NEW YORK – Take a product on a home shopping channel and sell out in a matter of minutes — it's the dream of many entrepreneurs.
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Lori Greiner, who's sold her jewelry organizers, home decor and other products on QVC since 1998, encourages other entrepreneurs to try to get on air. Greiner, who's an investor on the ABC program "Shark Tank," has also brought some of the products she's invested in to QVC.
"The products that do the best solve a problem — there's a need for them," says Greiner, who's been called the Queen of QVC.
A home shopping appearance is also a way to advertise to a large audience. QVC says it reaches nearly 100 million households in the U.S. and 300 million worldwide through broadcast, cable and satellite programming. QVC rival Home Shopping Network says it reaches 95 million U.S. households and another competitor, Evine, reaches 88 million.
About 850 to 900 products appear on air on QVC weekly. The company's website, QVC.com, has tens of thousands of products, most of which have also sold on air.
"You get to show people within minutes what your product is, and you can sell thousands of units within minutes," Greiner says.
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HOW TO GET ON
Entrepreneurs can try to sell to QVC even if they don't have finished products. Prototypes work fine. Greiner showed buyers a prototype for her first plastic organizer for earrings in 1996. After she inked deals with Home Shopping Network and J.C. Penney Co., she began making her product.
HOW DO YOU FIND A BUYER?
Exhibit at trade shows like the International Home & Housewares Show in Chicago or the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas. Another way in is to send a pitch to the company via its website or hire a salesperson known as a manufacturer's representative. Networking also helps: Some of QVC's current vendors have introduced other business owners to the company's buyers, says Ken O'Brien, QVC's senior vice president of merchandising.
Kitchen gadgets and other products that can be demonstrated play well on TV. Clothing or beauty products that a model shows off also appeal to viewers. Products like toasters that aren't very exciting might not make it on air, but they could still be sold on qvc.com, O'Brien says.
DO YOUR OWN MARKET RESEARCH
Market research is important and it doesn't have to be expensive. Greiner took her earring organizer to the streets before marketing it to companies.
"I went up to people in all different types of neighborhoods," she says. "They answered basic questions: Do you like this? What would you pay for this?"
THE GREINER EFFECT
CordaRoy's bean bag chair sales quadrupled after Greiner invested in the company and brought it to QVC in 2013. It was owner Byron Young's second try with QVC; an agent helped him get his first appearance several years earlier, but the chairs didn't sell well and he wasn't invited back.
Greiner offers mentoring and advice to help improve sales, Young says. She has recommended that he change fabrics to make the bean bags look fresh to viewers despite repeated QVC appearances.
"Her experience is really helping. I probably wouldn't think that way," he says.
AND THEN THERE'S PLAIN OLD LUCK
For other entrepreneurs, being in the right place at the right time was key to selling on QVC. Jamie Kern, who hasn't worked with Greiner, got her IT Cosmetics on air after QVC buyers and one of the shopping channel's hosts saw her products at a trade show in 2010. Kern had tried unsuccessfully for two years to sell to QVC, submitting samples. During her first appearance her products sold out and IT Cosmetics was on air four more times that year; in 2014, they appeared more than 250 times. Kern won't say how much of her sales come from QVC, but her revenue, which also includes sales from the IT website and Ulta cosmetics stores, has increased from about $1 million in 2010 to $200 million in 2014.
Greiner remembers her first time on a home shopping channel, when she had 2,500 earring organizers to sell.
"I sold out in four minutes," she says.
Follow Joyce Rosenberg at www.twitter.com/JoyceMRosenberg