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Archive for the ‘Great Inventors’ Category

This 19th Century Cosmetic Industry Pioneer’s Name is Synonymous with the Creation of Safe Mascara

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013

by: Geoff Ficke

If a consumer walks into almost any mass market retail beauty product counter In the world they will encounter a wide array of cosmetic and skin care products under the Brand name Rimmel. The line seems ubiquitous, common, moderately priced and well-marketed to attract the mid-price shopper. And yet, the Brand has an amazing provenance and is an important pioneering innovator in the creation of the modern cosmetic industry.

Born in France, but reared in London, Eugene Rimmel was the son of the manager of a perfumery on London’s swank Bond Street. As a young man he apprenticed in the shop under the tutelage of his father and became adept at creating scents, lotions and cosmetic products that satisfied the needs of the gentry of the day. In the year 1834 he opened his own perfumery, The House of Rimmel.

In collaboration with his father, Rimmel became one of London’s most successful cosmetic formulators. He quickly became the leading creative force in the emerging beauty
product industry
and was especially appreciated for the advances he developed in the areas of hygiene and product efficacy. Eugene Rimmel became the leader in promoting the still nascent habit of regular bathing.

The House of Rimmel became famous for their “vinegar water, pomades and one of the first effective mouth rinses, the precursor to modern mouthwash. However, it was the development of the still rarely used, expensive and unsafe product called “mascara” that made Eugene Rimmel’s reputation.

Mascara was widely known, and users appreciated the cosmetic effect that mascara provided in embellishing and dramatizing the eye lashes. However, the available compounds of the early 19th century were difficult to apply, unstable and very often lead to eye irritation and even disease. Rimmel developed the first commercial, non-toxic mascara.

Rimmel Mascara was an immediate hit. As sales of the mascara exploded so did sales of the Company’s other products. This lead to the organization of international
and Rimmel became one of the first cosmetic businesses to be sold in wide international distribution. Because the Rimmel mascara was so popular, this silver bullet product became the appellation for mascara in many languages. In Spanish, French, Portuguese, Romanian, Italian, Turkish, Persian and other languages the word used to designate mascara is “Rimmel”.

Not only did Rimmel pioneer safety and hygiene in its research and development, the Company excelled in marketing the Brand. At a time when consumer product Branding and Marketing were primitive, Eugene Rimmel proved to be a master brand builder. He was among the earliest pioneers of the use of direct mail catalogs. A particular effective technique which he developed was to advertise in theatrical play bills wherever Rimmel products were sold.

One of Rimmel’s proudest achievements was being awarded 10 Royal Warrants from European monarchs for his fragrances, toiletry and cosmetic product creations. Great Britain’s Queen Victoria was a particularly avid supporter of The House of Rimmel.

When Eugene Rimmel died in 1887 the New York Times proclaimed him to have been “The Prince of Perfumers”. He was succeeded in managing the Company by his sons and the family held continual control until 1949. Since then the business has been owned by a series of multi-national corporations. Today the world-wide owners of Rimmel are Coty, Inc.

Today, the importance of Eugene Rimmel’s pioneering efforts has lost significance with contemporary consumers. Rimmel cosmetics seem to be a brand name of no unique value, no personality that we can relate to. The mass market products carrying the Rimmel name compete with a host of other low to mid-priced cosmetic lines. This dilutes the historic provenance and importance that this visionary entrepreneur applied to building his Company and his legacy.

Geoff Ficke to Be Interviewed on KVLE 610 AM The Business For Breakfast Show on May 8 at 8:30 MT

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

Duquesa Marketing

Press Release

For Immediate Release

Contact: Geoff Ficke


Geoff Ficke to Be Interviewed on KVLE 610 AM The Business For Breakfast Show on May 8 at 8:30 MT

Duquesa Marketing Founder and Expert to Discuss Personality Traits to Success as well as The Best Jobs for Your Future – Creating Your Own

Florence, KY  Nancy Ficke, General Manager, announced today that her Branding and Product Development firm Duquesa Marketing has scheduled another in a series of national radio interviews for Company President and Founder Geoff Ficke in the Vail, CO market.

