By Guest Contributor Sophie Trelles-Tvede
In the Fall of 2011, I was at the University of Warwick, studying at Warwick Business School (WBS). Just a few months earlier, I thought that by the time I was at university, I would be 10/10 fulfilled in my life, without a worry in the world. Why would I not be? I was at the university of my dreams, meeting cool and interesting people, and was set up to have a happy and successful life.
The reality was that I was so bored that I was considering shoving a pencil into my eye. Now, I cannot speak for all universities, but there are some in the UK that basically set all assignment deadlines and exams at the end of the academic year, so that you have the flexibility to work at your own pace. If you are an organized and responsible individual, you will get going with the work during the first week. However, if you are me, you will make sure you leave everything until it is painfully late, and then almost give yourself a burnout from having to do a whole year’s worth of work in three months. It really did teach me to perform under pressure.
Nonetheless, that also means that for nine months of the year, I was free as a bird. So, in my first year at university, towards the end of the first semester (December 2011), I was getting frustrated with my lack of enthusiasm for ‘Accounting 101’, ‘Operations 101’ and all the other ‘101’s I had to take.
Then one day we all got the invite to attend a ‘Bad Taste Party’ at the university campus, which basically means it’s a party where all other students will be (awesome!), everyone will be hammered (super opportunity to make more friends!), and I get to dress up as unmatching as humanely possible and apply make-up as if I were a six year old who is holding lipstick and blush for the first time.
So, I got ready for the party, in my worst possible outfit, with the tackiest possible make-up, and when I was about to leave my room, I thought… it’s a shame I didn’t do anything with my hair. My dorm room was in a building that I would guess was from the 70s or so, and it had an emergency telephone on each floor. On my floor it happened to be inside my room. And suddenly I though what if I take the telephone cord and wrap that around my hair? Now THAT would be bad taste…
I went to the party, had a blast, made new friends, and then woke up the next day in my bed, with this giant telephone cord still in my hair. It had been a bit of a rough night, so I had somewhat of a hangover with a bit of a headache. But the first thing I noticed was that despite having such a giant cable in my hair, and for so many hours, I had significantly less tension around my head and neck.
Maybe a small side note: I, like millions of other people with long hair around the world, suffer from headaches as a result of tension building up around the head and neck when tying up your hair. With the telephone cord, because it has a unique shape that helps disperse the pressure around the ponytail, you get less tension.
And suddenly all the lightbulbs and alarms went off in my head. An idea! I could totally do this as a side project next to my studies to kill some time and do something fun. So, I did the most instinctive thing one can do when one is 18 years old, hungover in a terrible university dorm, and desperate to fill up their time with something new: I called my boyfriend.
Sophie: FelixFelixFelix! I have a business idea!
Felix: OK slow down, what’s up.
Sophie: So, I went to this bad taste party last that I told you about, and I put this telephone cord in my hair, and no headaches, and OH! I just realized it also leaves a lot less of a kink in my hair!
Felix: Ok Sophie slow down. Its early in the morning and it sounds like you’re speaking gibberish.
Sophie: OK ok. I put a telephone cord in my hair, and I think there might be a market opportunity to develop some new kinds of hair ties that are more comfortable to wear and don’t give leave a kink in the hair like regular hair ties do. I think we can make them and sell them to family and friends.
Felix: OK Sophie. If we do this, we are doing it right. We are selling them to women worldwide and making a global brand out of this. Go big or go home.
Sophie: OK, message received. Go big or go home. Let’s do this before I actually shove that pencil into my eye!
That’s basically how the story of invisibobble came to be. You can plan things forever, have a timeline, think things through, and start a company like that. But often times these things come spontaneously and through really weird and unexpected circumstances. The important thing is to always keep your eyes open for these opportunities and act fast when they come.
The lesson learnt
From the time that I had my Bad Taste Party until we had our first invisibobble products ready for sale, it was just over three months. If you get an opportunity like this and you don’t take it, or you react too slowly, someone else is bound to do it for you. So, act fast, think quick, and don’t overthink it. It’s better to make mistakes and fix them ASAP, than to not act at all in the first place.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sophie Trelles-Tvede calls herself a “Third Culture Kid”. She was born in Denmark, went to school in Zurich, studied in England and now works in Munich. After founding Invisibobble in 2012, the idea of the spiral hair tie became a true success story. In 2016 Sophie was honoured by Forbes Magazine 30 under 30.
Learn more about 100 Million Hair Ties and a Vodka Tonic
“Why didn’t I think of that genius idea?” This is the remarkable, at times funny, story of a young entrepreneur who, aged 18 and with $4,000 and no other funding, started up invisibobble – the revolutionary hair ties that have taken the haircare industry by storm. Today, Sophie Trelles-Tvede’s company has sold over 100 million hair ties around the world and turns over $15 million.
As a first-year university student, getting ready for a party, Sophie spotted an old telephone cord and decided to use it to tie her hair with. The next morning, she noticed something different with her hair: she did not have a headache after untying the cord and there was not much of a mark (or kink) in her hair. The genius idea of invisibobble was born right there! This is the story of the idea and thereafter – the ups and downs, funny and serious moments, of an entrepreneur’s journey that will inspire others and reveal what it takes to succeed.
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