Have you ever had an idea that was so obscure - and brilliant - that the people with whom you’d dare to share it would either pretend they didn’t hear you or bluntly-yet-lovingly tell you it was ridiculous? For example, there’s this scene in the first episode of “Documentary Now!” in which Bill Hader’s character explains that she wears sweatpants on her head and wraps the pant legs around her neck for practicality - like a “built-in scarf.”
If you're wondering which product I'm drawing a comparison to, I'll tell you: it's Foxers. Sure, they seem like common sense now, but even the creator's husband wasn't immediately on board with the idea when he first heard it. The creator, April Spring, had a moment in 2006, when she was at a restaurant with her husband. Before we get to the aftermath, here's some information on Spring: Spring, who comes from a finance background, has an entrepreneurial spirit. The "always working" mentality doesn't seem to bother her. She worked with NASDAQ for over a decade, doing financial PR at her own investment relations firm, until her husband was offered a job overseas, in Malaysia. It was in Malaysia, where she had the pivotal dinner that changed everything.
“My thought was that men have always had the protection of the wider, comfortable cotton-gathered boxer band that gives coverage, and it's made of outerwear fabric.”
She suggested making a female version of boxers, and being a true entrepreneur, Spring went from idea to prototype in 24 hours.
Foxers took off on its own, thanks to the quality of the product and the power of publicity. Wherever Spring went, she found an opportunity to advance. When her friend, a designer for department stores, came to visit her in Malaysia, she took him to tour the clothing factories. At the same time, she made connections for herself and ended up using them for Foxers. When she was visiting her friends in Chicago, she found a representative at who ended up placing Foxers in 74 stores within 90 days. While at the U.S. Patent and Trademark office, a patent attorney was passing by and casually mentioned that her designs could be patented. She got her design patented in a year. If you're familiar with the process of getting a design patented, that length of time is rare. Not only that, but Spring’s product is so different that she received two U.S. patents for her designs.
When it comes to the product, itself, Foxers have become a staple in people’s wardrobes, beyond underwear. Yes, they’re comfortable. More importantly, they’re functional. And most importantly, especially in today’s disappointingly intolerant society, they're for everyone. When Bustle puts them on the same list as Thinx, you know you’ve got a winner. Foxers started with 3 panties and now the brand has over 900 SKUS and 21 styles, with new looks coming out every month. Such new looks have inspirations that come to Spring in dreams, or when she's driving on the highway. All looks are of the same luxurious quality.
As for the success that doesn't just fall into place, Spring's business acumen more than makes up for that. "As an entrepreneur, you're always thinking about 'what's ahead of this, so that I can be there and be ready?'" But she sees herself as more than just an entrepreneur; she also sees herself as a designer, which comes with extra responsibilities. For example, Spring believes that "[research and development] has to be the designer's thing for her whole life." Because of this, she knows that her time is both valuable and limited. On top of that, the decisions that she makes within the company affect the amount of time she has to handle her direct responsibilities - as is true with anyone. In Spring's case, for example, while she does pay for advertising her and there, she relies more on publicity [that counts]. "It's funny - when you have paid advertising, you usually don't get much from it. It's the free publicity." However, publicity does come with its unforeseen consequences. "As soon as you get all this publicity, you just start getting tons of people wanting to take your time, and you lose track - really - of what you're supposed to be doing." That being said, Spring knows how to spend her time - and finances - strategically.
When she had first launched, she had tackled the smaller markets in the southern and midwestern regions, but the west coast and the northeastern region were entirely different markets. In order to get her product into those mainstream channels, she knew she had to take some publicity risks and hire PR; "I knew that celebrities sold apparel." Gifting, her not-so-secret weapon, was the catalyst that really got her noticed. She “did gift bags for the artists who didn't win at [that] year's Grammys.” At the Jingle Ball (remember, this is back when it was a thing), she was such a hit that PR firms starting contacting her instead of the other way around. She was on the The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch eight times, with one of those times being on the same day she was on the Valentine's Day episode of the TODAY show. Spring was constantly thinking about how to grow her business in the best way in that moment in time, and she acted accordingly. She still does - now she's on the social media train, which is working out really, really well for her. But you'll need to listen to know how well.
What impressed me the most about Spring, aside from her plan to have people learn to sew in Foxers’ factory in Atlanta, was her influence over me. Without once mentioning that she wanted to be featured on Entrepreneurs En Vogue - the website or the podcast, she had me practically begging to feature her. Not only that, but Spring could have name-dropped Beyoncé or any of her other celebrity customers in her email to me.* She didn’t. The only name she dropped was mine. It. Worked. Like. A. Charm. Kids, they don’t make them like these anymore.
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