President and Founder, ROCKIN CUSHIONS / BOOTYPACKS
Tell us about your invention?
I design and manufacture slipcovers for name brand furniture, currently with a focus on IKEA.
What does problem does it solve?
My custom slipcovers offer a way to upcycle your current furniture, reducing landfill and adding aesthetic value to your home, all while protecting your investment. Our repurposed products, travel bags and accessories made from our fabric scraps, help reduce our overall carbon footprint.
What was the inspiration for your invention?
I started with designing a rocking chair cushion after receiving a chair as a gift. I wasn’t able to find anything modern to fit my decor, so I made something myself. I decided to open an Etsy shop and call it Rockin Cushions, after the chair I had received. I thought it would be a fun hobby. Shortly afterwards I received requests from family and friends to do more “quick fix” furniture covers. IKEA chairs seemed to be the popular choice. There really did seem to be a desire for people to prolong the life of furniture, add value with decor, and reduce the amount of furniture going to landfill. So with my focus on IKEA slipcovers, I set about sourcing designer fabrics that reflect current trends. This allowed my customers to return year after year, or season after season, to upgrade their furniture.
At what stage in the invention process are you?
My products are in market and available for sale.
What is the number one goal you have with regards to your invention?
I would like to educate the consumer that they have options when it comes to redecorating. They don’t have to throw everything out to change their decor. Furniture doesn’t have to be disposable, even if it’s cheap.
Who is your product for (target market)?
Our target market is women between the ages of 18-55 years old.
How long did your invention take to get to this point (from the time you conceived of the idea to now)?
It’s been a long journey. I was essentially proving the concept and testing the market for about 4 years. I didn’t know if my product and my designs would appeal to anyone. It’s also taken a long time to work out the overall supply chain. There are so many moving pieces. It’s especially hard when you don’t have any money to throw at problems. Finding creative solutions while bootstrapping is a whole feat in itself.
When you had your idea, what was the first thing you did?
I made samples and put them in an Etsy shop. Just waited to see what would happen, if people would respond. And they did. But it was very much a hobby for the first few years. Only when I started to get alot of sales, did I think about scaling and growing the business.
What has been the greatest challenge getting your idea from your head to something tangible?
A couple of years ago, I would have said not having money to execute my ideas. But now I’d say finding the right people. Everyone plays a part and if they’re not up to the job, or on board with your vision, it can really be difficult to make progress. I’ve been very lucky to find good people to work with, who have taken a chance on me and believed in my ideas. A good example is the shutdown that happened in LA in April. I received 6000 orders for face masks within a few days. I had no product and no supplies to fulfill those orders. But I had phone numbers and I started calling around to see who could help. We had a team of seamstresses working around the clock and owners of fabric stores delivered supplies to my door. We ended up shipping 30,000 masks in April alone and I couldn’t have done it without all these people bringing it to fruition. It’s these kinds of relationships that build the backbone of your business. No amount of money in this instance would have helped.
How did or are you funding the development of your invention?
While I have pursued business loans in the past I have always been denied for one reason or another. So I haven’t had a choice but to reinvest every penny and self-fund. I only took out what I really needed for my personal expenses. Most recently I sold my car and rented out shelf space in my studio to make ends meet. This year I have been fortunate to receive some small grants and an SBA loan that will hopefully keep my business afloat.
How do you currently market your invention?
Mostly through social media and SEO.
Tell us about your background?
My family emigrated from South Africa to Australia when I was a year old. My dad was a self taught leather craftsman, and opened a business making and selling handmade belts. He had a small workshop in the garage and would sell to specialty stores. The business grew and he taught me how to sew when I was little. I ended up working in our factory alot, I really loved to create things out of leather, like sandals and handbags. I would sell them at local flea markets with my little sister. When I was 15 I ended up doing extra work in commercials, which helped me pay for university, where I got my BA in Fine Arts (graphic design). I worked part time as a designer, but was also getting the acting bug. Eventually I decided to move to LA to take acting classes for a while. I got lucky with acting work and ended up staying for 17 years. But acting started to dry up for me and I got tired of the grind. I remember thinking one day “Do I really want to be trying to book a job for the next 20 years, or do I want to pursue something that puts me in control of my future”? That’s when I made a conscious decision to turn my hobby into a business. I think growing up in our manufacturing company also helped, even though I was completely unaware how much I actually knew about it. But I grew up in a semi-rural town before the internet and you find ways to amuse yourself, which for me, was always creating something out of fabric, leather or paper mache. I’ve always been drawn to creating, rather than doing anything academic.
Who are your favorite inventors and why?
Well, I’m a little obsessed with Shark Tank and I have to say Lori Greiner is really an amazing woman. She is a phenomenal inventor, marketer and business woman. It’s not easy to be all three, but she is an absolute role model for me. I can only dream to have her kind of success one day. What’s been the most surprising part of your inventors journey so far?When I think back about the challenges I’ve had to overcome, it is surprising to me that I was able to find a way. For instance, I couldn’t afford to do production runs of my products, so I just had to find a contractor who would produce on demand for me as the orders came in every week. And there were very few orders in the beginning. In manufacturing, that’s unheard of. It doesn’t exist because they don’t make any money. But I went door knocking and pitched my idea to anyone who would listen, and someone took a chance on me. Now 4 years later, I’m pitching the same idea to an off-shore contractor and having proven the model, they are happy to work with me too in the same way. So I am surprised that my crazy ideas actually work out sometimes, especially when it goes against the norm.
What is a typical day like for you?
I am more of a morning person. Having said that I don’t set an alarm or have a routine. But usually I end up gravitating towards my computer with an endless pot of tea pretty early and doing alot of computer work – some admin, lots of Photoshopping and editing. I usually pry myself away for breakfast at around 10 or 11. Afterwards I may need to go to my studio to do some sampling, shipping or visit my contractors downtown LA. Lunch is usually a burrito from the taco truck on the corner, but I also love Everytable for grab and go. Around 4pm I start to crash and that’s when I try and rest for an hour. Sometimes yoga, sometimes meditation. I’m usually back working at my computer for most of the evening after dinner. I try and wrap it up around 10pm. My computer notified me yesterday that my average daily screen time is 8 hours. It just goes so fast and there’s so much to do!
Who have been your role models, mentors, etc?
While I have received business coaching, I can’t say I’ve ever had a mentor in the field I’m pursuing. The closest person I bounce ideas from is my sister, who runs our family business. Within 7 years, she has won numerous business awards and transformed a struggling business into a 7-figure manufacturing powerhouse in Australia. I am so proud of her. She thinks outside the box alot which is really necessary these days. So I always turn to her when I’m stuck.
What’s the best way for the readers/audience of Inventing Women to connect with you?
Please visit my website, www.rockincushions.com,
What is the cost and how can we learn more, purchase your invention?
Prices range from $24 to $799 for furniture covers