Necessity is the mother of all invention

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It was always around Christmas during the 1980s that silver-haired Victor Kiam would appear on our TV screens advertising his Remington shavers and other useful personal grooming products.

Kiam’s catchphrase ‘I liked the shaver so much I bought the company’ catapulted the American entrepreneur to international stardom and saw him invited on to chat shows and write two best-selling motivational books Go For It and Keep Going For It.

I avidly read both books and was hugely influenced by Kiam and his approach to business.

I still remember some of his anecdotal stories of his times working for the conglomerate Lever Brothers and Playtex, who brought us the ‘cross-your-heart bra’ that lifts and separates!

My favourite Victor Kiam story was of a young inventor who brought him an item in the hope of investment. Kiam was instantly sold on this invention of a soft fluffy piece of cloth that stuck like glue to another piece of cloth covered with hundreds of nylon hooks.

What Kiam was looking at was Velcro, something we now use every day. But at the time Kiam recognised its potential.

Unfortunately his employers at Playtex didn’t share his enthusiasm in the product and whilst Kiam and his wife considered remortgaging their house and cashing in all their share options and savings for a slice of the potential profits, they were fearful of losing everything and passed on the opportunity.

It is said that ‘necessity is the mother of all invention’, though timing is also crucial.

This is definitely the case with a brushed stainless steel stand recently designed by Ann Sugarman and her husband David, who own North London firm Metalcraft.

Ann received a ceramic poppy from the Tower of London installation but was frustrated by how to best display it.

So she came up with a simple design in the hope her husband’s company, who normally produce metal railings, could make her something.

A prototype was produced within an hour and, recognising its potential, David has now put the design into full production.

Costing £19.99 plus packaging and shipping, and with £1 from each sale being donated back to the Tower of London Remembrance Project, the stand is proving very popular.