Thursday, February 25, 2010

Inventor Showcase: Bra Barrette

This is a very exciting time for Lara Merriam-Smith, the inventor of the Bra Barrette, as you will soon see her on QVC.  It's no surprise that she has hit the big time with this amazing product.  Unlike other products on the market, the Bra Barrette doesn't convert your bra to a racerback, but leaves inches between the straps, adding lift and support. 

Here's a look into how Lara's product came to be and some insight into what makes her so special:

Q. How did you come up with the concept of Bra Barrette? 

I was sitting in my chair grading my students papers, pulling up my tank top straps –again- and looked at the paper clip in my hand and wondered if I could use it to keep my straps in place between my shoulder blades.   I started bending that wire into another shape and eventually came up with the spiral design of the Bra Barrette. 

Q. What are the features of your invention that differentiates it from anything else on the market? 
There are actually three things that set us apart from other products: 1.  Its made from a flexible and durable plastic, all of the other products are either fabric or a rigid plastic, this makes the BB more comfortable to wear as it bends and moves with you.  2.  It was designed to be seen, so it can be used on tank tops, spaghetti strap tops and swimsuits, and can come with charms and crystals to dress up your straps.  3.  It’s available in three sizes, all of our competitors come in only one size, but I realized not all women, or outfits are created equal and multiple sizes are needed to make sure every woman can find one to fit them.

Q. Can you tell us how Bra Barrette helps your clothes fit better? 

The Bra Barrette provides lift and support to tired sagging bras, making you look and feel 10 pounds lighter!   It also keeps you looking professional by keeping your straps in place under clothing.   When you use it with a tank top or spaghetti strap top you can add a little bling to the back and create an eye catching new look!

Q. What was your experience like having your product manufactured? 

I  had an incredible plastics manufacturer I work with here in Bellingham who helped me through so many of the challenges.  My husband and I are the ones who spend most of the time adding charms and packaging the product   It will be interesting to see what happens now as I have some sales under my belt and I start looking for another manufacturer to take over all parts of production and distribution. 

Q. Did you encounter any problems, or was it pretty smooth process? 

Lots of little hiccups along the way, but nothing that wasn’t insurmountable.  I constantly reached out to resources available to me through networking groups (ewomen, biznik and other groups), SBA and SCORE to help me when I wasn’t sure what to do next.   Reaching out for help was the most important thing I could do when I wasn’t sure. 

Q. What or who motivates you through challenging moments? 

My end goal motivates me.  I want to get to a point where my business is moving forward and making enough money to pay the bills so my husband and I can have children and start living a life we design.   I recognize that may take years to achieve but my husband helps motivate me to keep working towards that goal.

Q. How do you juggle your business with family life and its daily demands? 

I am fortunate to not have to divide my time between kids and work.  While I look forward to the day I do, I am glad I started this business while the only time constraints were brought on by Beagle    I do still have other obligations to school work (I am working on my MBA) and I am starting to teach classes to other aspiring entrepreneurs to help them start their businesses and coach them through the challenges.   Balancing that with work is tough sometimes, but I keep organized as best I can and plan out my week so I know where my time needs to get spent.   I use a lot of action plans and structured to-do lists to keep myself on track and give myself breaks when I need them. 

Q. Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of your business? 

My hobby is to help other entrepreneurs, I enjoy the creative process and problem solving!   I also do some gardening, bike riding, hiking and when I can, I travel (I am a former Geography teacher!).  

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