Congrats to the mom-and-daughter team – Agloves is now a multi-million dollar business.
By AnnMarie McIlwain (Founder & CEO, CareerFuel)
Women take note: there is no line for the ladies bathroom at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) because everyone is in the men’s room. That was among the first things Jennifer Spencer and Jean Spencer, CEO and Vice President respectively of Agloves, noticed earlier this year at the CES show in Las Vegas.
Jennifer and Jean are a rare find: mother and daughter, founders and owners of a technology-driven consumer products company and successful entrepreneurs whose business has largely been created through social media.
Battling frostbite on the streets of Washington D.C. while texting for The Wall Street Journal as part of her internship in January 2010, daughter Jean wished for gloves that were sensitive enough to use a smartphone and warm enough to be protective.
Later that year the mom and daughter launched Agloves, the first 10-digit touchscreen gloves using a patent-pending silver technology.
Leveraging their “wow factor,” as in “wow these gloves really work,” the Agloves team looked to capitalize on this magic by creating a “mouth to mouth” network. 1200 people were identified as ambassadors to the brand. As these people talked, telling one or two friends about the “magic gloves,” sales took off from 0 to 5,000 in just 11 weeks. On Twitter, Jennifer and Jean targeted people tweeting about the challenge of cold fingers and mobile technology and introduced their product. At live snowboarding events and in downtown Chicago in January they wore the gloves as they demonstrated the product on their iPhone and tablets.
But social media is not just about digital communications. The Spencer duo are social in real-life engagements too, which aid the mouth-to-mouth network forged online. For instance the CES Tweetup was an after-hours networking event for entrepreneurs and business owners to not only meet and greet – but – #tweet!
Apart from the social spheres Jennifer and Jean also fuel product development by listening to the voices of other industries, especially during CES. Take iBike for example. iBike is an app and piece of touchscreen hardware that allows cyclists to track and log their workouts directly to their device. But what about when it’s cold out? Now, a developing friendship between iBike and Agloves may result in the first cyclist-specific touchscreen glove.
“There are so many ideas that just fit hand in glove,” Jennifer joked.
Another good idea was seeded in the automotive section at CES, where futuristic cars featured touchscreen GPS systems and dashboards.
“We could re-invent the term ‘glove box’,” Jean said, playing off the need for touchscreen-friendly driving gloves in a touchscreen-laden car.
Cars, bikes and clothing were only a handful of examples of emerging technologies displayed at CES, all rooted in a growing touchscreen age.
All conversations whether in person or on social media platforms are nurtured by the Agloves team to create a customer-centric product. From early adopters who felt like they had ownership in creating the Agloves success story, to customers and new contacts who contribute directly to the evolution of the product, Agloves uses social media like a market researcher uses focus groups, constantly listening for opportunity.
This full transparency can leave a company vulnerable to the impact of negative publicity since these sorts of comments tend to travel much faster and further on the web, but like Zappos whose business model was predicated on customer satisfaction, it can also be your sweet spot. Ironically it was Jean, all of 23-years-of-age, who was a little worried about this one thing while Jennifer, the mom, was completely confident that it would be strategically advantageous.
Less than a year and a half since launching, Agloves is now a multi-million dollar business. Mom and daughter are pulling on the same side of the road professionally and personally. And, they have discovered some unexpected advantages of being in a man’s world.
Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: AnnMarie McIlwain is Founder and CEO of CareerFuel. She is a a former marketing executive with Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson and consultant to several Fortune 100 companies. Today, she is a social entrepreneur who connects people with the information and inspiration they need to get jobs and start businesses. Follow her on Twitter at @mcilwaina.