Getting out of the house is hard enough, but when you’re trying to coif your curls without burning your hair, your hands (or the toddler who is clinging to your legs), it can be especially tricky. Erin Balogh, a former ER nurse, created the Hot Iron Holster to make getting ready in the morning safe — and beautiful.
How did Hot Iron Holster come to be?
I blame it all on the sink in my bathroom! After I had my second baby and headed back to work, I found myself relocating my morning routine to the downstairs powder room – which has a pedestal sink. I could pop in and out of the bathroom to do sections of my hair in between flipping a pancake or changing a diaper.
Although the bathroom location was convenient, the bathroom wasn’t ideal for getting ready in. Pedestal sinks are made for handwashing and not much else. Between my make-up, my hair brush and my flat iron – it was one bad balancing act trying to perch everything all around the edge of that sink. In particular I had to be very careful every time I set my flat iron down so it didn’t slide into my sink or fall to the floor. It wasn’t a horrible problem but it bothered me enough I looked around to buy something to help me out. I didn’t find anything that would work, especially on my sink. Every type of holder out there either needed a countertop to sit on or had to be mounted to a wall. Also, none could hold a hair styling tool while on – most were designed to hold them when they were turned off and cooling. I needed something I could use while getting ready not just to store it afterwards. So, I decided to make my own.
I thought about silicone bakeware and how it is safe to put it in a hot oven and thought, “Why can’t I put something hot into silicone – like my flat iron?” I went to my kitchen that night and took a silicone oven mitt and two silicone hot pads and sewed them together. The oven mitt became my pocket for my hot tool and the hot pads formed a flap that I laid over the edge of the sink. In the end of the flap, I made a pocket and put a ziplock bag of coins as a counterweight. And that was the original Hot Iron Holster.
What was the process like to create the product and then the company?
We have always taken things one step at a time and often we have had to figure it out as we have gone along (especially in the beginning of our business). We began by searching for local companies that could do rapid prototyping. We made sure we had a NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) signed before we would give them all the details. After calling around 5 or 6 locations, we found one that agreed to talk to us about our idea. During our first meeting, we ended up moving the discussion into the men’s bathroom to demonstrate how the product worked. We spent a lot of time in bathrooms back in the early days of this business:)
What has the response been like to the product?
Once we had a prototype made, we decided to take it to the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago. The IHHS is an annual industry tradeshow (business to business). They have an Inventors Corner area for people wanting to showcase new products. We had a small booth and bought a sink at the local Home Depot to demo it on. The first day of the show we pitched it in front of a panel of buyers, for companies including Skymall and QVC. We received very positive feedback – including a card from the Skymall buyer asking us to let her know when it would be available because they wanted to buy it. We were also approached by QVC about selling our product. Going to that show we didn’t know what to expect and we were thrilled we had companies like this interested in buying it. We only had a prototype – we didn’t have production samples to sell, a factory to produce our product or packaging!! That was over 6 years ago but the response to our products by consumers has continued to be great. The design of our products are simple, they solve a common problem and people “get it” when they see our products. We often hear people say, “I need that”.
What are some of your plans for the future for the company?
Growth. 🙂 This year we are primed to have the most growth yet. We have been selling our products for 3 1/2 years and didn’t want to grow too fast. Our Lil’ Holster line has been selling very well in Kroger Grocery stores nationwide and our Hot Iron Holsters are sold at ULTA Beauty, and will be available in Target in May of this year. Our products continue to be sold on QVC. We are also in the process of negotiating some private label projects which is very exciting.
What is it like to balance work and family? How do you do it?
It is challenging. I have three children ages 4 – 9 and an awesome husband, who I talked into joining me on this adventure a couple of years ago. Before I started this business I was an ER nurse and worked the swing shift. As much as I loved nursing, I am grateful I now work from home and have more flexibility in my hours. I tend to catch up in the evenings after the kids go to bed. I have learned I can’t do everything and have to say no sometimes. I have also had to learn how to delegate more – which is against my nature.
As a former ER nurse, have you been able to translate any of those skills into running a business?
Being a nurse taught me how to prioritize, work hard, problem solve, and hustle. Anything could walk through the doors of the ER and I had to be ready – same thing in our business. New opportunities and challenges pop up everyday, but that is also what makes it fun.
What are some of your own favorite hair-straightening or plug-in hair styling products?
No one has asked me this before – but I have quite the arsenal of hair styling tools for product testing and development. I have naturally curly hair and am prone to tenacious bed head. I really like my CHI 1″ ceramic flat iron, my Bio Ionic OnePass 1″ iron, and my new favorite curling iron is The Beachwaver. And I can’t live without anti-frizz serum, like like Paul Mitchell Super Skinny serum or John Frieda Frizz-Ease Hair Serum.
What tips would you give other parents who are thinking about starting their own business?
Talk to others who have already done it! I wish we would have done more of that in the early days of our business. Write down your questions, concerns, plans and get their feedback. They can tell you about challenges that you don’t even know are coming. Some of the most valuable education we have had is in talking to others who have ‘been there, done that’. Also, know your industry, your target customer, and other competing products on the market – do as much research as possible before you jump in. And always enjoy the journey. They are days my husband and I pause and think about all the great experiences we have had, people we have met and everything we have learned. It makes us even more grateful for this opportunity, and that we decided to pursue it.
One year after we began selling our product, I had an unexpected health “challenge”. I had a heart attack from a SCAD (Spontaneous Coronary Artery Dissection). SCAD is very uncommon and the cause is unknown. I was 37 yrs old, and my youngest was just 2-years-old. Having a heart attack was the last thing I thought I would ever have. It has made me appreciate everything more – especially my health and my family. It took me a couple of months to feel back to normal. My health has been good since then but I am very mindful about listening to my body and trying to stay in good health. When you have your own business it is easy to sacrifice your sleep, nutrition and overall health to making it successful. Always take care of yourself, so you don’t burn out and lose that passion that made you start it in the first place. 🙂