Friday, May 11, 2007

Oprah's search for the Next Big Idea

Mary designed an Oprah purse using magazine
covers from past issues

Looking inside the purse

Back view of the Oprah purse

Oprah announcing she is looking for the Next Big Idea!

Mary and I confess to being huge Oprah fans and try to watch her show as often as we can. We both plan our work schedule around it. For me it means processing orders from 4:00 to5:00 p.m. so I can be near my kitchen television. I couldn’t have been more stunned or excited to hear Oprah asking, “Do you have an original idea that you want the world to know about?” “Do you have a unique and creative product?”

I’m shouting at Oprah. “Yes, yes and yes!”

I quickly call Mary to make sure she heard Oprah announce that she has teamed up with QVC, the world’s largest televised shopping network to launch her search for the next big idea! It took us less than ten seconds to convince ourselves that our changeable art purse is the perfect new idea and deserves the chance to be seen by the QVC judges. Mary clicks on oprah.com to download the necessary forms that we will need to fill out and submit. Lucky for us, one of the three audition locations is in Chicago. Just a short trek over the Wisconsin border and the cost of a tank of gas is all it will take for a chance of a lifetime!

Within 24 hours we received an email confirming our time-slot. Fast, efficient and organized were our first thoughts of the contest. This proved to be true for the entire audition process.

March 23, one o’clock in the afternoon is our check-in time. We arrive promptly, which is an amazing feat for Mary and me. We had ten minutes to take in our surroundings before being called to get in line along with 60 other hopefuls who also shared our time-slot. You could feel the energy and see the excitement in each participant’s face. One common thread bonded us together…. having a dream, passion and belief that our product is
the next big idea! We follow the QVC representative as if he is the pied piper. We make nervous small talk to everyone around us, showing off our purse, getting a sneak peek at our competition and exchanging business cards as we snake around making our way to a small room to be briefed on our final destination. The grand ballroom!

We are instructed that the QVC judges are awaiting the next batch of inventors and our product will be judged based on its ability to be demonstrated, its level of broad appeal, and its creative and unique nature, as well as its meeting certain QVC legal requirements. We will all have 10 minutes to make an impression while being evaluated by a QVC representative.

“Good luck,” says this nameless representative as he ushers our group into the ballroom.

The enormous room is filled with long rows of tables draped in white linen tablecloths. There are hundreds of inventors and entrepreneurs in this room scurrying around either setting up or tearing down their display for the judges. A quite hum fills the room. The anticipation and perspiration is starting to show on each of us. So much for an intimate room with just you and the judge as I had envisioned from watching endless hours of “American Idol!”

One by one people ahead of us our being led off to their appropriate area, we wave good-bye and give the thumbs up to our new acquaintances. A woman with a clipboard decides we need to be in the arts and craft area and leads us down a long row of tables that has to be at least sixty feet long. We are given a six-foot section to display our purses. With instructions to be set up in ten minutes and to hang our sign at the edge of the table to let our judge know when we are ready.

Mary and I quickly, quietly and nervously set up our display of blank and finished purses we have brought with us. I wonder if Oprah will stop by, but it didn’t seem too likely. Mary designed an Oprah purse using pictures from her magazine covers to grab some attention. We notice photographers and camera crews from Oprah’s studio walking by. Of course I can’t resist shouting at them….“Look, Oprah’s here!” As they turn around I’m standing there holding the Oprah purse. We do get a few of them to snap our picture.

Our judge approaches our table and asked us if we were ready to demonstrate our product. The moment we have been waiting for, the moment that could change our lives! We take one look at our very young judge who looks maybe old enough to be one of our daughters. Panic comes over Mary and me. This young girl holds our fate. Is she even old enough to shop on QVC? Mary does our spiel as I demonstrate how our changeable art purse works. We both notice our neighbors are distracting our judge. She politely asks us some questions as she keeps her head down to write. Before we know it, she is thanking us for our time and walks away. We are left just a little bit stunned.

“Maybe that’s just her poker face,” Mary surmises.
We pack up our purses and head for the door a little disappointed.


Our mood soon changes as we find ourselves in yet another line to have a five-minute consultation with business professionals who are there compliments of QVC. We are allowed to ask one question regarding manufacturing, marketing or outsourcing. Mary and I become aware of all the attention our purses are getting as we wait in line. We find ourselves giving our spiel to a group of fellow entrepreneurs gathered around to see the endless possibilities of our changeable art purse.

“You’re next” we hear, as John shakes our hand and is immediately drawn to our purse. He’s so enthusiastic by our clever design that he is surprised to hear about our judge’s reaction to us. He leaves us to find the head buyer for the arts and crafts section on QVC. Together they give us great feedback on our purse and some useful information for us to think about if we want to take the necessary steps towards having our purse on QVC.

We leave feeling positive and a little hopeful that we may have a chance at being one of the ten finalists! We head home knowing we did our best. We will just have to wait out the next four weeks while the judges make their decision.

Mary and I have since learned that more than 6,000 people from across the country had the same dreams and hopes that we did. We were notified on Friday, April 27th that we were not chosen. It is disappointing to try so hard and not be picked, but at the same time we feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity and the experience that we will remember forever.

Thanks Oprah for the incredible experience!

Please visit our website to order your PURSuE Your Art! Changeable art purse today!



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