The Sweet Stench of Success
I was at the gym last night, and something reminded me of a brief story I read in Fortune Small Business a while back.
Since it fits in with the whole “inventor” theme we’re in the midst of, I thought I’d share it with you.
It goes something like this: Mark Konjevod was a business developer in Atlanta. He was also a marathon runner.
Mark had a problem. He used moisture-wicking running clothes — clothes designed to channel perspiration away from the skin, reducing irritation — but when it came to odor, the clothes seemed insusceptible to the charms of washing machines and even the most liberal doses of detergent.
Now that would be troublesome to anybody, especially if you’re a marathon runner. You could always just keep buying new clothes and then throw them away when they started smelling.
Or, you could start a company.
The smell is what started it, but what convinced Mark to create WIN Products was realizing that he wasn’t alone. When discussing the odor issue with his peers, it became clear that it was common. In fact, nearly everyone he spoke to shared the problem.
So, Mark “used his connections to find an experienced chemist who mixed up a special concoction to fight lingering bacteria that get caught inside the high-tech fibers used in performance sporting apparel,” goes the story. “In 2005, Konjevod sent the detergent to friends at the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs. The athletes loved it.”
Olympic athletes loving your high performance sport detergent is a good sign.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Konjevod met a man named Jeff Crow at an International House of Pancakes that same year. Konjevod was looking for someone to run his company, and Crow seemed to fit the bill. In fact, Crow’s resume was so good, Konjevod said he “thought it was a joke.”
Crow had worked on the Wisk laundry detergent and Lever 2000 brands while working as a brand manager at Unilever. From there, he’d gone on to become Senior Brand Manager at Coca-Cola, managing some of their biggest brands, including Coca-Cola Classic. And now, Mark Konjevod wanted him to run his new company.
Crow agreed. Today, he’s still President, GM, and Chief Operating Officer at WIN Products.
How is the high-performance sports laundry detergent business treating them? Last year they made 5 million dollars in sales.
What can we learn from Mark? Which axiom can we apply? Well there are several that relate. But personally, I think the moral of the story is: it’s great to have a new product idea, but the excitement of your great idea shouldn’t be what drives you to go ahead and start a business. What should really get any entrepreneur fired up is knowing they have a market for their product. Konjevod confirmed this when speaking with fellow marathon runners about the odor problem. And then, he tested his product with some of the best athletes in the world.
I mentioned in my first post on inventions the dangers of starting a company without finding out what your potential customers want. This lesson is no different. Make sure you have something people would like to have, and then make sure it’s a good product.
Tune in Thursday for the continuing stories of entrepreneurs whose original product ideas put them on the path to success.
Atlantic Journal Constitution (Article Preview)