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What an honor to be a Mover & Maker in Gradient. I’m Deanna Russo, inventor and owner of Bow K®, a patented line of ribbon and floral design surfaces and accessories. My story may resonate with many of you who have ever had an idea and thought, someone should make that.
As my friend’s maid of honor, I was tasked with creating a ribbon bouquet during her bridal shower. I was given a paper plate and a pair of scissors to work with. Using the bows from each gift, the goal was to create an arrangement that she could carry during her wedding rehearsal. The task was an epic failure. Each gift decoration that was added caused the paper plate to bend under its own weight. What was supposed to be a beautiful bouquet of ribbons, bows, and silk flowers ended up being a flop, literally. I knew there had to be a way to improve upon this decades-old tradition. Thus, the Bow K was born.
The design was simple and efficient, consisting of a 10-inch circular structure, 4-inch handle, and 48 small holes to receive the gift trimmings. I soon realized that many other materials could be used with the Bow K such as fresh flowers, wired decorations, floral picks, water tubes, and more. Additionally, I discovered many different applications for my invention including centerpieces, tree toppers, and handheld bouquets for any occasion. Bow K can be used again and again and is the perfect tool for repurposing existing craft materials you have on hand.
In January 2017, I was selected to exhibit Bow K in the Innovation Center at Creativation in Phoenix. Although not selected as a finalist, I secured an invitation to the booth of Create and Craft TV UK to pitch my product.
They were impressed, and in October 2017, Bow K was featured in a live televised segment. The show was a sellout success.
With my confidence building that Bow K had legs in the international arena, I applied for, and won, the Craft Business Awards ‘Best Start-Up’ Category sponsored by Craft Business Magazine. In March 2018, I was featured in a full-page spotlight editorial.
Creativation proved to be equally successful for me in 2018. I had a modest display set up in the booth belonging to The Beadery. It was there – and thanks to a fellow female entrepreneur, Sandy Sandler of Bowdabra – that I met Scott Catanzarite, Vice President of Sales and Business Development of Darice, Inc. In the middle of my demonstration, I was able to witness Scott’s “Aha” moment regarding Bow K. As I lifted a completed floral Bow K out of a vase, I showed Scott how easy it was to both change the water and trim stems without disrupting the arrangement. His eyes widened, as did my smile. I was able to secure an invitation to the Darice headquarters in May 2018. We received our first order for all 30 Pat Catan Stores shortly thereafter.
Throughout the spring, I used the Craft Business Magazine ‘Best Start Up’ win and my numerous connections from Creativation to grab the attention of executive teams at retail organizations that I wanted to work with. It worked. Anthony Piperno, President of A.C. Moore, invited me to the headquarters to present to his bridal and floral teams. A.C. Moore placed an initial order in August.
I am excited about Bow K’s future as we have several new products in development. I am also actively collaborating with other entrepreneurs to cross-promote.
In closing, I encourage all entrepreneurs to keep the faith. Being a sole proprietor, I have had to seek out my own accolades and always be my company’s biggest fan. Having worked exclusively for large, industry-leading corporations throughout my previous sales career, I was accustomed to having a certain degree of credibility when meeting with a potential customer. As a startup, I had none. I had to find ways to earn trust so that partners and customers felt confident engaging in business with me. The key is to keep moving forward, making connections and contacts, and promoting your product.
All of these steps have led me to the pages of Gradient, and I am grateful to AFCI for creating an environment where we can lift each other up, recognize each other’s successes, and give all entrepreneurs the best chance to succeed.