“Geoff Ficke will appear on The Business For Breakfast Show with Hosts Marc Mandel, Harriet Fox and Roger Cridlebaugh May 8th at 8:30 am MT”, said Mrs Ficke. “The discussion will be about the best jobs for your future – creating your own. There are opportunitities to take hold of your life and career options by exploring Entrepreneurial opportunities that people find around themselves in their hobbies, homes or jobs”.  They will also be discussing certain personality traits within each person that will determine their success.

“We work with hundreds of inventors, small and micro-businesses and entrepreneurs every year”, said Alexis Bruning, V.P. of New Business Development at Duquesa Marketing. “Many of these people carve out successful enterprises by capitalizing on things they experience in their environment. This is a topic that Geoff is passionate about and is always happy to share with an audience”.

Duquesa Marketing has assisted numerous individuals and enterprises start and expand Consumer Product opportunities over the past four decades. The award winning firm has vast experience in all Sales and distribution channels in the United States and internationally.


A “Wanna Be” Entrepreneur in Reality Is a “Wantrepreneur” and Will Never Be Successful

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

by: Geoff Ficke

A “Wanna Be” Entrepreneur in Reality Is a “Wantrepreneur” and Will Never Be Successful

Very few of the hundreds of Consumer Product projects that my Branding and Marketing Consulting firm review each year ever go much beyond the talking stage. Talk is cheap. Deamers dream. Successful entrepreneurs are relatively rare. The necessary makeup to compete in the marketplace of ideas and products is in fairly short supply.

The best descriptive I can use to describe the dreamer that will never launch is the portmanteau “wantrepreneur”. This is the word we use to define the eternal grazer. They hope, wish and want to be successful but will not take the absolutely necessary steps required to get into the game. This pseudo-entrepreneur wants a lot of things, variously including…

  • Wants a Business Plan
  • Wants Design Engineering
  • Wants Prototyping
  • Wants Branding Development
  • Wants Legal Counsel
  • Wants Patents and Trademarks
  • Wants Marketing Strategy Customized
  • Wants Market Research
  • Wants Focus Groups
  • Wants Licensing Opportunities
  • Wants Web-site Design
  • Wants Social Media Management
  • Wants Sales Representation
  • Wants a Public Relations Campaign
  • Wants Manufacturing Organized
  • Wants Fulfillment Systems Organized
  • Wants Investment, Funding
  • Want all of this and often much more!

The reality is that the aspiring entrepreneur has two options available to achieve the above work elements that are but a partial list of the items that must be present in order to achieve a Consumer Product or Consumer Service launch.

1.   Hire vendors that can successfully perform in their area of specialization.

2.   Do it yourself.

I started my first business in 1978. I did it myself. I was a self-taught entrepreneur who, once having figured things out, realized that I could repeat the process again and again. I did this for a series of ventures that I launched. It can be done. I and many others are proof that with enough drive, ambition and confidence in themselves and their ideas success is a real option. Option #2 is not a chimera but it is not easy.

Option #1 is the route that most prospective entrepreneurs are forced to take. The skills that must be mastered can seem daunting to a novice. The list is long, much longer than detailed above. Successful entrepreneurs always find the means to raise the monies needed to hire professional help in areas that they do not have mastery of.

“Wantrapreneur’s” always attempt to acquire talent and expertise with promises, futures, equity and histrionics. The approach they take always follows an obvious lineup of talking points. Their Toy or Board Game is the next Monopoly or Bratz Doll. Their Wellness Supplement will revolutionize the Joint Pain market. The Pet Product they have developed to comfort arthritic dogs will sell hundreds of thousands of units. The Juvenile Jewelry line they have conceptualized will be on every little girl’s wish list. The list goes on endlessly.

The “wantrapreneur” always wants vendors to partner. I always ask what a person does for work. When I am told, “Salesman, truck driver, insurance adjuster, bank analyst”, etc., I respond with another simple question: “Do you work for free”? Qualified engineers and graphic artists and consultants are paid for their work, their experience, their Rolodex. Proven professionals actually save entrepreneurs time, money and mistakes.

How an aspiring entrepreneur approached funding sources and professional vendors is crucial. We rarely see this introductory process handled properly by novice entrepreneurs.  Do your due diligence. Do not attempt to sell dreams. My dreams are almost certainly not your dreams.

