When I was in my mid-20s, I spent $80 of my hard-earned money on a pair of white pants, which I couldn't wear. It was an undergarment issue: Panties bunched or showed lines, thongs were too uncomfortable, and girdles, or shapers, were made of a thick material that felt like you were wearing athletic clothes beneath your nice ones.
So one day, I cut the feet out of a pair of pantyhose so I could wear my white pants. That was my "aha" moment. I kept my idea to myself. The only people I told were patent lawyers and people in the undergarment industry. Ideas are fragile in their infancy, and I sensed that if I talked about it with friends, I might be discouraged.
A lot of million-dollar ideas are squashed because people want to tell you all their concerns. Once I had the prototype and patent in 2000, I sat my family and friends down and said, "Are you ready? Footless pantyhose." I then had my mom and best friend try them on, and their reaction was instant and emotional. "I love it! So comfortable; no bulges! I can now wear things I wouldn't wear before, like cream-colored pants!"
We still get the same reactions from our customers. We have never formally advertised. It's not that complicated--your customers get really passionate and emotional, and they become your advertising.
As told to Inc. contibuting writer, Liz Welch.