As most parents know all too well, Silly Bandz have taken the nation's tweens by storm. The rubber band-like bracelets shaped like animals, musical instruments, dinosaurs and other familiar objects, sell for about $4.99 for a pack of 20. That sounds cheap, until one day you look back and realize you've bought your kids 18 packs -- which are now littering your home. Enter the Original Silly Stand.
Dave Gerolemon, 37, and Chad Walters, 36, both parents themselves, designed the Original Silly Stand to help kids and (and their frustrated parents) organize their Silly Bandz collections.
"My son got into the trend, and every night, he was peeling these bands off his arm, laying them out on his nightstand," says Gerolemon, who lives in Raleigh, N.C. "But they'd also be left throughout his room and the house. Our Silly Stand came out of a need to organize these."
Last spring, Gerolemon's son had to make a craft for a YMCA youth group. Together, the two put together a wooden stand to hold and organize all the Silly Bandz they had collected. "The kids seemed to like it, the dads seemed to like it," Gerolemon says. "I thought, 'Maybe we've got something here.' But I had no idea how to go about prototyping it."
Fortunately, his next-door neighbor happens to be a product developer in the aviation and automotive industries, and Gerolemon soon found himself dropping by to pitch the idea. "Here we go again," thought Walters, who says he is approached all the time by friends, family and neighbors, all with invention ideas. But when Gerolemon explained the idea, Walters -- a father of two young boys who also collect Silly Bandz -- immediately saw the value in the concept. They'll find out if other parents agree later this month when their website will begin selling the Silly Stand, just in time for the holiday season.
Between last spring when Gerolemon approached Walters about the idea of creating a prototype of the Silly Stand and actually selling it, the two men have split their roughly $36,000 in startup costs, which included everything from patent fees to building a prototype to hiring a manufacturer in their home state of North Carolina.
Still busy with their day jobs, the two have nonetheless managed to hold focus groups to see what price parents would likely pay for the Silly Stand (it will retail for $14.98). They also managed to find quite a few small chain stores willing to sell the Silly Stand, which can easily hold about 400 Silly Bandz.
Gerolemon and Walters were relatively quick in getting their product on the market, but given how quickly children's fads come and go, are either of them worried that they weren't fast enough? Both say they aren't too concerned. Gerolemon continues to track the fad's progress -- for example, it's clear that Silly Bandz isn't a fresh new thing, but on the other hand, Nintendo DS just came out with a Silly Bandz game.
"The trend has moved, it seems, from the South to the Northeast, and now it's been moving to the West," Gerolemon says. "So we're focusing on selling to the West Coast as well as Canada." And like any good businessman, Gerolemon adds that there are other uses for their product. "Although the idea sprung from the trend of Silly Bandz, we're not just targeting toy stores. We're targeting hair salons that have salon parties for girls, because they're good for organizing hair bands and other hair accessories."
Exactly how many Silly Stands do the enterprising neighbors hope to sell? While they would be content simply breaking even, they certainly wouldn't mind some of the runaway success enjoyed by Silly Bandz themselves. "All I have are dreams right now," Gerolemon says. "If this takes off, the sky's the limit."
The original version of this article appeared on AOL Small Business on 11/15/10.
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