The process of starting a business or launching a Consumer Product is arduous. There is a reason for this. If it was easy everyone would be doing it and they are most certainly not. The difficulties inherent in getting a product off the ground act to cull the marketplace and serves as a type of Merchandising Darwinism. Merchants, distributors, investors, venture capital, strategic alliances and partners all seek out projects that survive the development process and are representative of the old saw “survival of the fittest”. “Wantrepreneurs” do not need apply.

The 5 Essential Personal Traits Needed to Become a Successful Entrepreneur

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

by: Geoff Ficke

The 5 Absolutely Essential Personal Traits Needed to Become a Successful Entrepreneur

I am often asked by media interviewers, prospective entrepreneurs and college students I mentor to identify the most important qualities that are present in successful small business start-up owners and innovators. Obviously there are many personality traits that contribute to success in every sort of endeavor. Honesty, hard work, creativity and a positive mental attitude are only a few. However, I think that there are five traits that are essential keys to achieving entrepreneurial success. These are present in every successful entrepreneur I have ever worked with.


High achieving entrepreneurs have an unrestrained passion for their business or concept. This is not to be confused with cheerleading or hype. Their passion is born of a confidence that their project will help and provide real benefits to people, clients and customers. Of course, they hope to prosper financially from their work, but they really and truly are passionate that they can make a difference. The passion that Emeril Legasse exudes when he speaks about Food and Cooking, or that displayed by Tory Burch when she describes her Fashion Designs are obvious examples.


Successful entrepreneurs will not be stopped. They quickly come to understand that they will consistently hear the word “no”. To these driven people “no” simply means not today. They are driven to succeed and always find a way to overcome the “no” obstacles that the marketplace places in their path. Vidal Sassoon, born to poverty in East London, created one of the world’s great Beauty and Cosmetic empires through his sheer drive. Famous Amos overcame huge personal obstacles before he pioneered the creation and commercialize of the designer Cookie category.


By their very nature entrepreneurs are creative. This creativity, however, often results in lack of focus. Ideas seem to come in waves. The project at hand is undone by a bigger, grander idea, then another. Successful entrepreneurs are solely and totally focused on their Business Plan, executing their strategy and getting to market with a first mover advantage in hand.

Bernie Marcus, Ken Langone and Arthur Blank launched the Home Depot with a single store in Atlanta. They overcame numerous hurdles to perfect the DIY concept that is ubiquitous today by staying focused on the perfection of their business model in one location before they considered expansion. Levi Strauss built his eponymous denim work and Sportswear business from a base that was focused on the mine workers that were pouring into the California Gold Rush country in the mid-18th century.


The ability to discipline ones emotional urges and stick with the plan when things seem bleakest is so important. The discipline to work though problems that seem too vexing is something that many people lack. Work ethic that demonstrates the ability to overcome problems is essential.

Thomas Edison famously conducted over 1000 experiments before perfecting the incandescent light bulb. Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds were aspiring young actors in the 1950’s in Hollywood. Both were fired by their studio on the same day and told they had no future in the movies. The same happened to a young singer named Elvis Presley at the Grand Ol’ Opry in 1954. None quit. They had the self-confidence and discipline to keep pushing until they achieved their goals.


To me, this is the Number 1, most essential, but also rare trait that successful entrepreneurs possess. I do not believe that courage can be taught. The courage to commit fully to a project is what separates commercially successful entrepreneurs from dreamers and failures. Fear of failure chokes courage. Fear of hearing “no” again and again smothers courage. Risk aversion today runs deep in contemporary society where security is prized above anything posing  uncertainty and has become the norm.

Successful entrepreneurs fall early and often, but have the unique ability to get up and go back into action. Helena Rubenstein built one of the earliest international Cosmetic empires though she grew up impoverished in 19th century Poland. She scratched against huge odds and continually bet every asset she possessed on her products, and herself.

My Branding and Consumer Product Development Consulting firm is fortunate to have met hundreds of wonderful entrepreneurs. Unfortunately we have met many thousands more who expressed aspirations, but could not muster one or more of these five essential success traits. This is most disappointing because many of their products and concepts possessed excellent commercial appeal. Creating personal success, when starting with little or nothing, is never easy. If it was everybody would be doing it and they are not.


