Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Close Shave

Many years ago, I was standing in line at a grocery store and overheard a conversation between two women ahead of me.  One of them was talking about how expensive it was to take a taxi to the airport.  She needed to take a quick trip for business, but her family was away on vacation, and the airport was a 90-minute drive away.  She knew the taxi fee would run more than $100, which her friend blamed on supply and demand, saying that there simply weren’t many options.

Being a starving college student on summer break, I couldn’t help thinking of an idea.  “I’ll drive you to the airport for $50,” I offered, “and you can travel in comfort and style.”  She looked first at me, then at the packages of Ramen Noodles I was holding, and asked what I meant by comfort and style.  Thinking on my feet, I said, “The comfort of your own car, and the style you’ve been accustomed to for years.”  She laughed, realizing that I was offering to drive her to the airport in her own car.  I said that I could drive my car to her house, leave it there, and then drive her to the airport in her car.  I’d then return her car and leave with my own, and she would save both money and time by scheduling me in advance.

That summer and the couple that followed, I probably drove 50 people to the airport.  Recently, companies like Uber and Lyft have arrived on the scene, giving the taxi companies something to worry about with their own innovative solutions to the same problem I was addressing all those years ago.  Experiences like these helped cement for me the importance and value of using creativity to solve problems.  That brings me to this week’s story about an entrepreneur named Michael, and his creative solution to a common source of frustration for many of us...

A few years ago, Michael was at a holiday party where he and another guest named Mark began making small talk.  Michael’s background was in brand marketing, and though he had never worked for an advertising agency, he was always finding opportunities to create fun and interesting content. 

During his conversation with Mark, they somehow got talking about shaving, and Michael mentioned how ludicrously expensive blades were, even joking that he often forgot to buy new blades and showed up for work looking a bit scruffy.  Mark, whose background was in manufacturing, said he knew where to get affordable twin razor blades in bulk.  Within an hour, the two strangers had come up with an idea for a business to sell disposable razor blades by mail directly to the consumers, shipped right to their homes for just a few dollars a month.

Using the internet to take orders meant they wouldn’t have to spend money on a storefront. Selling and shipping directly to consumers would keep the prices low because there would be no wholesalers or retailers to take a cut of revenues.  And, if they could come up with a creative way to advertise their business, they’d save money on marketing.

The week they launched their business at DollarShaveClub.com, over 3 million people watched their goofy yet brilliant video – just 90 seconds long and produced for less than $5,000 – and it went viral.  More than 200,000 subscribers joined DollarShaveClub’s monthly membership program in the first year.  Members get one handheld razor per month for a monthly fee of $3 that includes shipping, along with 5 blades.  So, for less than $37 a year, you get all the razor blades you need, and never need to go to the store to buy them again!

Einstein once said that imagination is greater than knowledge.  We’re all born with the ability to think creatively, but throughout our lives, our tendency to let our imaginations run wild diminishes.  Sometimes this happens because, when we explore new ideas, we make mistakes and suffer the consequences.  Over time, many of us stop being experimental.  It’s easy to just give up, and much harder to get back up after things don’t work out.  But life rewards those who keep their creative spirits alive! 

So, whether you have an idea to innovate at work, the beginning thoughts for a new business launch, or something to add some fun and excitement to your life, keep at it!  Remember, “Imagination is your only weapon in the war against reality.”

Until Next Week…

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