“Necessity is the mother of invention.” - Plato
When you first think of creativity, you might think of fashion and sculptures; or works of art that are appealing to the eye like photography and dance. When you think further into what creativity is, you might find it in the more functional aspects of living like home design or inventions. Some expressions of creativity focus more on aesthetics and experience, while others are designed to solve a problem.
Members and guests of Luminary attended another great installment of our monthly Luminous Speaker Series, this one entitled Creativity in Business: The Power and Value of New Ideas. During this hybrid event (yes, we had an “IRL” audience in our NYC space and an online audience), Luminary’s Founder, Cate Luzio hosted Jacquelyne De Jesu (CEO and Founder of ShhhowerCap and discussed the ins and outs of successful creative entrepreneurship with tips on launching, expansion, building a “single hero product” and brand security.
Regardless of what you are creating/have created, you are likely looking for the best possible ways to introduce your idea to the world. These four key tips, outlined by De Jesu, will help you to think critically about how to present your idea to the public for the most yielding results - from marketing to customer acquisition to financial growth.
Key #1: Confidence.
Even if there is something out there that is similar to what you have to offer, there is no one out there with your story and motivation for creating. De Jesu shared her story around the design and launch phase of the ShhhowerCap where she effectively “reinvented the shower cap” and gained over $15,000 in sales within ten days after its initial launch.
“I just knew it was going to hit. I was like, ‘It’s either going to hit with enough traction… and maybe it would be a blip on the radar, but I could get some press and launch with a couple of retailers.’... I also had skills for the branding aspect of it to do that part for free - and that is a really critical piece in how people understand and live with your brand for the first time,” proudly stated De Jesu.
Not every creative will have the know-how for implementing the right marketing and branding strategies for their service, product or offering. Depending on your budget and your background as a founder, these might be skills and strategies that can be outsourced, at least in the beginning of your journey. However, every founder has to start with knowing and validating that your invention, product, or service is actually a good idea and can be successful.
The story of your creation tells you everything that you need to know about why it must exist. Your personal and professional experiences help you rationalize why you are the best person to make it happen. De Jesu shared with event guests an exchange that she had with her father about her idea to “reinvent the shower cap”. Though it was long before the beginning of production or even design of what is now known as current ShhhowerCap, what she received from early on in the process was the affirmation that she was the one to make it happen.
Being the creative entrepreneur that her father was himself, he asked her the question, “if you don’t do it, who will?”
Even if you feel alone in your journey of entrepreneurship, drawing on positive experiences and moments of affirmation can be critical to your success. Oh, and be prepared to lean on your community, your networks and your family for support!
Key #2: Plan for Success
Once you have the confidence that your product or service can be successful (by the way, we recommend creating a full business plan and financial projections), the very next step is to plan with success in mind. What this meant for De Jesu was understanding the pros and cons of almost immediate exposure which came after two diligent years of behind-the-scenes work and product development. “I'm not sitting here with a multi-million dollar solo hero product company because that's how many women loved it. I am sitting here because that's how many women loved it and I also built a moat around my invention that effectively created a barrier that kept [anyone] from stealing it from me,” she says.
The ShhhowerCap wasn’t an overnight success through one method or marketing effort; however, it still blitzed the market immediately after its launch, selling $15,000 in the first ten days after launching and then was picked up by Fast Company no more than 24 hours after the site went live. Needless to say, success to this degree took some forethought and it started with preparation and planning prior to launch. According to De Jesu, “What I was pitching with was a press release that, yes I wrote myself, but it was professional. People always want to know how I get press. No one tells your story better than you. That initial launch press release or launch piece is your origin story. It’s why your brand should exist. It’s why your product is special and it’s who you are. Who can write that better than you?”
Believing in your story, your brand, and your product or service is critical for becoming successful, but Luzio and De Jesu went further into what additional and ongoing planning is required to stay successful. A large part of creativity in business also includes planning for the potential surge of copycats, particularly for product-related companies, or people and businesses that might prey on founders who either don’t always consider the need to copyright their designs or lack the resources in order to do it.
“I come from a world, my network is a world, my parents have a world where creative property matters. Intellectual property matters. You could never be a person that sat in a brief and stole an idea from the kid next to you. Your career would be over,” De Jesu shares, “and some reason in beauty and fashion, it's just literally okay to press photocopy on whatever is popular and I just believe that I have a purpose in this life, to make sure that every woman knows what they can protect about what they are launching.” So how does one protect what they are launching? First, through your most authentic creativity.