Adding Features to Products Can Create Blockbuster Opportunities

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

by: Geoff Ficke

I have written in the past about the huge commercial opportunities afforded divergent products and inventions, as opposed to convergent features added to existing products. Divergent products are truly groundbreaking, destructive, disruptive breakthroughs. However, very few truly innovative divergent technologies are invented and make it successfully into the marketplace.

The original light bulb, the phonograph, the radio and the steam engine are examples of innovations that set the standards in their respective product categories and are still in use today. The inventors of these needed items enjoyed great riches and fame. We know the names of Edison, Fulton, Sarnoff, Marconi and many others because of the total market penetration that their inventions achieved.

Convergent products build on the already formed base of existing technologies. Adding a clock to a radio is a useful improvement. This type of embellishment can be extremely valuable. Typically, however, the convergent inventor is not rewarded, or as greatly revered as the initial inventor of the divergent platform product. Nevertheless, there are exponentially more opportunities for entrepreneurs and inventors to capitalize on their convergent creativity.

Consider the ubiquitous lead pencil. The original lead pencil was first created in England in 1564. Actually, the pencil was made possible by the discovery of graphite in Northern England. The pencil utilized graphite, not lead. Over many years, mined graphite was manipulated to varying thickness and hardness, allowing pencils to be sold offering degrees of performance.

This was the state of the pencil for almost three centuries. In 1858, Hyman Lipman of Philadelphia perfected and patented the eraser pencil. Lipman’s novel feature was to add a groove in the top of the wood barrel of the pencil and glue on a piece of soft rubber. Until his invention, erasers were blocks of unrefined gum rubber. The simple convenience of combining the eraser with the pencil made the new eraser pencil commercially interesting.

Hyman Lipman sold his patent and technology for $100,000. In 1858 this was a fortune. Lipman had taken a 300-year old commodity product and simply mated it with a pre-cut, glued gum eraser. The combination made him rich and is still used worldwide to this day. Inventors should keep Hyman Lipman and convergent product features in mind as they create their product improvements.

My product development firm reviews hundreds of new product and invention submissions every year. Like everyone, we are most keen to discover the next divergent product: paper clip, lead pencil or light bulb. After thousands of submissions we have seen only a few truly divergent offerings.

Product features that improve existing technologies, offer fresh benefits or fill unanswered needs are always needed. We counsel entrepreneurs to build their ideas around the following: a Unique Selling Proposition. Another way to say this is to build your product to fill an identifiable niche in the marketplace. In every huge product category there are small, under served niches. Attack these holes with creativity and convergent ideas will be hugely rewarded. Remember Hyman Lipman as you continue your endeavours.

If you have an idea or new product concept you would like to introduce to the marketplace contact Geoff Ficke at to discuss potential opportunities to commercialize your invention.

The Prolific Inventor That the World Has Mostly Forgotten

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

by: Geoff Ficke
We learn at an early age that Ben Franklin was America’s first great inventor; Henry Ford invented mass production, Thomas Edison the light bulb and the phonograph and the Wright Brothers invented the first airplane. These men, and a few others, are well remembered and honored for their spectacular achievements. Their legacies are tribute to their genius and the possibilities available to any American willing to exploit our capitalist system that honors and rewards innovation.

One of the 20th century’s greatest inventors, businessman and philanthropists was a Cincinnati born and reared serial entrepreneur named Powell Crosley. Mr. Crosley dreamt of building the world’s first great compact car company, but he failed in this endeavor. However, he succeeded spectacularly at every other business challenge he undertook.

After dropping out of college to pursue his obsession with automobiles, Crosley started the Marathon Six Automobile Manufacturing Company in 1907. He quickly failed. He immediately made several more attempts to produce a commercially viable automobile, including a cycle car. These efforts were for naught as well. In 1916 he enjoyed his first success by launching the American Automobile Accessory Company. His products were soon carried by Sears and other major retailers. Working closely with his brother Lewis Crosley, Powell began to branch out and started to make popular phonograph cabinets that sold very well.

In 1920, the consumer products that Crosley’s companies sold began to be supported by a “money back guarantee”. This was a breakthrough and was consistent with Mr. Crosley’s passion for providing the very best product at the best possible price. Customers immediately gravitated to the Crosley items sporting the “money back guarantee”.

