By Julio Ojeda-Zapata Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Talk about creative women in business, Minnesota Mom Lucy Simones came up with the idea for "ipops"...charm style decorative accessories that pop right into the holes on an apple watch because she needs to wear her Apple Watch all the time to get blood-sugar readings for her diabetes. This weekend, she will get to share her innovative product with Hollywood royalty as her "ipops" will be placed in swag bags for the Stars at the Oscars.
Celebrities during Oscar weekend are showered with commercial products in the hope that they will fall in love with some of these and bestow upon them some star-powered public exposure.
A Hastings women will be following all of this from afar, with all fingers and toes crossed. Lucy Simones, a dental hygienist turned entrepreneur, is responsible for one of those products.
Simones has created a line of charm-style decorative accessories aimed at Apple Watch and FitBit fitness-band users. The thingies are called iPops.
They have that name because they pop out of the holes in the Apple Watch and FitBit wrist bands, essentially turning these into charm bracelets. Simones has 160 varieties of the charms, ranging from a martini glass and a coffee cup to a U.S. flag and a heart emblazoned with a word, such as "Dad" or "grandma."
Simones, who wears an Apple Watch, got the idea for the iPops while lying in bed late one night. In something of a vision, she saw the Apple Watch's iconic fluoroelastomer-rubber band festooned with the physical equivalents of emojis.
It was such a simple, seemingly obvious idea, she was certain someone else had already thought of it. Nope. Her market research turned up nothing.
And, because she likes her Apple Watch but disliked how it forced her to set her jewelry aside, she was excited about the possibility of adding a bit of bling to the smartwatch.
She needs to wear her Apple Watch all the time because she has diabetes and gets blood-sugar readings on the smartwatch via her iPhone and a medical sensor implanted in her body.
So, she grabbed her husband, Peter, and had him fire up a handheld metal-grinding tool to make a few iPops prototypes from metal pegs he had lying around.
Then, with some trepidation, Simones hurled herself into the often-cutthroat world of jewelry entrepreneurship. A spate of online research allowed her to refine her charm designs.
Via a referral from a jewelry designer, Simones lined up a factory in China to start churning out the iPops. She had to switch factories at one point, which delayed the products' release for a few months.
This week is a huge one for her. After laboring on her iPops line since last summer, she'll finally be getting a big shipment of the watch charms, and is ready to ramp up sales.
She has launched her second Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign (the first one failed). Target Corp. has shown a bit of interest in carrying a few of the charms to see how well they sell. The iPops will pop up on Amazon.com soon.
The iPops cost $6.99 apiece, or $14.99 for a three-pack.
But the Oscar connection is perhaps the most exciting for her. She recently got a phone call from Celebrity Connected, an Orange, Calif., company that tries to line up celebs with commercial products.
Celebrity Connected on Saturday will hold an Oscars-themed shindig with a variety of companies pitching their merchandise to stars in attendance. And, as these leave the "gifting suite," they'll be handed gift bags with even more merch.
The iPops will be among the products in that swag bag.
Jennifer Walsh, a Celebrity Connected associate producer, said she's enchanted by the charms.
"We try to find unique products that have a chance of making it big," Walsh said. The iPops definitely have a shot, she believes.
Walsh doesn't use an Apple Watch but said she now wants to get one so she can put iPops on it. "These makes it look a lot nicer," she noted.
Simones said income from the iPops is sorely needed. One of her three kids, 6-year-old Aiden, has severe cerebral palsy after being born premature and suffering brain bleeding a few days later.
His parents shuttle him to medical and therapy appointments in a handicap-accessible van, but that vehicle has about 160,000 miles on the odometer and is on its last legs.
"It is a concern every time we turn the key," Simones said. " 'The Deathtrap,' we call it."
Her other kids, 4-year-old Ethan and 7-year-old Lily, have been involved in iPops design. She has let them suggest designs and then coached them through the process of refining the charms. Lily has been particularly active in this way.
This is teaching moment, Simones said.
"It's good for kids to come up with an idea, and to follow through with it," she said. "We live in America, and we are so lucky to have opportunities like this."