By Annie Finnigan
Ever wished someone would invent a product that made life better, then thought, "I should do it myself"? Well, guess what: You could. A lot of successful businesses started out as everyday problems that needed solving. Take a cue from these women-whose businesses take in as much as $1 million a year-and turn your little lightbulb moment into big success.
Business Idea: The Perfect DressBusiness Idea: The Perfect Dress
Stephanie Kikis, 50
Julie Gordon, 52
New York City
Company: Between the Chicks
How They Did It
As former fashion models, Stephanie Kikis and Julie Gordon know clothes. But when the friends hit their late 40s, they noticed it was getting harder and harder to find dresses that met their wish list: not too short, not sleeveless, a great cut that hid flaws, and a bright, washable fabric. "So last year we decided to make the dresses ourselves," says Stephanie. (Photo: © Laura Moss/Woman's Day)
The two headed to the garment district, the epicenter of New York City's fashion industry, and walked around until they saw a sign for a pattern and sample maker. "We told the woman what we wanted," says Stephanie. "Three-quarter sleeves and knee-length to show a little skin, but not too much. No zipper so you could get in and out of it easily. Something classic and simple." Drawing from their own savings to cover startup costs (about $25,000 total), they had several samples made out of muslin, using Julie as the fit model, then had the samples sewn up in different fabrics. Last April, less than a year after conceiving the idea, they organized their first trunk show. "We invited friends to Stephanie's apartment to check out some dresses," says Julie. "The women loved them-some bought six at once!" Their next order of business: creating a website to sell direct to customers.
Despite having a plan to get from point A (design) to B (production), they did run into a few problems. "We'd call fabric manufacturers and ask for one or two rolls, and people laughed," says Stephanie. "Turns out they normally don't sell anything under 3,000 yards-about 60 rolls. We kept knocking on doors until we found places willing to sell to us." The persistence is paying off: Between the Chicks has racked up $20,000 in sales so far. Up next? Getting the dresses into boutiques nationwide. To learn more, visit BetweenTheChicks.com.
Business Idea: Skincare for Tweens
Christy Prunier, 43
How She Did It
Inspiration struck one day in 2008, while Christy Prunier was giving her daughter, Willa, then 7, a bath. "I was using the same soap I used for Willa's baby sister when she said, 'Why isn't there something for me?'" recalls Christy. "All I could find for her age group was cheap, bubblegum-scented stuff. I told her, 'Let's make a line for girls like you.'"
Christy knew firsthand that a skincare line targeting tweens made sense. "I had horrible acne as a girl," she says. "I wanted Willa to have a better experience. The best way to keep skin healthy is to start young." There was just one problem: Christy had no experience in skincare or running a business. She'd been a film company executive before having a family. But she didn't let that stop her. "You have to be scrappy," she says. "Look around. Who can help you make connections?"
Christy began researching skincare labs, but a chance meeting with a celebrity makeup artist led her to one of the labs he recommended. She began working with chemists there to come up with product formulations for sunscreen, moisturizer, facial cleanser and lip balm. She also asked her doctor to recommend a dermatologist to help fine-tune the formulas. She enlisted her babysitter, a design student, to create the logo and packaging. And her brother loaned her money to help fund the startup. (Christy and her husband also took out a home equity loan.)
She even got Willa and her friends in on the business, having them serve as a focus group and testers. "I wanted the products to be a natural means for girls to take care of their skin. The girls wanted them to be pretty and fun." Christy listened, making the line a combination of both. Tweens can buy willagirl products ($7.50-$17.50) at J.Crew's Crewcuts stores, catalog and website, and come March 2012, at Target. To learn more, visit WillaSkincare.com.
Business Idea: A Helping Hand for Dog Owners
Nathalie Bland, 46
Company: All About Doody
How She Did It
In 2007, Nathalie Bland was a director at a media firm, logging insane hours. She made a good living-but not good enough. "I was traveling all the time and I didn't want to live that crazy life anymore," says Nathalie, a mother of two, ages 18 and 20, who craved more time with her kids. She decided to start a business-but what kind? "I love animals and have always had dogs, so that was my starting point," she says. She also needed it to be a business with a low startup cost, one she could run out of her home and handle by herself.
"I remembered a magazine article I'd read about a pooper-scooper service-a company that cleans up the dog poop in your yard. It was a great idea. At our house we always fought about who'd pick up the poop."
She couldn't find any such service in Houston, so she made the leap. "I told my family I was quitting my job to start this company," Nathalie says. "They thought I'd lost my mind." But they came around, and even helped think of the name-All About Doody.
For the first 16 months, Nathalie, who covered her startup costs (a truck down payment, equipment, insurance) with savings, picked up every piece of poop herself. "I worked seven days a week-cleaning yards, doing the accounting and marketing, placing ads in papers, and more. Those were long days."
One of her biggest hurdles: deciding to hire staff. "I was just breaking even at that point," says Nathalie. "The idea that I'd be responsible for somebody else's paycheck was terrifying. But when you're running a business, it's important not to get frozen by fear." Today, she has seven employees and 300 clients, with total sales of nearly $150,000. To learn more, visit AllAboutDoody.com.
Read how three more women turned their ideas into businesses:
Article originally appeared on WomansDay.com.
You Might Also Like: