Necessity is the mother of invention – it is a known saying, but is it true? Is it really that most inventions serve the purpose of solving a problem that otherwise could not be solved? In our view, yes. Our story seems to confirm that. The beginning was trivial, but has led us to create a gadget that has not existed before - heel’n’bumpers.
Everything in life happens for a reason… one day, while polishing our shoes, my husband noticed some strange scuffs on my newly bought high heels. They were practically ruined just after a few days of wear in the office! He noticed similar tears on my other shoes (flat shoes as well) and his shoes too. You know how the first scratch on your new car really hurts? I felt the same about my shoes and, I must admit, I am not a fan of the cheapest brands. So, discovering the damage to my new shoes hurt to the bone. How could I ruin my new shoes just by sitting in the office the whole day? The key to solving the mystery was the office chair and to be more precise, the wheels which were deeply scuffing my shoes and causing an irreversible damage. Unfortunately, the scuffs and tears caused by the caster wheels are irreparable. Even the best cobblers would not be able to fix them. So, my husband thought he would find a solution on Amazon that would protect my shoes going forward. After all, one can find almost everything on Amazon these days. Everything, that is, that has been invented.
Having spent (or wasted, rather) a considerable amount of time in front of the computer screen desperately searching for the “thing”, he finally gave up. He was not able to find anything that would protect shoes from damage caused by office chairs. Nothing at all. We were a bit surprised but also quite intrigued and genuinely inspired to act. We thought that if nothing of that kind existed, then we have an opportunity to create a truly innovative product. We decided to take a first step towards the start-ups’ world – a world whose rules we had yet to learn. Undoubtedly, many years of professional experience gained working in corporations and being exposed to different sectors, including marketing, strategy and legal services, is our strong side and gave us some advantage. However, the running of our online retail start-up business quickly verified our working methods and the beaten paths of the corporate landscape. In a corporation many things seem to be doable so easily; you follow your routine, get to work with like-minded and goal driven people. At some point you may even start feeling too comfortable and switch off your predator’s instincts. A start-up teaches you to take a step back, refocus, watch the market and its best players very closely to be able to make very quick and accurate decisions how to turn impossible into possible. A margin for an error is very narrow. After all, as opposed to a corporation, you no longer have a six-zero budget at your disposal but your own pocket. This definitely sharpens your senses. Our efforts have been focused mostly on sales which is key, as it directly impacts financial results. We were under the illusion that we know everything about how to sell. However, it gets tricky when you have to start selling a product which no one is aware of as it has not existed in the marketplace before. It is an art in itself. Chapeau bas to all salesmen. Only now have we started really appreciating their skills and hard work. Although your own start-up is a true challenge and a quick learning curve, it gives you lots of personal satisfaction and professional fulfilment. You are creating a product and building the brand from scratch. So, in a nutshell, this is how our great and continuing adventure with the start-up and heel’n’bumpers started.
From the perspective of the few years that have passed, we think that the early phase of sounding out the market and assessing the potential of the product are key in building our business strategy. It have been the results of the market research and numerous surveys among our target group which convinced us even more that we should take the project forward. So, we hired patent attorneys to check if our idea is patentable and nothing similar to what we want to manufacture and sell exists. The outcome of their checks was clear – nothing of that kind exits. After a few months of intense work with the IP lawyers and product design team, we finally had a patent application and a 3D printout of heel’n’bumpers ready. Phew… at last. It was a very intense time for us; many ideas, some doubts, but also a fascinating adventure and great joy from working on something that has not existed before.
When we had the prototype in our hands, the time had come to find manufacturing facilities and start initial tests. We now had to choose the best materials most suitable for the job as the highest quality of the final product was very important to us. At this stage, our friends and the friends of our friends become very helpful and kindly agreed to serve as test users. Their unbiased views, comments and suggestions were very important to us. We thank them all very much. Without their genuine support we would not have been able to create and fine tune heel’n’bumpers to the final shape and design they have now, i.e., a product that defends itself with the highest quality and functionality. Smoothly run and completed tests allowed us to quickly start the initial sales. We have to mention that, in parallel to the product tests, we also worked on the name for our product, branding packaging, communication platform, price and distribution. Although there were moments of doubt, hesitation and frustration sometimes, there was no way back. We felt deep inside that the wind was blowing into our sails.
Officially, we started selling heel’n’bumpers online and on Amazon at the end of 2016. In London, our product is also distributed through shoe care experts who are very well aware that scuffs from the office chairs are irreparable.
Yes, heel’n’bumpers are available now on the marketplace just a few clicks away from our target group, but a great challenge still lays ahead of us - a “mission” to create the need for carrying about shoes and owning heel’n’bumpers, your ultimate shoe care kit. We believe we could engage our customers into this interesting and creative process. It is true that, still not many people are aware of the damage done to their shoes by simply sitting and working at their desks. On the other hand, so many people want their shoes look immaculate because – like us and those who already own heel’n’bumpers – they very well know what a magical power shoes have in creating the overall image. After all, there is a reason behind the saying that quality and well maintained shoes are the foundation of good style.