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Analyst’s Take: Masterminds of the Mundane and Magical

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As a break from all the depressing news coming out of traditional retail, this week I’m sharing a few articles from Inc. Magazine’s latest Design Awards. It is their “annual recognition of entrepreneurs using design to build great companies.” The two companies featured have both used ingenuity and creativity to be very successful in what previously seemed to be mature and mundane categories.

The first article is on S’Well, the reusable water bottle company, that gave a fantastic presentation at the ICR conference earlier this year.

The second company profile is of the Instant Pot pressure cooker, which used technology as well as design to create “a cult following after Amazon ran a promotion, resulting in 215,000-plus sales in one day, along with rabid word-of-mouth buzz. Today, enthusiasts trade recipe hacks and videos in a 450,000-member Instant Pot Facebook group.” The company’s success is particularly impressive because gaining shelf space on consumers’ kitchens is extremely challenging.

Of course products of this sort often reach saturation at some point, but usually much later than one thinks (it took UGG about two decade longer than some anticipated), and their masterminds no doubt have some neat ideas in the pipeline.

Separately, in May Burberry announced that its chief designer, Christopher Bailey, was relinquishing his role as CEO. This article states: “In the world of fashion, it takes a special alchemy of talent to run a company. You need a visionary, of course: someone who can turn the human body into a canvas and reimagine the way we dress. But you also need a businessperson who understands how to build an engaging brand on the internet, connect with customers on social media, and experiment with an ever-changing smorgasbord of apps and tech tools. It’s rare to find all of these skills in the same person.”

Faye Landes, co-founder and general partner of Back to the Future Ventures, advises emerging consumer and retail companies on strategy, branding and fundraising. She was one of Wall Street’s leading consumer and retail analysts for over 20 years and was widely recognized for her ability to anticipate sweeping trends, such as the widespread adoption of activewear. She has frequently appeared on CNBC, Bloomberg TV and other media outlets and has presented at industry conferences all over the world. Read her “Analyst’s Take” column here weekly. Contact her at faye@backtothefutureventures.com.

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