Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Stuck on an Idea

  • By
  • | 9:35 a.m. April 29, 2011
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Share

Inventions invariably start with a problem, and for Debra Weisser it was a matter of putting a temporary hem on a pair of pants. She recognized the difference in length, only if an inch, between being able to wear heels or flats.

The 56-year-old Tampa resident introduced her product, Hem-Eze, to the women's fashion market through sales in high-end boutiques and national TV appearances on St. Petersburg's Home Shopping Network. She is now preparing to roll out the product through mass merchandisers, starting this summer with a test run in Walgreen's stores along the Gulf Coast.

“It's like aspirin — you don't wait until you have a headache to buy it,” says Weisser, who has become well versed at pitching her product. “It's an essential item to keep around the house.”

Confident in her product, she started courting national retail chains. When dealing with large corporations, Weisser says it's difficult to get to the right people, let alone get your product in front of them.

It was a connection Weisser had through the American Cancer Society that got her voice heard at Walgreen's. “It takes a lot of follow up and persistence, but it's worth it,” Weisser says.

Hem-Eze will be sold in packs of 16 strips that will sell for $5.99, or two for $10, at roughly 200 Walgreen's stores from Naples to Tallahassee. If the test is successful, it could lead to manufacturing and distribution throughout the pharmacy/convenience chain's 7,600 stores nationwide.

That's a lot of pieces of double-stick clear plastic, which Weisser says can also be applied to other household uses (pleating drapes, for instance) but are mainly intended as a quick fix to adjusting the length of jeans or trousers. Prior methods might have involved pins, tape or staples, she says.

Weisser, wife of Tampa real estate developer Ron Weisser, came up with the idea for Hem-Eze three years ago while caring for her husband while he was recovering from a heart attack. After tinkering with various adhesives and sizes, she came up with a 2-by-3.5-inch rounded strip, about the size of a large bandage, and had her eureka moment.

She took her new invention to Maxey Law Offices in St. Petersburg and got it patented and trademarked. Because it was important to her to be “made in the USA,” Weisser shopped around to find a manufacturer in Los Angeles that could make the product for the right price. From there, it was a matter of designing and marketing the packages, starting with a 20-count box now sold in boutiques.

The 16-count packs, which are less expensive to produce, will be placed in the cosmetics and sewing sections of Walgreen's stores, along with a point-of-purchase display at front counters, Weisser says.

The packaging itself is going through a bit of a redesign, incorporating more blue and red into the bright green surrounding the logo. “It's a constant change because the product is growing,” she says.

Weisser is adding a bit of altruism to future sales, pledging 20 cents per unit sold to the local chapter of the American Cancer Society. She is also currently negotiating with numerous other retailers, boutiques and catalogs to carry Hem-Eze.

“We're on this big wave, hoping it becomes a tsunami,” Ron Weisser says. Even though the product is almost exclusively geared to women, he says he has used Hem-Eze to fix his own pants.

Debra Weisser has become a minor celebrity through her Hem-Eze pitches on HSN. Being on TV can be nerve-wracking to most people, but she says the hosts and producers make the prospect of speaking to millions of potential viewers comfortable.

She also hopes to inspire other women who have a bright idea but aren't quite sure how to advance it. She says she still spends lots of time reading books and magazines on marketing and entrepreneurship.

“A lot of people get the idea and don't act on it,” she advises. “Always do something with it to make it happen. It is a wonderful experience.”

Weisser, a mother of four and grandmother to eight (soon to be nine), likes to involve other family members in the budding Hem-Eze empire. One grandson helps pack boxes, while another worked on setting up the product's website.

“They're all in the business,” she says with a smile.


Latest News


Special Offer: Only $1 Per Week For 1 Year!

Your free article limit has been reached this month.
Subscribe now for unlimited digital access to our award-winning business news.
Join thousands of executives who rely on us for insights spanning Tampa Bay to Naples.