FARMVILLE — When R.D. Johnson came up with a permanent solution for countertops cluttered by hair appliances, it immediately began turning heads.
The shear brilliance of the Hair Doozy, developed along with business partner Patricia Combs, landed a spot in the entrepreneur.com holiday gift guide and QVC’s Sprouts contest, which highlights some of the nation’s best up-and-coming products.
Johnson, owner of RD Salon in Farmville, now has made the final cut for the Home Shopping Network’s American Dreams Academy, scheduled for Nov. 16-18 at American University in Washington, D.C. There he will brush up on a variety of marketing techniques as well as get a chance to pitch his product to a panel of HSN and Quirky experts.
Until now, Johnson has concentrated most of his marketing and sales at local shows or at his shop on Contentnea Street, but the Hair Doozy also is available at Southern Attitude in Smithfield and through Amazon.
“To really get nationwide exposure and have Quirky maybe take it and license the product, that would be great,” Johnson said. “They would basically handle everything.”
The American Dreams Academy is a two-day seminar created by HSNi LLC and the John P. Lowth Center of the Sykes College of Business at the University of Tampa. Topics include marketing, building a brand, social media, manufacturing, trademarks, perfecting the sales pitch and developing products with the purpose of selling them in retail channels.
An optional product pitch session on the third day gives participants an opportunity to make presentations and get feedback from the expert panel and possible consideration from investors.
Daymond John from ABC’s “Shark Tank” is the scheduled keynote speaker.
Nationwide distribution of the Hair Doozy would be the culmination of an idea rooted in April 2012.
“I had actually remodeled my shop,” Johnson recalled. “Our hairdressers have something to hold their appliances while they’re on and hot all day. When I remodeled, I wondered, ‘Why don’t people have these in their homes?’”
One Sunday afternoon after picking up some supplies, Johnson put his idea on paper, sketching on the back of a receipt, and showed it to Combs. In less than six months, a prototype was completed and ready to sell.
Johnson rolled it out at several holiday shows before he entered and won the QVC Sprouts contest in 2015, landing the chance to sell the Hair Doozy on-air in August of that year.
QVC requested that Johnson trim down his Original Pro design that holds a hair dryer, curling iron and flat iron and has storage in the back. He took a little off the sides to create the mini two-appliance version.
Johnson did not receive a reply when he contacted the Home Shopping Network in 2015, but he recently received an email asking him to apply for American Dreams Academy. After submitting a resume and 30-second video on what entrepreneurship means to him, he was informed that he was among the 100 applicants accepted.
Johnson said he plans to make his best pitch in hopes of seeing how big Hair Doozy can grow.
“It’s a great product,” he said. “It is maybe a niche product. … It’s been a great journey. I’ve learned a lot of things I never would have experienced.”