Women entrepreneurs have come a long way since 1809 when Mary Kies, the first woman in American history to receive a patent, patented her method of weaving straw with silk to make hats. Fast forward more than 200 years and women have given society a lot: the dishwasher, computers, Monopoly…the list goes on. It’s clear women have paved a solid road to success simply by channeling their passions and creativity. But how?
As entrepreneurs, business leaders, problem solvers, creative thinkers, more than ever, women are harnessing their unique qualities to engineer innovative solutions to many of society’s everyday challenges. In honor of National Inventors Month in May, I want to take a moment to reflect on how women can use their natural abilities to move ahead in the workplace and pursue their own entrepreneurial endeavors.
The natural instinct women have to care and nurture hasn’t changed, and we do it well. So why not capitalize on this nurturing quality? I was struggling to change my newborn daughter’s crib sheets, when I asked myself: how am I supposed to change the sheets without lifting the mattress all the way out? And it hit me: a zipper! If it hadn’t been for my nurturing instinct to find a more efficient way to manage household tasks so I could spend more time with my daughter, it’s quite possible I would never have come up with the idea to create a zip-on sheet in the first place.
Women can use their nurturing instincts to lead and manage teams, consult with clients and run their businesses. By tapping our supportive instincts, we can empower others, develop strong business relationships and foster trust. This also works when taking new ideas to inception. We naturally want to develop a fully functional idea that meets our vision and serves a purpose.
So don’t shy away from your ability to nurture in the workplace. If you are great at caring for and developing people or ideas, grab that characteristic by the horns and use it to make something great!
Another quality women rock at: listening. We are compassionate and caring individuals who naturally share other people’s feelings (it must be connected to the nurturing instinct). After deeply thinking about the idea of making a zip-on sheet, I had to tap into my trusted co-workers, friends and neighbors to see if I was on to something worthwhile. I listened to critical questions and received valuable feedback that helped me understand the components needed to make the product valuable to customers. It’s easy to get stuck in our own heads, especially when it comes to new ideas, so I appreciated thoughtful feedback from trusted sources.
Participating at industry trade shows was also a big help. I listened to prospective buyers’ thoughts on market feasibility, product features, and packaging, and doing so led audiences to appreciate my curiosity and openness, which left them with a positive impression of my brand and product.
Keen eye for possibility
Women are pioneers of the possible. We can take on any challenge and usually find a way to solve it. I had a vision in my head of what I wanted the zip-on sheet to look like, but I needed to see it mocked up in order to start refining it.
After creating one at home with my neighbor’s help, I hired a prototype seamstress to design an example of the zip-on sheet. We went through many rounds of fabric testing and zipper options to capture my vision most effectively. It was hard to find the right materials, and working with minimal resources tested my patience. During the development process, I submitted a patent application, so I was already down a committed pathway to inception. I couldn’t give up now. I had to attack each challenge head on as a mom, former geochemist, professional and leader, knowing a solution was in sight.
Drive to win
Studies have shown that women are effective multitaskers. Whether you attribute that to the traditional image of the “woman at home” who simultaneously cooked, cleaned and cared for children or simply to our natural ability to stay organized and cool under pressure, one thing is sure: we have an inherent drive to win. From working with manufacturers to seeking out new online distribution channels while still working at a full-time job and raising a family, I was determined to make my idea a reality.
Today, QuickZip sheets have evolved from crib sheets to twin and bunk bed sheets to adult bed sheets. It turns out many people are looking for ways to do everyday tasks better, faster and smarter–including changing and folding fitted sheets! QuickZip has become the answer. As a mom, I saw a need, took a chance on my idea and created a company that not only resolves a pain point for many but also confirms the old adage that “mom truly does know best.”
Elizabeth Sopher started her career in the unlikely area of geochemistry and hazardous waste cleanup, but found her way to sheets after her first child was born. Her mantra, “Friends don’t let friends smash knuckles” has been her driving force since 2001. Her experience in science and project management serves her well at QuickZip; making sure QuickZip products are designed and made right (And she can read the reports from the lab). Elizabeth is the investor in innovation, commissioner of customer connection, and skipper of spreading QuickZip to new markets.