Entrepreneur: Abbie Rapport
In 2002, the mother of three was on a business trip when her airplane seat mate was a grandmother with six grandchildren. Granny proudly pulled out a slick photo album of her brood. A frustrated Abbie could only produce a series of worn and creased photos of her boys from her wallet.
But her frustration instantly yielded an idea for a product that would solve the problem: a stretchable bracelet with a series of miniature frames for pictures of kids, grandchildren, pets, plants - whatever you want to display. She named it the Memory Maker Bracelet. Abbie also quickly came up with a template system that would help customers crop and reduce their photos to exactly the right size for the frames in the bracelet.
"My husband recognized it could be a big hit because it wasn't just something that jewelers would be interested in selling," Abbie says. "He recognized that Memory Maker was something that would appeal to the photography and scrapbooking industries, too. And we've found that drug stores want to carry the Memory Maker to help replace photo-related sales that they're losing because nobody buys film anymore."
Abbie and and her husband's instincts have been confirmed as Memory Maker has become a huge hit. The company has sold more than 1.5 million bracelets in less than two years at a typical retail price of about $20.
Abbie's Key Move: Getting in the Zone for a Big Idea
Abbie says her great ideas are more than just accidental notions. She's actually got a system for generating more than the typical human's share of exploitable product concepts. She reads constantly to keep her mind stimulated. And she spends a lot of time looking to see what merchandise already is - and isn't - out there.
"When I go through stores, I look at any and every department just to soak in what's there and then to look for some kind of want or need that I can fill," she says. "Then the creative-and fun-part comes in."
Without that kind of breakthrough thinking and Big Ideas, Abbie admits, she might still be representing others' products.
And remember, Abbie's Key Move to get yourself in the zone for creating ideas is only the first step. The next step is to embark on a plan to commercialize that idea. Otherwise, it'll just collect dust! Abbie has become known by her success. But she admits, the fact is she's had lots of fantastic product ideas besides Memory Maker bracelets that she didn't act on. And some she wishes she had.
Who hasn't eaten a Mrs. Field's cookie? Well, it might have been Mrs. Rapport's Cookies if Abbie had heeded her idea in the early '70s for selling high-quality cookies at shopping-mall stands.
Some time later, Abbie imagined putting together a catalog of items for new mothers. Years later, Abbie imagined a device that would help a driver find her parked car in a lot. It was awhile before auto makers came out with key fobs that transmitted signals to their vehicles and accomplished just that.
Abbie's Bonus Insight:
Sourcing in China now is possible for even the smallest American manufacturers, like Key Item Sales. Abbie and Jeff now are organizing a "major relationship" with a plant there to make Memory Maker bracelets. "It's getting easier and easier to pull that off," she says. "We've even found that it's easier to do good quality control over there than it is at American plants."