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Success Stories: Lori Greiner

Persistence, time and energy.
That’s the difference between
“what if” and product success,
and Lori Greiner has all three.
After years of having ideas for
products and even books and sitting on
the sidelines, she grew tired of thinking
about what might happen. So when she
had a promising idea for an earring
organizer, she immediately got to work.

Now 13 years and 250 products later,
Greiner is at the helm of For Your Ease Only
Inc., which has earned more than $350 million
in sales since its inception—a number that
was easier to reach in part because of her
regular appearances on QVC. Now a 13-year
veteran on the network, she has her own
monthly show, Clever and Unique Creations by
Lori Greiner
.

At the time she had her first product idea,
she was reading scripts, writing plays and
selling costume jewelry on the side—a far cry
from the international entrepreneur/inventor
she would become. That side business is what
inspired her to create something that would
neatly display her jewelry.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t women just love
to have something like this at home where
instead of all their jewelry crumpled on top
of each other… they would hang and you
could see them like a fine jewelry display?’ ”
Greiner says.

For someone with little business experience
and no manufacturing experience, bringing a
new product to the masses was an ambitious
proposition. Greiner says her enthusiasm
for her product pushed her forward quickly
giving her the confidence to get a $300,000 bank
loan and hit the ground running.

“I felt certain that an earring organizer, like
my concept, was something everyone would love
because everyone needed it,” Greiner says. “It was
completely different than anything that had ever
been offered, and it was a much better solution.”

"Once
they picked up the phone, I knew I had two seconds to catch their attention."

But she didn’t rely solely on her gut for research.
First, she shelled out about $10,000 to make the
first prototype of the Lucite-type plastic organizer.
Then she hit the streets, stopping women
in all different Chicago neighborhoods to get their
feedback on her product. Once she was convinced
that a broad consumer base wanted her product,
she was ready to face what she says is one of
the biggest obstacles when introducing a new
product: getting retailers to pay attention.

“I would call just a thousand times,” she says.
“I would call again and again until I just got lucky
and they happened to pick up the phone. And
once they picked up the phone, I knew I had two
seconds to catch their attention.”

She definitely caught buyers’ attention. A
whirlwind six months after she had the idea for
her clear plastic mold, which holds 100 pairs of
earrings, she was on the Home Shopping Network
and later in J.C. Penney stores in the Chicago area
demonstrating her product.

During her first television appearance on HSN,
her product (all 2,000 units) sold out within
minutes. “I remember I went out on the air and
I slid the earring stand to the right and the left
a few times. I don’t even think I said much and
then I heard the hosts say, ‘Oh we sold out,’ ”
Greiner says.

It was that moment that she knew her product
would be successful. After selling well in Chicago area
J.C. Penney stores, the chain picked up
her organizer nationally, and she also quickly
moved to QVC to form a lasting partnership. The
momentum fueled her desire to go back to the
drawing board and create more products. At fi rst,
they were additions and accessories to the original
product, but then Greiner expanded to brand
new products.

“I think the next product after that was the
cosmetic organizer. And then I just kept going. With the success of
each thing, I kept thinking of more and more,” she says.

Within the first year, Greiner’s fledgling company did more than
$1 million in sales and was also selling products internationally. And
in 13 years, she hasn’t slowed down. As of this writing, Greiner has
97 patents for her creations. She says she likely will reach 100 patents
by the end of the year. It’s that unstoppable fl ow of energy and ideas
that is at the heart of Greiner’s accomplishments. That, and her keen
ability to know what her consumers want—a task
made easier by being one of them.

“My approach always was [asking], ‘What problems
do I have? What problems do women have in
general?’ and try to think of something that has a
broad audience that will solve a problem for most
people, not just a small select amount,” she says.

Her company, appropriately named For Your
Ease Only, has solved a lot of everyday problems.
Whether you need a dressing mirror that doubles
as a jewelry armoire (Greiner’s favorite), a place to
store all your cosmetics or lighted reading glasses
(yep, forget the book light), she has innovative
products that can help.

Though Greiner has always loved the creative
process, she is the first to admit there is a lot to
learn when it comes
to inventing. In addition
to learning about
the steel molds and
plastics used to make
her early products,
Greiner had to educate
herself on patents,
which she says can
take anywhere from
two to five years to
earn. She turned to
a patent attorney for
help, but always took it upon herself to read as
much as she could and ask as many questions as
possible to understand the application process
and to know in the future which products of hers
might qualify.

Greiner dropped everything to bring that
first product to life and get it in the hands of
consumers. Looking back, she says she wouldn’t
change anything—not the long grueling hours in
the beginning or the worry that her next creation
would fl op.

“When it’s yours, you don’t mind doing whatever
it takes. As it keeps growing and growing,
it’s a lot more work, but you also become better
at everything.”

In fact, Greiner’s growth, both in her business
and as an entrepreneur, is inspiring her to take on
an entirely new endeavor. “I think I would also like to inspire people
to make their ideas and dreams into realities,” she says. Whether she
would do that as a public speaker, consultant or role model, she can’t
say yet. But continued expansion and new products are definitely on
the horizon.

“I love making products,” she says. “So I’m going to continue
making great products and making people happier and their lives
easier. That is very gratifying to me.”

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