By Sharon Rabi, DAFNI owner, designer and entrepreneur
People live in groups. That is the reason we love communities, social and physical. And communities, all communities have an admin or two.
Every great startup starts with a romantic idea that tackles a problem in a fresh and futuristic way, but what happens when that idea matures into a product and needs to meet people?
The fax machine for instance was invented in the 60s but only became successful in the 80s, the product was ready, but it took the industry, it’s target industry- offices, 20 years to adapt this new solution, that undoubtedly solved a problem.
In my story, I knew there had to be a faster way to style hair, with a flat iron, it takes 30 minutes every time excluding the time it takes to dry hair (yes boys, 30 minutes, just on styling hair). I thought the idea of the flat iron was outdated and simple. I discovered the patent for the flat iron was first filed in 1909 and hadn’t changed since. I decided my time and time of other women is precious and someone should do something to change the current situation. I knew I wouldn’t be the only woman thinking about this situation, but no one else had tried to change it and I understood that person who was going to have to start the change was going to be me.
I spent three years developing my ideas with my father in my parents’ house. During that time, I learnt so much and failed many times. However, I felt like when the product was finally made and ready, my work would be done. I was very wrong. I found that it takes a lot to launch a brand and product successfully. I had to take a long-standing way of styling hair, with the flat iron, and show the world why my design, a brush was better.
Luckily, a miracle happened and a simple demo video I made and posted on social media went viral, gaining over 120 million views organically. The industry came to us. I say ‘luckily’ but I think it is important for brands to utilize very opportunity and platform out there. I didn’t have a big team or large budgets, but I had social media and passion and used it to work for my brand.
After DAFNI was launched a lot of copies were created by other brands within the industry. If my first challenge was to explain why a brush was better than a flat iron, the second challenge was to explain why DAFNI quality is better, (because we don’t see a P&L, we see a customer) why our brand is better (because we aim to give women more time to achieve things) and how to do that with very low media budgets. Again, I turned to the resources I had. Women themselves. Women who chat and share their favourite hair and beauty discoveries and influence each other.
The one thing that always works in every industry is to have that key person, that community leader, that industry influencer endorsing your product and brand.
These influencers are there in any industry, and have a few key features; they are trusted, they speak their mind, their voice resonates clearly in the industry and they don’t need permission from anyone else to adopt a new concept.
One of the most crucial decisions every startup needs to make is to determine which industry they are looking to conquer first. We all believe, (yes all) that when we invent something new it is for everyone. Even if your product is for everyone who needs it the most or will adopt it the fastest? What community are these “early adopters” a part of?
These are challenging questions, no doubt, it can take years to find the answers that fit your company.
With DAFNI, our mission shifted from approaching “all women” to approaching “time poor women” or even more specifically “career women”. After understanding which sector or sectors are most likely to adopt your innovation first, the second step is to find out where the make decision that concern the habit you wish to change. It can be a few places but again editing is a blessing, less is more.
For instance with DAFNI women make beauty decisions in beauty stores, beauty salons and drugstores.
Each of these have their own identity and while the invention of a hair straightening brush can be sold through all these channels the same brand can’t (unless it’s stronger than all these identities combined). The reason for this is that products have functionality, but brands have an identity (on top of their wonderful products) and to launch a product into the industry really means to launch a brand that understands what it stands for, who it speaks with and where these people make decisions about the habit the brand wishes to change.
Once you understand your target community you should start recognizing the influencers in that community. We all heard of that shirt Beyonce wore selling out (though there was nothing special about it) or the new iPhone waiting lists (without anyone really understanding the hurry). To launch into an industry is to tap into a community, after creating a great product the real work begins, getting the people.