?
Chrissy: I grew-up in a family retail business, which really came in handy as far as recognizing QVC as an efficient way to reach one of my target markets. A few years back, we carried a product called The Magic Scarf. The scarves were furry and colorful. After watching them "sit there" on display for a few days, I decided it was time to find out what was so "magical" about this scarf. As soon as I picked it up and read the directions, I discovered that the scarf could be worn in about 7 different ways! Because this item needed to be demonstrated in order to understand what it could do, I simply started showing every customer this fun, simple, useful and affordable scarf that was very versatile. I sold a ton!
I related the demonstration aspect of the Magic Scarf to the Styl Styk Hair Part-ner. In order for women to understand what the Styl Styk could do, they needed to be able to actually see it being demonstrated. So, how do I get to the most people at one time? TV commercials and QVC were my initial thoughts. I didn't have the money to produce a commercial, so I began to research how to submit items to buyers at QVC.
My research into QVC was very encouraging. I found out they liked (and sought out) products that either solved problems, made life easier, appealed to a broad audience and preferred products with good visual demonstration abilities. Great! The Styl Styk fits all of those categories, now all I had to do was figure out a way to make my product stand out among the hundreds of products that QVC reviews every week.
I became a frequent QVC viewer, and also started to buy products from QVC. I learned a lot about how the products were packaged and what products sold well on the shopping channel. One night, I saw a QVC promotion that featured Joan Rivers. She was announcing that QVC was looking for a new shopping host. They were having "open calls" across the country in search of the next QVC Host.
Well, I had no intention of becoming a host for QVC, but I went to the website and checked out the details. I learned that there was going to be an audition in Chicago in a few weeks. Each person auditioning had to register and bring a resume, head-shot and a product to "sell" in the two minute audition. The two minute audition was what intrigued me. If I had to sell something for two minutes, why couldn't it be my own invention?
After registering, I called an old friend who was a photographer. She took several head-shots as well as photographing my Styl Styk prototypes. I spent the next several weeks preparing for my two minute presentation.
The day came, and I patiently waited in line with hundreds of other people who were also waiting for a chance to get in front of a camera and audition for QVC. It was a lot like the auditions that we see on American Idol. When my turn finally came, I found myself in a small hotel room with one other person who had a small video camera and was ready to tape my presentation. I started with the "I'm not here to become the next QVC Host, but I wanted to get in front of someone at QVC so I could show them my invention called the Styl Styk Hair Part-ner...." I went on to finish and after the audition, the gal behind the camera turned it off and said, "Could you do my hair?" I said sure and proceeded to help her use the Styl Styk. She was impressed with the results, and told me about another event coming-up the following month at this same hotel, called the "The Product Discovery Tour" and she encouraged me to register.
I went to the event the following month in Chicago. It went well but I got a rejection letter shortly thereafter. I was confused and did not understand the process or what was going on, but I kept following up with their Vendor Relations Team, and somehow, I ended up in a "New Vendor Training" class! Well after the class, I realized that I was nowhere near being able to even present a product to QVC. I was going to have to do it on my own, and it was probably going to be at least a year before I would be ready to visit "The Q" again.
The training helped me understand what I needed to do and I benefited by having access to the manuals that outlined the guidelines & standards that QVC requires of their vendors. And believe me, QVC has high standards!
After going through several stages of prototyping and consulting with an "expert" in the beauty industry, two years had passed and I was ready to try again. Finally, on May 6, 2006 Styl Styk was on QVC!
Mom Invented: How was it to go on-air?
Chrissy: It was great! When I went through Vendor Training (a second time!) we practiced our "sell" with a QVC Host. The session was taped, and then reviewed with an associate. After some constructive advice, we repeated the process. Again, my retail & sales background was helpful and put me at ease. I tried not to think too much about the pressure of live TV and the millions of people watching.
Mom Invented: What happened? Did you sell out? Have disappointing sales?
Chrissy: Overall, It went pretty well, but so much can happen when you are "live" and most of it is totally out of your control. You do get a few minutes with the host to briefly go over the important selling points but QVC does not want it to be too "scripted" so you just go along and have a conversation with the host while she talks to the audience.
Then you have producers & directors who are in charge of managing the live broadcast. They can be changing the shots and speaking into your ear because they are trying to get the best demonstrations for the viewers at home. All of this is going on around you at the same time and there is nothing you can do about it!
For example, in the picture above, directly over the QVC logo (on the left hand side) is the Quantity ordered which at that time was 571. To the right of the Quantity ordered, you can see that there is only 0:35 seconds remaining for sales time which was a total of six minutes. I could see the Quantity ordered and was not very pleased, but when they showed the video demonstration, sales really started to tick. When all was said and done, we had sold 2,500 Styl Styks. Unfortunately, the product did not totally "sell out" and the remaining few hundred units were returned to me. QVC issues a Purchase Order for almost every new product on a "consignment only" basis until the product has an established sales history.
When I broke down the sales presentation into minutes, you could see that there was a gradual building of sales throughout the program, and in the final minute, when video support was shown, our sales literally took off. I tried to convince the buyer that the Styl Styk was worth another try, but she did not want to go forward.
Mom Invented: Why did you receive the creativity award from Donny Deutch? What made you stand out? What did you do to earn that title?
Chrissy: The award was called "New Media = New Math" and I was singled out because of the way I got into QVC by auditioning to be a host in the competition that they held. I had no idea that I was going to be singled out, until I watched the show. It was an honor to get recognition from one of the most creative individuals in the marketing world, Donny Deutsch.
Mom Invented: How did you get on that show?
Chrissy: I went to the website and sent an email! Just like I did for Mom Invented!
Mom Invented: What was the biggest learning curve in terms of marketing your product?
Chrissy: It just doesn't happen over night.
Mom Invented: How did you finance your business?
Chrissy: Family and friends, and later, investors.
Mom Invented: How much money have you invested so far? How do you feel about that?
Chrissy: Hard to say....It is in the hundreds of thousands. Plus you have to put in all the sweat equity. I cannot put a price on that.
Mom Invented: What has been your greatest success or high point with your product or business?
Chrissy: When I became a National Sponsor of a Breast Cancer Organization along with giants like: Walgreens, Revlon, United, Tory Burch and McDonalds.
Mom Invented: Have you experienced a low point in business? If so, how did you get back on track?
Chrissy: Yes! A lot of hills and valleys. Faith and family has kept me on track.
Mom Invented: How long did it take to get your product from idea to market (conception to product launch)?
Chrissy: Over 3 years.
Mom Invented: How have you managed to juggle the roles of business owner and mom? What falls by the wayside?
Chrissy: It is hard, but I like being able to show my son what it takes to start and develop an idea, then turn it into a business.
Mom Invented: What surprised you most about the process of starting your business?
Chrissy: Nothing really has surprised me because I never really intended on starting a business. I do know now, after a lot of hard work and determination, that it is the hardest thing I have ever tried to do.
Mom Invented: What advice would you offer other moms developing their products/ideas?
Chrissy: Don't give up! And don't be afraid to share your idea and ask for help.
Thank you Chrissy for sharing the Styl Styk Hair Part-ner and your story with us!
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