Case Study: Style Snaps
THE CLIENT: KARA HARSHBARGER AND STYLE SNAPS
The story behind the wildly successful Style Snaps product—which allow a garment to be hemmed without sewing—begins with Kara Harshbarger, who has now become a dedicated prototyping professional. Ms. Harshbarger started out as an aspiring filmmaker whose post-college journey took her to Los Angeles, where she played a variety of roles including crew member, writer, actress, casting director, assistant director, and, finally, director and producer. After working on films for Lifetime and HBO, Ms. Harshbarger realized that while she was grateful for these opportunities, a career in big studio films was not congruent with her desired lifestyle.
Around 5 years ago, Ms. Harshbarger found herself chatting with a friend, actress Melissa George, about the possibility of starting a new business based around something so (seemingly) simple it was genius: a product that would fulfill the need to shorten pants without sewing. From there, she began her business journey with Google searches of “prototype,” “patent,” and “manufacturing,” and was soon researching companies that might help her to get her brand up and running. Eventually her new company, Karamel Productions, made contact with PRG Prototyping president Tyler Harrell, who would become an invaluable resource as she endeavored to grow her fledgling concept into a ubiquitous brand. “Tyler at PRG was engaging and helpful and guided me through the process,” she says. “He made me feel very comfortable about moving forward with the product and the process.”
As a writer, director, and filmmaker, Ms. Harshbarger was entirely new to the world of product development. With so much to learn, she was in need of a guide that could familiarize her with the ins and outs of product design, functionality, materials, and the myriad other considerations that go into product development and production.
As it turns out, Style Snaps also presented a number of unique challenges. After all, it began as just an idea, the likes of which had never been created before. Making this idea a reality brought to light several issues that demanded solutions. First and foremost, the product couldn’t merely snap to form a rigid hem, but rather needed to be flexible and move with the fabric to which it was attached. It took a great deal of prototyping to achieve a balance between flexibility and the ability to snap it shut. Moreover, it couldn’t be permanent, which meant that it required an adhesive that would hold the snaps in place while allowing them to be removed in order to shorten or lengthen the clothing item in the future.
While working to overcome these challenges, Tyler stood by his estimate on what it would take to get the product to prototype. Moreover, he shared ideas about how to keep the product smaller and less expensive during production—something that proved to be critical to Style Snaps’ overwhelming success.
THE PRG PROTOTYPING SOLUTION
Working with Tyler and PRG Prototyping to produce a viable prototype was a multi-stage process that required no small degree of experimentation. The process spanned the better part of a year from the first phone conversation between Ms. Harshbarger and Tyler to the creation of the finished product.
One of the original iterations of Style Snaps involved a long, loopy, continuous piece of plastic. Upon producing this design, however, Tyler’s prototyping knowledge and guidance came into play, and the team found that a more viable approach would be to produce Style Snaps in smaller components. By eliminating the continuous plastic loop in favor of smaller pieces, this design eliminated also the potential for causing the hem to wilt. Multiple rounds of further testing yielded continual product improvement. In other words, patience and a willingness to experiment eventually yielded the solution.
As noted, another challenge that arose was creating a malleable product that could still snap—the snap, of course, being the most crucial aspect of the product! Because snaps are typically rigid, however, this, too, required a great deal of experimentation. And in the end, PRG helped to come up with something completely new: the first flexible snap. To achieve this, we devised a smartly engineered snap comprised of a material that had never been used for this purpose. We also devoted a great deal of consideration to identifying the perfect dimensions for the product—we wanted the length and overall size to be just right.
Ms. Harshbarger credits Tyler and PRG with the great success of Style Snaps, which is now carried by 30,000 retail stores worldwide. “Style Snaps sells in Target, Walgreens, and Wal-Mart, and I couldn’t have done it without PRG Prototyping,” said Ms. Harshbarger, who views Tyler’s input as integral to Style Snaps’ evolution from abstract concept to viable product. “Style Snaps is what it is today because of his engineering ideas and skills (the idea that was in my head was much less of a manufacturable, sellable product!). After working with so many amazing vendors who were instrumental in getting my product to market, I can easily say that none were more available, communicative, or invested than PRG prototyping.”
Style Snaps has also been picked up by the long-established television and online retailer QVC, who ordered 10,000 boxes (as compared to the 2,000 Ms. Harshbarger expected) immediately upon hearing the sales pitch. The success of Style Snaps through QVC and other sellers dramatically boosted the product’s reputation in the coming years, inspiring Ms. Harshbarger to hire a PR firm and, later, inspiring Merchant Media to license the product after the release of an article by US Magazine. Over the course of two years alone, Merchant Media sold a staggering 2 million units.
For Ms. Harshbarger, seeing her product on QVC and in retail stores everywhere has been a bit like seeing the films she’s contributed to on the big screen. A creative person by nature, she was pleasantly surprised to learn that exchanging her film industry aspirations for product development ones did not serve to hamper her artistic imagination—and, in fact, has inspired it more than ever.
In the wake of Style Snaps’ success Ms. Harshbarger has discovered that she has a knack not only for screenplay ideas, but also for product ideas. These days she dedicates her time to identifying and considering problems that need tangible solutions, developing products for girls in a way that only a girl brain can do. Ms. Harshbarger thinks of her time working with PRG Prototyping as the launch pad for her business, as well as for all of her future endeavors in product development. Now armed with an extensive knowledge of trademarking, prototyping, packaging, and design, she is well prepared to exercise her creativity by sharing with others—and all on her own terms, rather than according to the demands of others.
ABOUT PRG PROTOTYPING
PRG Prototyping specializes in designing and building new products, with emphases on concept design engineering, design for manufacturability, prototype development, production, and marketing presentations. PRG can also provide information on patent protection and intellectual property services. If you have an idea for a product, we can help to make it a reality.