Michelle Barce looks like a dancer. Tall, slim and blonde, she carries herself confidently. She tells me dance is one of her lifelong passions, though she studied psychology in college. What she never studied was business administration, product design and manufacturing, patent law, or marketing. That’s what makes her story so cool.
We met at the Silver Diner in Tyson’s Corners. My friend Julie had gotten us in touch so Michelle could share the story of her Snazzits with me. I’m not normally a product reviewer but the idea of a local mom with a great business idea and the tenacity and smarts to get from vision to market was intriguing to me. And when I looked on her website, the Snazzits looked adorable and fun. As we made small talk, she started laying out a selection of headbands she had made that featured Snazzits on ribbon covered headbands that were so stinking cute that I seriously considered trying to convince my boy to wear one. The more she and I chatted, I got a real sense that this could blow up for her and we could start seeing Snazzits all over the place.
Michelle had been a stay-at-home-mom for ten years when she found herself at a life crossroads. Going through a divorce and looking for what she could do for the next phase of her life, she was in nursing school and a little unsure of her next steps. Amid all the emotion of that time, she felt certain that her faith would carry her through and she promised herself she would let go of negativity and trust in God. She’ll tell you that she believes God was the reason for a dream she had one night where a voice kept saying to her “Button covers, button covers.”
The dream was both odd enough and vivid enough to drive Michelle to a computer to Google button covers. There was no such thing. At least, not any sort of thing that made sense, just some metal slides designed to mimic men’s cuff links. Her curiosity aroused, she tried finding craft ideas for button covers next. Sure enough, craft diva Martha Stewart had some fun ideas for little holiday decorations kids could make with a slit in the middle that could slide over a button on clothing. For non-crafty Michelle, this was the awakening moment: decorative button covers for kids clothing!
The next part of Michelle’s journey was to a hardware store to play with materials and supplies. She began doodling designs, riffing ideas from her own two kids interests. Pretty soon she figured out that what she wanted to do was create interchangeable rubber ornaments with a stretchable back that could fit over different sized buttons. She came up with designs of animals, ice cream cones, and rock-n-roll skulls. A friend who does contract engineering for the space program helped her with the industrial design as she began pursuing a patent to protect her idea.
Meanwhile she started to research manufacturing options. Walking into the conversations with manufacturers nearly blind she would glean information from one company and use it to help negotiate the conversation with the next company she called. Michele told me that she has one company manufacturing the backs of the Snazzits and another doing the fronts so no one can steal the whole idea before her patent is finalized (Side note: Michelle might be awesome if you ever want someone to do industrial espionage.)
Now with a line of products ready for sale in her online store and queries out to different organizations that might be interested in doing branded Snazzits, Michelle is ready to take the world by storm. She’s picturing Snazzits on clothing, hats, jewelry and other accessories for kids as well as licensed Snazzits for non-profits, corporation, sports teams, you name it. There could be Snazzits for every occasion!
For now, you have the chance to get the first Snazzits on the block for your own kids. Michelle is offering a free headband and a 3-pack of Snazzits to The DC Moms readers as well as 25% off Snazzits purchases on her website. Just use code SNAZZYTIME at check out. (offer valid 1/27/12-3/1/12). Enter to win the free headband and Snazzits by leaving a comment here! The winner will be chosen at random on February 10, 2012. (Winner has 24 hours to respond before another winner is selected)