Unless you’ve spent time on the playground lately, or have kids of your own, you may know nothing about the latest schoolyard craze: Silly Bandz.
Shaped like animals, musical instruments and many other objects, the colorful rubber bands have grown so popular that some schools have even banned them for the way they distract students.
Robert Croak, the man behind the craze, saw the wristbands when on a trip to China in 2007. His company, BCP (short for Brainchild Products), had already been wildly successful with “Livestrong” wristbands. He had a hunch the thin bands would be popular.
His story holds lessons for entrepreneurs in search of the next big thing.
1. Keep good ideas coming. Croak established an incubator within his company to develop new ideas from other inventors. Two or more from the pipeline should reach the market this year.
2. Tap customers’ ideas. For example, several of his 8- to 11-year-old Silly Bandz customers asked for a band shaped like a narwhal, an arctic whale. Croak couldn’t have known that the creature has been a fixture in adventure fiction.
3. Align yourself with good people. In 2002, Croak forged a check, which he says he signed as a favor to a business associate. He learned to avoid taking unnecessary chances, and “do everything by the book.”
4. Speed up. “We can get an idea from my head into production in 30 days,” says Croak. “That’s unheard of.”
— Adapted from “Trend-Spotter: The Man Behind Silly Bandz,” Tim Beyers, Entrepreneur.