Mothers everywhere are constant innovators and problem solvers. Daily, we are faced with the messy little problems of life (and sometimes the big ones, too) and we somehow manage to find a befitting solution. In the world of big business, this is called innovation and product development, in the world of Mommyhood – this is called, “Keeping it together till bedtime.” I have often been asked how I turned a problem-solving moment into a best selling product with nationwide distribution in less than 18 months.
Step 1 – The Idea:
My story started in 2013 when my youngest son came home from an epic night of trick-or-treating with his big brother. The only rule was that they were not allowed to eat any candy until they came home. When they returned and dumped their pumpkins full of loot onto our kitchen table, Wyatt’s eyes filled with tears as he surveyed his catch and came to the conclusion that most of it would be off limits for him due to a severe food allergy. I quickly put on my problem-solving hat and said, “Boys! You can select 5 pieces of candy to keep, and if you leave the rest for the Switch Witch, she will switch out your candy for a toy or treasure!” Wyatt quickly picked out the Jolly Ranchers and then shoved the rest of his candy to the center of the table for the Switch Witch. My older son, Will, was a little more skeptical, but followed suit. In the end, they both left pounds of candy behind while taking just a few pieces for themselves. In the morning, our home was candy-free, and to their delight, they each had a new mini Lego set. It worked like a charm and was a win-win!
Recounting my mommy problem-solving moment to a group of friends, they said,“Genius! I wish I had known about the Switch Witch 10 days ago! Halloween would be much healthier and happier in my house if your nifty little witch had made an appearance.” Thus, I had my idea.
Step Two – Research: If you have an idea for a business or product, lots of research is necessary to determine: 1) If it’s been done before, 2) Does a market for the product exist, and 3) Can I make it into a business. Moms have little time in the day, but with a few hours logged on the internet, you can readily see if some one else has beat you to the punch. For me, the idea of the Switch Witch existed, but no real solid product had been brought to market.
Step Three – Build Your Team:
Nothing is accomplished in a vacuum; you will need your internal team: husband, parents and kids on board, and your external team: lawyers, manufacturers, distributors, and the like. My family said “Go Mom Go! You got this!” In other words, my internal team was ready to hop on the Switch Witch broom instantly. I then went about building my external team and reached out to friends for legal assistance and some other great moms for informal “focus groups” to further refine the concept and execution. I interviewed several artists and found an illustrator who would later become a business partner. I was assembling a world-class team to form the backbone of our business. I needed to find a manufacturer that could print the Switch Witch books, make the Switch Witch dolls, and assemble them in an adorable box. With luck and perseverance, it all came together. Despite my lack of experience in the industry, I asked a million questions, made a lot of mistakes, but was able to get the product made in a few short months.
Step Four – Go to Market:
This is the moment that all of your friends and family have been waiting for – when your product finally arrives! You hold your breath and hope that people will not only believe in it, but also invest in your dream. For us, we had lots of delays, but soon enough, the world got out about Switch Witch and gift sets were flying out of my garage faster than I could say, “Swoosh!” I answered every email, replied to every tweet, and did as many books signings and PR events as possible. We just lit the marketing spark and then did everything in our power to fan the flames. In the end, I do believe that necessity is the mother of invention. That Halloween, I had to solve a problem – quickly. Every mom has that moment where instinct and creativity collide, and who knows, that little problem-solving idea just may be ready for market.