How Two Entrepreneurs Built a Business Around the Selfie Stick Craze
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, there’s no doubt about it: selfie sticks are all the rage.
In case you’ve somehow missed out, a selfie stick is an extendable arm for your camera or smartphone that allows you to take... you guessed it: the perfect selfie! As selfies have become a global phenomenon, so has this unique tool.
And the two entrepreneurs behind Selfie On A Stick couldn’t be happier about it. Here’s the story of how they caught wind of this trend and turned it into a thriving business.
The Selfie On A Stick Explosion
Jacqueline Verdier, 31, was traveling in Asia with a friend when she first saw a selfie stick.
“We saw a few tourists using this funny device and it was the mission for the rest of my trip to find one for myself!” she says. “Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as I had hoped and I went home empty-handed. My friend was in Asia for a few more months and was able to finally find one for me, and upon return to the U.S., we just knew that we had to bring Selfie Sticks to the U.S. market.”
That was in June 2014, and her friend Dominic Suszanski, 32, is now her business partner.
Once they decided to bring their idea to life, “the most time-consuming part of our launch was sourcing various products and testing them to ensure that the selfie stick [met] our expectations of quality and durability,” Verdier says. “Once we found a reliable manufacturer, we got our initial inventory and launched SelfieOnAStick.com, where we sell direct[ly] to consumers.”
They managed to launch quickly -- a month later, in July 2014 -- and their rise to success since then has been remarkable. Though Verdier was “surprised” by “just how quickly the selfie stick phenomenon has swept across America,” they owe most of their success to a combination of hard work, smart branding and good timing.
Starting in the late summer and early fall of 2014, they held approximately 10 pop-up events throughout Manhattan. Not only were the events fun, but Verdier says they were “a great way to get feedback on our product straight from our customers… and understand the desire customers have to take better selfies and group photos.”
Since most people had never seen a selfie stick before, these pop-up events really got the ball rolling for their company.
Their first big break came when Nordstrom asked if they could feature the product in their holiday pop-up shop, a temporary storefront. That was followed by an order with the international retail company Opening Ceremony, and then an interview with The New York Post. After seeing that article, producers at Good Morning America requested an interview with Verdier and featured Selfie On A Stick as the “hottest 2014 holiday gift.”
In addition to this buzz, they also managed to capitalize on Internet searches for the words “selfie stick,” which have exploded in the past year: from 2,400 searches in January 2014 to 1.83 million in December 2014. Google is now one of their main sources of traffic.
Clearly, their hard work and impeccable timing have paid off. Though the company declined to share their sales figures, Verdier’s position as CEO of Selfie On A Stick is now her full-time job -- as well as her “most fun venture to date!”
Speaking about the growth of their business, Verdier says: “I don't think we could have anticipated that we would become such a recognizable brand as quickly as we have, but we are really excited to continue to grow and get our Selfie On A Stick into as many hands as possible.”
What About the Original Selfie Stick?
Though the story of Selfie On A Stick may make you want to immediately quit your job and start your own trend-based business, it’s important to remember that not every business is as successful -- even if it’s based on the same idea.
Just ask Wayne Fromm. Known as the original inventor of the selfie stick, he came up with the idea while traveling with his daughter in Europe in the early 2000s. Sick of “flag[ging] down strangers” or “hunt[ing] for flat eye level surfaces to balance a camera on,” he longed for an easier way to take photos with her.
An inventor by trade, he “studied all manner of locking, extension rods and designed new mechanisms” and eventually, the Quik Pod was born.
This was 2006 though, and “the word Selfie did not exist,” Fromm said. He spent many years selling his invention at trade shows and on TV shows, but it never really took off in the way he’d hoped.
Fast-forward nearly a decade, and selfies are now ubiquitous. Unfortunately, so are competitors. Many Asian companies in particular have created knock-offs at a lower quality and price. Some even went so far as stealing images from Fromm’s packaging, which he rightfully calls “wholesale theft apart from the invention itself.”
Despite his frustrations, Fromm says he’s proud of how the invention has been embraced internationally.
3 Lessons for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
So, are you ready to start a business selling your own trend-based invention? Before you run off with your brilliant idea, here are a few important lessons you can learn from these stories:
1. Create Something That Helps People
Not only will creating something that genuinely helps people make your product appealing, it’ll also give you a business you can be proud of.
“The best part about starting Selfie On A Stick is that we are providing our customers with a product that brings a smile to their face,” explains Verdier. “People genuinely have fun using our Selfie On A Stick – what could be better!?”
“Even people who don't like the idea of the Selfie Stick still chuckle when they see the Selfie On A Stick in use! The fact that we can help people have fun is really rewarding.”
2. Focus on Quality and Branding
Fromm advises aspiring entrepreneurs to pay careful attention to branding -- and to create the best product out there. As he notes, “Apple did not invent the cell phone, but they perfected it.”
Verdier also pointed to quality as a huge factor in her product’s success, saying, “If we had to spend time dealing with inferior quality products we wouldn't be successful.”
3. Go All In
If you have “an idea you truly believe in… just do it,” Verdier says, “[and] leave the excuses at home. No one is going to hand you a successful business on a silver platter. Being an entrepreneur takes a lot of work, but we've found that you really do get back what you put in, and more!”
As for spotting which trends and products will be successful, “trust your instincts and commit yourself to your venture,” she says.
Your Turn: What trends have you noticed that you’d like to build a business around?