In the 1920’s radio was the new rage. Mr. Crosley’s young son had requested that he be given a radio. Crosley visited the Shillito Department Store in Cincinnati to satisfy his sons wish. He was shocked when he learned that the radios of that day cost over $100. This was the impetus for Crosley to mass produce radios. He hired two co-op students from the University of Cincinnati and they designed the Harko model radio. This product was introduced to the public and became an immediate success. By 1924 the Crosley Radio Corporation was the largest radio manufacturer in the world.

In 1925 the Crosley Radio Corporation introduced the Crosley “Pup” a small, one tube radio set that retailed for $9.75. The branding icon that Crosley used to identify the “pup” was a cute rendering of a dog named Bonzo. Bonzo was redrawn wearing a radio headset and that image became one of the most famous advertising images of that time. Today, a papier mache’ replica of Bonzo is on display at the Smithsonian Institute and original examples of the “Pup” are highly prized by collectors.

Now that Crosley was immersed in radio, he quickly came to realize that the new medium would require greatly expanded programming options for listeners. Once again, the deeply curious Powell Crosley undertook the task of creating a broadcasting platform source for producing entertainment. In 1922 WLW went on air as the flagship radio station for Crosley Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). The station’s signal was a whopping 50 watts.

Over the next six years CBC increased WLW’s signal to 50,000 watts. Mr. Crosley correctly surmised that the more powerful the station’s signal, a larger audience could be reached and more radio sets would be sold. Gradually the station built its signal strength to over 500,000 watts, however, the government stepped in and made the CBC scale back to a maximum 50,000 watt signal.

The massive reach of WLW made it truly the “nation’s station”. As the station prospered it became one of the largest producers of original programming in the world. Doris Day, Andy Williams, Red Skelton, Fats Waller, the McGuire Sisters, Rosemary Clooney and the Mills Brothers were only a few of the talents that were launched on WLW. In association with Procter and Gamble, Powell Crosley developed the first radio soap operas and they became hugely popular.

In the 1930’s Powell Crosley expanded into electrical appliances. He always re-invested his profits in his own businesses, and as a result was not heavily invested in the stock market when it crashed in 1929. This enabled his businesses to come through the Great Depression in better shape than other industrialists.

Crosleys first appliance innovation was the Icyball, a kerosene powered, cooling chest. He sold hundreds of thousands of units. Next Crosley patented the original idea of putting shelves in refrigerators. His Shelvador refrigerators became one of the best selling models in the country.

In 1934 Crosley bought the Cincinnati Red Legs major league baseball team. He pioneered the sale of radio sponsorships for team broadcasts and prevailed on the commissioner to allow night baseball games for the first time. Night games greatly improved team’s finances by increasing attendance and the radio audience for game broadcasts.

By the late 1930’s Powell Crosley had migrated back to his first love; manufacturing automobiles. In 1939 he launched his new small car to the public by selling the vehicles through independent appliance dealers and department stores. The diminutive Crosley car sold for about $325, sported a chubby body, was powered by a two cylinder engine and weighed all of 900 pounds. The onset of World War II, unfortunately put a stop to all auto production.

During the war years most industrial production in the United States was devoted to war materials. Crosley was again in the vanguard. His Companies produced a wide range of products essential to fighting the conflict. Among the most important was the “proximity fuse” which Powell Crosley continually improved. After the atomic bomb and radar, the proximity fuse was considered the third most important produced during the war years. General George Patton said, ”the funny fuse won the Battle of the Bulge for us”.

After the successful conclusion of the war, Powell Crosley immediately went back into automobile manufacturing. He reintroduced his small Crosley car which he had improved significantly by the introduction the disc brake which he invented. Over 75,000 Crosley’s were sold before production was halted in 1952.

Powell Crosley provided jobs, creative opportunity and inventive products for millions of people. His innovations saved lives, created new industries, inexpensively entertained the public and improved daily life. It is unfortunate that he is largely forgotten and unstudied today. His is a tale of American genius and self-made success. Entrepreneurs should acquaint themselves with the breadth and depth of Mr. Crosley’s achievements.