By Diane Mastrull The Philadelphia Inquirer.
WEST CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa.
Three years ago, Shelly Fisher's medical-identification-bracelets company in this small town outside Philadelphia, Hope Paige Designs L.L.C., had just started to hit its stride.
Her goal, to create jewelry designed not only to potentially save lives but to be fashionable, thus more likely to be worn, had been realized. The market was responding with back-to-back years of doubling sales.
And then, about a year later, a light went on for Fisher. A light-emitting diode, or LED, to be precise.
It would be the catalyst for a new company, 4id L.L.C., and a new product line of LED-enhanced safety items, lighted adjustable bands, shoelaces, ear buds, and clips for runners, walkers, bikers, skiers, campers, pets, that generated $500,000 in sales in 2014, its first year. Fisher expects revenue to top $1 million a year from now.
"That's pretty good for not being in business two years," she said.
Not that Fisher intends to settle for that. Her companies, with a combined workforce of 20 employees, likely will double in size before too long, Fisher said.
That's partly because she and her crew are already working on yet another iteration of safety-oriented products, with Bluetooth technology.
The ability to pivot in response to changing market conditions is a necessary entrepreneurial skill, experts say.
But for Fisher, 57, her persistent search for the next product derives largely from a personal restlessness.
"These kinds of maneuvers keep the energy of your company going," she said. "It's exciting just trying something different."
The latest something different goes by names Power Wrapz, Power Armz, Power Lacez, Power Spurz, Power Stepz, and Power Budz.
They are for sale at national retailers including Urban Outfitters, T.J. Maxx, and Kmart, as well as at www.4id.com. They are priced primarily from $15 to $25, and most run on replaceable batteries with lights lasting 70 to 100 hours, depending on whether they are on steady or flashing.
For Fisher, the inspiration was a trip to Asia, where her medical-identification bracelets are made. There, she noticed people wearing LED safety products.
"I just thought it was kind of fun," Fisher said. "I thought we could do a lot with this."
The first of the 4id line launched early last year at trade shows.
The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was where Ryan DeChance, discovery manager at the shopping website www.thegrommet.com first saw 4id products and decided he had to carry them.
"There are lots of different companies trying to do something related to bike safety or walking or running at night," DeChance said. "4id was a very elegant, simple solution that ... was easy to understand." Sales of 4id products through thegrommet.com have reached $60,000 since their debut in April 2014, DeChance said.
Before Shelly Hope Fisher founded Hope Paige in December 2003 with friend Lisa Paige Hobyak, she owned a gym, first known as the Exercise Center and later as the Fitness Factory.
Though she left that business behind, she does not plan to do the same with the medical-identification-bracelet company, even though chances are good 4id will outperform it given the popularity of lighted products, from wearable technology to the electronic dance-music scene.
Yet change is almost certainly in Hope Paige's future, said Fisher, who was not willing to disclose revenue but who added the "market has kind of leveled off."
"In the next two years, I would think the chances are good it will develop into a foundation-based company where its sole purpose will be to make charitable gifts," Fisher said.
That would fulfill what had been the original plan for the company, she said, when it was inspired by Hobyak's breast cancer survivor mother and a teenage daughter of an official from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation with type 1 diabetes.
Charitable work has been a big component of its mission.
Fun is the more prevailing component of 4id, said a grateful Fisher.
"I kind of feel like I'm a world mother, whoever wears these things you worry about," she said of the medical-identification bracelets.
Glowing bands for the after-dark active set, she said, "is a little more playful."