Click! The Day the Light Bulb Turned On


To be honest, I never intended to invent anything — let alone bring a consumer product, a beauty product, to market.

But sometimes, fate really does just intervene.

Back in 2005, when I started shake cleaning my brushes in a sports drink shaker — which I eventually modified by cutting out the bristles of a rubber hairbrush and hot-gluing to the bottom of the container — it was simply to get the nasty job done  quickly. To be honest, I was just being lazy!

Cute brown curly hair girl with a electronic tablet idea inspiraOver the years, as I routinely shake-cleaned my brushes, I did make some important observations:

  1. I noticed that my brushes came out cleaner than they did with hand-washing.
  2. I also noticed that I was able to clean them with no hassle once a week.
  3. I also observed that my brushes were never damaged during shake-cleaning, despite a lot of (old, outdated) conventional wisdom out there that would have suggested my brushes should be falling apart after being submerged in water.

Despite these observations, I never really thought about bringing my little device to market — I was honestly too busy to think about it — until a short conversation at a trade show in June 2013.

I was attending a conference and exhibition in Pittsburgh about 3D printing, called RAPID, as part of my job as the editor of a manufacturing magazine. I passed by the booth for a product design company called Bally Design and had a brief, routine kind of conversation that people have with each other at trade shows. The two product designers there told me they help develop products for OXO, that cool household gadget brand that re-designs products like the can-opener or slotted spoon to make them cooler and more functional.

A few minutes into the small talk, I asked them why they were always redesigning products that already exist rather than coming up with truly new ideas. One of the men told me that there just aren’t that many truly good new ideas. Which is, quite frankly, probably true.

That night, I went back to my hotel room and turned on my bathroom light. Sitting on my counter: My modified sports drink shaker, my makeup brushes and a silicone mat with elevated features, which I also used to dry my brushes for years. (The mat was actually made and sold as a clothing iron rest).

And while this was technically the moment the light bulb went off that maybe I ought to bring this contraption of mine to market, the light wasn’t burning all that bright just yet.

I consider myself a pretty serious business journalist, and I remember thinking to myself: “Um, okay, am I really going to do a makeup brush cleaner?”

So, I started to do what I do in my day job when I’m considering launching a new media product — I did some research.

I started reading a lot about makeup brushes, makeup brush cleaning and generally investigating the market. I also did some surveys. Initially, that was just a fun little 10-question survey about how many brushes women own and how they care for them. I also started talking to women a lot about their makeup brushes and how they cared for them. (And, yes, some people thought I had totally lost my mind).

On one hand, I felt like I did a lot of research before my head and heart were all the way into this project.

But when I actually look at the calendar, I realize that, in truth, I moved pretty fast on this. The RAPID 3D conference I attended was June 10-13, 2013, and I filed my provisional application with the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) on July 9, 2013.

Once I knew I was going to do this, I knew I had to do it right. That meant lawyers and engineers and branding and a business plan.

I now had a lot of work to do, in addition to my full-time job as a magazine editor, as a Mom (my daughter had just turned one) and as a wife. And I knew from years as a business journalist: this was going to be far more work than I could possibly anticipate, even for a cute little beauty product.

Meanwhile, my husband joked: The worst thing that could happen is your idea bombs and you get to be a laughing stock for all eternity. I’d be lying if I said that didn’t weigh on my mind …



Sarah A. Webster
My Brush Betty