Thanks for reading our blog! Weekly, we strive to answer a FAQ as posed by a customer about how we started our business and advice for others as they consider starting or growing their own.
How did you go about inventing your first product? Where did the idea come from?
We all have ideas. That ah-ha moment comes to us the moment we realize that we can solve a problem or common frustration. Society is full of such solutions; our store shelves and websites are full of better mousetraps, wonder goos, magic erasers, and the like. But how does one get from ah-ha moment to finished product? More importantly, how does one go from an idea to a revenue generating enterprise? How does one go from an idea to a profitable business? And finally, how does one go from an idea to selling their idea, packaged as a brand, to another business? Any invention, any product, and solution - must have a plan of action in place to get from step to step. If you build it, they will not just come. You have to figure out the road map to get “them” to you and to get you to them.
For Solemates, the idea came out of personal experience. Tired of wearing high heels to weddings, proms and parties only to have them sink into the grass rendering the shoes dirty and unstable, we sought to create a solution. We loved the way high heels made us look but we hated the way they sometimes made us feel. We sought to solve this paradox.
Knowing that we did not have the skill set to design the product, we sought the advice of mechanical engineers. On a very basic level, we knew we had to accomplish a few things:
- We needed a larger surface area
- We needed something flexible but strong.
- We needed something crystal clear and discreet.
That was all we knew, but in retrospect having our list of requirements made the process of research and development much easier. Most mechanical engineers, at least those with whom we engaged, were middle aged men. Middle aged men do not naturally think about women’s high heeled shoes nor the subtleties that drive their aesthetics and challenges! We were met with a lot of adversity and a lot of eye rolls; but it only took one meeting with one firm to know we had met our inventor. A few miles down the road from an alpaca farm in rural New Jersey, we met Andrew Serbinski, of Machine Art, a creative, curious, and engaging engineer who was keen to take on the challenge we posed.
The process of design was iterative; he did not come up with the heel protector overnight. Not only was he working on the physics and design elements, but we had to consider both the short term (bridge tool) manufacturing and long term manufacturing. But we’ll get into those details in another post!
To recap, we had the idea but did not know how to move forward.
(1) We knew we needed an expert. We sought a directly called "ThomasNet" to search up mechanical engineers in our area, which was NYC.
(2 + 3) The next step was to engage an attorney to provide us with an NDA. In order to have the NDA reference an entity, we formed an LLC. We used a friend for both, to keep costs down. We formed a Delaware LLC.
(4) Once we had the NDA, we cold called engineers and asked if they were willing to sign it and meet with us to discuss our idea.
(5) With executed NDAs in hand, we met with a dozen or so engineers.
We landed on Andrew and have been grateful for his brilliance ever since!