[quote style=”boxed”]I would not be afraid to talk to people about my idea to get it started and network to find resources I needed to make it.[/quote]
In the spring of 2009 Erin Balogh was a busy mother of two little girls and working full time as an Emergency room nurse. With her full schedule, getting ready in the morning was usually juggled with a few other chores. In between flipping pancakes, changing diapers, and doing laundry she would try to sneak into the bathroom to straighten a few sections of hair. The only problem was her bathroom had a pedestal sink. A pedestal sink is great for washing your hands but not for doing your hair. The lack of ANY counter space was frustrating and her curling iron or flat iron usually ended up in the sink or on the floor. Finally, unable to find anything to help her situation – she decided to make it herself and came up with the idea for the Hot Iron Holster.
What are you working on right now?
This summer we debuted our third product in the Hot Iron Holster line – the HIH Deluxe. It is similar to my original invention, the Hot Iron Holster, but is tailored to the beauty market with added detailing and a larger pocket opening. I am also working on a line extension to our Hot Iron Holster products that bring the functionality of a convenient holster to other areas of the home. Their debut is planned for first quarter 2014 and I am extremely excited for the launch. Tooling is done and the first order is in production and we’re busy finalizing the packaging and marketing strategy.
Where did the idea for the Hot Iron Holster come from?
The idea for the Hot Iron Holster came from my pedestal sink in my home. Getting ready at my pedestal sink was a irritating balancing act of all my morning beauty essentials competing for space on the edge of the sink. I looked around for something to buy to hold my hot styling tools but there weren’t many options. I’ve always considered myself a resourceful person and began to look around my house for something that might work. One thing led to another, and I soon found myself sitting at my sewing machine, sewing a silicone oven mitt and two hot pads together. I attached the hot pads to the oven mitt to form a long flap. At the end of the flap, I made a pocket and added a bag of coins as a counterweight. I laid the weighted end into the sink and the oven mitt hung outside the sink to hold my hot styling tools. It wasn’t pretty but it was exactly what I needed.
How do you make money?
After launching our debut Hot Iron Holster product last summer, we have expanded our line to include three Holster styles targeting housewares retailers, beauty suppliers, salons, and spas. Our products are currently sold in 16 countries and have been a huge success on QVC.
What does your typical day look like?
My typical day juggles being a business owner and a mom. I finally recruited my husband fulltime into this business last spring. His background as a project manager has gone a lot further than my background in nursing. He runs our daily operations and I manage our new product development and make sure the bills get paid. With three kids, ages 2, 4, and 7 we definitely stay busy!
How do you bring ideas to life?
I love seeing an idea turn into a tangible object. I can visualize it to a point but then I am compelled to make a prototype or model to see if it really works. My husband laughs, but it’s not uncommon for me to be found in my kitchen, late at night, digging through the tool box gathering supplies for my latest prototype or making mock-ups of a new package design.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
One word – Silicone! Is that a trend? Silicone is like the cool cousin of plastic or rubber. It is so versatile and you see new uses for it all the time. It is heat and cold resistant, can be make soft or rigid, is food safe, can be finished to be non-stick or ‘sticky’, is printable, looks great in bold, fun colors, is easy to clean (dishwasher safe), is durable, and is even recyclable! I can go on and on…
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
That might be a toss up between working as a custodian at a university library or a meat ‘wrapper’ in a grocery store meat department. Both were not very glamorous but they did motivate me to work hard in school to be able to move on to something better. I also learned how to clean toilets really well and learned the best (and worst!) cuts of meat.
If you were to start over, what would you do differently?
I would not be afraid to talk to people about my idea to get it started and network to find resources I needed to make it. I was resistant to tell many people about it because I didn’t want people to think I was a ‘crazy inventor’. We debuted the prototype of the Hot Iron Holster for the first time in the Inventors’ Corner of the Chicago International Housewares Show in 2011. I remember setting up our booth and feeling so nervous about having to tell people about it. When the show started the next day, we received overwhelming positive feedback – and I thought, “Why didn’t we tell more people about this sooner?”
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Work hard, be persistent, get help, don’t be too proud, always accept feedback for improvement, stay positive, and stay creative.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One of the biggest setbacks I had was trying to improve the prototype for the Hot Iron Holster by eliminating the weights. I was stumped and hoped to receive help or advice from the manufacturer. The manufacturer wasn’t too motivated because they were not to receive payment until I placed an order. I received an email saying they couldn’t spend any more time on this idea and to contact them when I had a solution. This was disappointing news and the timing was particularly bad. Two weeks earlier I had given birth to my third child, who was born premature. I also felt a little abandoned by the manufacturer. I realized that if anyone was going to figure out a solution, it would have to be me and that nobody cared about the success of my product as much as I did. So I resolved to dig deeper and try harder to come up with a solution. I knew there had to be a way to eliminate the weights and so once we brought our healthy baby boy home, I got back to work in my kitchen, testin g and formulating new solutions that ultimately lead to the current version of the Hot Iron Holster.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Drive-thru grocery stores – every parents dream. Dryers that fold clothes. Dishes that never get dirty…
If you could change on thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?
I worked as an RN for 10 years. I spent too many nights watching patients suffer from cancer and other terminal or chronic conditions. I would love to have a successful business that could fund worthy medical research that is working to eliminate these conditions.
Tell us something about you that very few people know.
If French-braiding were an Olympic sport, I could compete.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
Pinterest – there is so much creativity and so many cool ideas. I often have to control the compulsive crafter in me not to drop everything I’m doing and replicate something I find there. Google.com – I did a lot of Google searches in the beginning of this business. Not sure where I would be without it. ABCmouse.com – Because it keeps my 4yr old occupied when I have a deadline to meet.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
If you’re a parent, I’d recommend, Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan because I could totally relate to everything in the book. He writes about parenting his 5 children in a 2 bedroom New York City apartment. I chuckled my whole way through. The 2-3 page chapters were perfect and it was a great mental break from work.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
I was talking to my 7 year old daughter about the fourth Harry Potter book she just finished reading and she told me, “Sometimes I like to think Voldemort changes and becomes good and gets a job at Home Depot.” It was so random, it made me laugh.
Who is my hero and why?
My mom and my grandmothers – for a lifetime example of unconditional love and hard work. Dr. Seuss, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison – all pioneers in their fields.
Hot Iron Holster on Facebook:
Hot Iron Holster on Twitter: @hotironholster
Hot Iron Holser on Pinterest:
Hot Iron Holster on Instagram: @hotironholster
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.