We have a new columnist joining the Realbusiness.co.uk pantheon. Shed Simove is a TV maverick turned entrepreneur. He creates fun and hilarious products for the novelty gift market and has already sold nearly a milion units worldwide. Here's his story.
After an exciting career in TV, making shows like the The Big Breakfast and Big Brother, I was forced to rethink my life after I made a groundbreaking documentary that ended in a huge scandal.
The idea behind the documentary was to showcase how important young people are and highlight how all of us tend to judge people by their appearance. In order to raise these issues in an engaging way, I planned to attend a school pretending to be a 16 year old boy. In fact, I was thirty.
We found a great school and told them that we wanted to film a new boy and place him in the school. What they didn’t know was that the 16-year-old boy was actually me in disguise, with braces on my teeth and my hair gelled down.
Amazingly, I pulled off the deception. After nine hard weeks, I couldn’t believe no-one had rumbled me and we had the most AMAZING documentary in the can. But when I revealed the truth to the school, the teachers were furious and took legal action against me. I lost hundreds of thousands of pounds, my TV career hit the skids and the whole thing was all rather traumatic!
The documentary has never aired to this day, but the full story is the best chapter in my new book. These days, I’m very careful about telling the truth…
After the documentary scandal hit the press, and my TV career careered, I needed to think of other ways to make a living. One day I walked into a gift shop and saw a novelty gift on the shelf which changed my life. It was a pair of "Juggling Boobs". They were simply two round silicon balls that looked like boobs. I got to thinking: "Wow! That’s incredible! Someone actually came up with the idea for a product called ‘Juggling Boobs’, they actually bothered to get it made – and even found retailers to stock it too!".
This blew my mind and I was instantly gripped with the fierce desire to create and launch my own novelty gift. Even though I didn’t have any experience in the novelty gift market, I mocked up some basic ideas on my computer using Clipart and then tried to find gift companies who would see me for a meeting.
It was tough. Many refused to see this complete outsider. One day, a small brochure for Valentines Gifts popped through my letterbox. It was from a company called NPW. After numerous phone calls from me, the bosses finally gave in and I got to meet the highly successful – and fun – MDs Jonathan and Michael. After quite a few meetings, they eventually took on one of my ideas. They decided to manufacture "The Designer Beaver" – even though they’d never made a "saucy" gift before.
Incredibly, the "Beaver" sold very well. It even recently appeared on TV with Paris Hilton!
After that initial success, I then collaborated with NPW on lots of ideas. My products started to fly off the shelves and I discovered that I’d inadvertently stumbled into a market that doesn’t really get hit by the recession. If you sell a gift item for around £5 and it makes a person chuckle, then it’s a very quick and simple decision for anyone (over 16, for some of my gifts) to buy it for themselves or someone they know. What’s also great is that my gifts happened to fit into the growing phenomenon of "Secret Santa" which is sweeping offices the world over. A group of colleagues (and sometimes groups of friends) will agree on a set amount of cash which each person must use to buy a present for another person in the group. And it just so happens that most "Secret Santa" amounts get set at under five or ten quid (or dollars)! Which, rather wonderfully, is what most of my gifts cost.
My novelty products now sell successfully around the world in all sorts of places, from individual gift shops run by ladies in the country to huge chains like Urban Outfitters. I've even received texts from friends from all corners of the globe, saying things like: "Shed! I saw your ‘Cock-A-Doodle Pad’ in a Las Vegas gift shop today." To date, I've sold nearly a million units worldwide. And this is just the beginning.To hear more about Shed Simove's adventures, check out his book, Ideas Man, available through his website. Or check back next week for the next thrilling instalment.
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