Being unique, to begin with, gives you a great upper hand and makes it difficult for the best elements of your product to be replicated. De Jesu gave an example stemming back from her initial viral press release which launched ShhhowerCap into its success. “When it comes to that initial viral traction, by the sheer fact of it being something that didn’t exist in nine other pitches, automatically, [I had] a leg up and a strong one. Being authentic and trying to pull out whatever you can has intangible and tangible benefits at launch and [as your business continues].”
Once nailing the authentic uniqueness of your product, the next thing to explore is protecting your product or idea legally. Many entrepreneurs might steer in the direction of the trademark, but De Jesu shares about the power of the patent and how it positioned her to not only protect her product but gave her the right to be in the conversations and assert herself against powerful biases that exist within the industry.
“There are so many different ways that you can protect what you're doing: copyrights, your logos or phrases. My favorite, and I think the most underutilized, is you can patent a design, which is the way something looks,” De Jesu shares “There is a patent to protect the look of it, and then there's also another type of patent that protects our functions.”
Identifying which type of protection to get is not necessarily a skill you should already have, which is why De Jesu recommended, and Luzio echoed, the importance of speaking to a lawyer. “Tell them what you’re doing and how you intend to do it and see if there’s anything you can own or easily modify to own,” she says. Ask for advice, tap into your network, be prepared!
Key #3: Expand at the Right Time
What makes the success of ShhhowerCap particularly unique is the fact that this company would be considered what is called a “single hero product” company. A hero product is typically the best seller of a brand and, in this case, is the single product being sold and promoted the majority of the time.
Some might consider this a disadvantage, but it’s not unusual for creatives to find a niche or start with one craft, system, or design that they work hard to perfect and release to the public. Even with full intention to expand and add more products to the shelves at ShhhowerCap, De Jesu shares the advantages of starting as a single hero product company, which have led to millions of dollars in net worth.
“Timing is important, but there is power in knowing what you’re good at, no matter what you’re selling. I had this patented thing [Shhhowercap] that had pretty immediate success because it did what it said it did. Putting everything behind it: resources, money, people, attention, media buzz was the right strategy for us,” says De Jesu.
Being a single hero company by default is one thing, but staying a single hero company on account of the success of the product is entirely different.
Before you hastily design and develop dozens of new products, considering the one product or service that both represents your story and proves its value on the market might be the key to finding a lucrative space that no one has touched.
De Jesu emphatically shared with us a powerful perspective saying, “If I built a product as a point of differentiation for what was strategically rationalized as a more quality product, it doesn’t break.”
When you offer a product or service that does what it was designed to do and serves the consumer effectively, you might run into a low repurchase rate as most consumers will be satisfied with the product and only buy again for unique occasions. This could serve as a pressure point to cause you to create more without necessarily planning for or achieving a congruent level of success as the original hero product.
For Shhhowercap, this meant that getting the product in front of new eyes was the primary goal for getting new customers. However, dropping supplemental products like facial masks, capsule drops, and other fashion products in limited quantities continues to be one of the many strategies that helps them to engage the existing customer base of consumers who already love and trust their product.
Key #4: Refuse to Quit
There will be times where you will be tempted to quit. In those times, simply don’t.
With the many moving pieces that come with starting something new and creating something for the public, there will be areas for concern, moments of doubt, and disappointments along the journey.
In the case of creative inventions, there are aspects of the process that can’t be rushed or changed which will require patience and diligence to see it to the end. When it comes to manufacturing and production, it can be difficult to tell when and if you’re heading into the market with the right product at the right angle. Pacing yourself through the process makes all the difference, starting with deciding to show up each new day.
It may come down to a simple mantra for each new morning saying to yourself, ‘I'm doing this.’”
When the pressure of perfection is on, the risk of overwhelm is much higher which could lead to an increased temptation to quit. You may be asking yourself, “If I’m planning to be successful, does that mean I should wait for my product to be absolutely perfect before launching? Should I launch it at all?” De Jesu viewed it this way: “Don’t wait for it to be perfect, do wait for it to be something that you can feel good about.”
Being that the Shhhowercap performed exceedingly well from the very start, she shared more saying, “I knew that in order for me to come out the gates swinging and claiming ‘the shower cap reinvented’, it had to actually mean something. The stakes were high because my claim was gigantic, and... the bold claim meant that I needed to come correct.”
The same energy and passion that it takes to create are what it takes to deliver your creation to the world and enjoy it for all that it’s truly worth and all it can be. Quitting before the process is complete leaves you with untapped potential, and leaves everyone else wanting for what could have been.
We hope that you will take these key tips, along with your network and support system, and see your creative idea through the process and securely to the end.
“Trust yourself. No one knows your business better than you know it. No one knows your goals better than you. Trust yourself to find the right people to help tell that story and do the thing.” - Jacquelyn De Jesu (CEO/Founder of ShhhowerCap)