As the Founder and Chief Designer at re.design, Vanessa Chan has always been trying to find solutions to life’s problems. Having her Ph.D. from MIT in Materials Science and Engineering, and previously worked as an engineer and consultant, finding these solutions is Vanessa’s specialty. Loopit was no exception. Loopit is the first product from re.design that solves one of Vanessa’s tricky problems; making her earbuds easily accessible and untangled. Vanessa is always on the lookout for new problems she can solve and we cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.
What experience did you encounter that helped you create LoopIt?
When I was in the corporate world, I was on the phone 12-14 hours a day. I was very frustrated before every call because I had to fish around in my handbag for my headphones. Untangling my earbuds was an epic feat. Everywhere I went, I saw people struggling with knotty headphones.
I’m an avid tinkerer. I like to make jewelry, knit, do woodwork and metalwork, make pottery, sew, knit and bake insane cakes with my girls. Using those creative and tinkering skills, I decided to try to solve this tangled problem I had. My first loopit prototype was just some mechanical clips to prevent knots but didn’t solve the other problem I had which was digging in my handbag looking for my earbuds. I wished there was something stylish I could wear as a necklace. So I started playing around with decorating my headphones and after multiple prototypes, the chain design for loopit was born. I was inspired by the timeless design of Chanel. I loved how the chain was so versatile and could be worn with any look.
As an MIT trained engineer, I wanted a super simple solution. As a former partner at McKinsey & Company, I needed to make a solution that was stylish. As a busy working mom, I needed to make sure it was easy to use. With these three hats on, loopit was born.
LoopIt is a product of re.design. What is the idea behind re.design?
We believe that life doesn’t need to be filled with day-to-day frustrations. Our mission is to re.design every day products with a simple twist that will solve everyone’s daily gripes.
Why would LoopIt be the perfect travel accessory?
I designed loopit with the on-the-go traveler in mind. All of our designs are TSA security friendly. You can wear yours as a necklace through airport security and they won’t set off the alarms. That means there’s one less thing to put in the gray bin when you go through security. Also, when you’re sitting in your tight airplane, car or train seat, you don’t need to fumble in your bag or pocket for your headphones. Simply pull and the magnetic clasp will unlock, and you can use your headphones wherever and whenever you want. When it’s time to deplane, simply create the magnetic clasp, drape them around your neck as a necklace and you are ready to go.
Also unlike other products out there, you don’t need to charge them, like Bluetooth headsets. You don’t need to spend a lot of time winding them around something to prevent tangles and you can stylishly wear them as an easily accessible necklace.
Are there other products TWIPPERS should keep an eye out for from re.design?
I keep a running log of “gripes” and now that re.design has launched, people tell me all about their gripes. In fact, you can go to our webpage and submit your own gripes. I use this as a source of inspiration. There are quite a few travel gripes in the prototyping phase so be on the lookout for some new products on the horizon.
You volunteer your time with many organizations like Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and Free Library of Philadelphia. What do you find to be most rewarding about working with organizations like these?
The Free Library of Philadelphia right now is launching their Business Resource Innovation Center (BRIC), whose purpose is to help entrepreneurs and small businesses. It’s great to be a part of a program that’s looking to scale and support growth in the Philadelphia community. Springside Chestnut Hill Academy has been a thrill by working with K-12 children on their entrepreneurial endeavours. Children are so open minded and don’t see the traditional barriers adults see, which is very inspiring as an entrepreneur. In fact, helping SCH launch their Venture Incubator for children and seeing my then eight year old daughter bring her concept to life, convinced me that I could take my ideas to market. My daughters who are now 7 and 10, are my biggest advisors and part of my reason for taking the entrepreneurial plunge.
How do you feel having your Doctorate in Philosophy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has helped you?
My Ph.D. was focused on inventing a new way to create ceramic nanostructures from polymers. I was an experimentalist who was constantly tinkering and using my hands to engineer the next step in my experiments. This eye to solving physical problems has been at the core of re.design and my “MacGyver” approach (as my husband puts it). Physical problems is something I have become adept to. My children always come to me when something is broken since I can usually engineer a way to fix it. I also think the test and learn approach experimentalists naturally take is critical for entrepreneurs. In my mind there really isn’t the concept of failure. You try something, you get a result (it may not be the result you expected or hoped for), you learn from it and take the next step. Negative results do not equate to failure and having that mindset is important because entrepreneurs by definition are breaking new ground so you can’t get hung up with negative results.
What has been your greatest achievement and challenge you encountered with Loopit?
My greatest achievement was coming up with an idea, leaving the corporate world and launching my product in less than a year. This experience has been thrilling knowing that people love my product, especially the sound quality, and customers using them every day.
My greatest challenge has been getting over the “perfectionist” mindset people have when they’re in the corporate world. We come from a generation of insecure overachievers. We all strive for the perfect SAT, the top colleges, and the prestigious job, so to be comfortable that everything may not be perfect was something I was not focused on in my career. This was a mental challenge for me to pivot from a perfectionist mindset to an entrepreneurial mindset.
Who has been the biggest role model for you throughout your career?
I’ve changed a lot in the past 20 years, so different people have inspired me throughout my career and it’s hard to pinpoint the one person. Of late, my biggest role models are those who publicly talk about their “failures” because I think for the U.S. to thrive, we need to get over this perfectionist mindset. The people that come to mind for me are Chelsea Handler, Meg Whitman, Steve Jobs, James Dyson, and Mark Cuban. These people are honest about having “failed,” how it hurt but ultimately how they picked themselves up to go to the next thing. None of us are perfect and I love how open they are about the trying times they had to overcome.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice that would help you today, what would it be?
Take more risks! I am someone who is risk averse, which at times has slowed me down. I would love to tell myself to not overanalyze things, but as a trained engineer that can be hard to do at times.
Is there anything else that our readers should know about LoopIt?
Through this journey, I’ve found that earphones are very personal purchases and people are very hesitant to buy from an unknown brand. However, as an MIT engineer, I made sure the sound quality was amazing and the feedback we’ve received about the sound quality has been incredible. You also spend 3.5 days of your life untangling headphones, so for just a few dollars you can get this time back with our patent pending magnetic clasping mechanism. I also have designs for men, women and we launched a sport/teen Loopit in September.
For all Twippers, please use promo code TWIP at re.design and you can get 20% off your next order of Loopits!
More about Vanessa:
Personal Mantra: Always find a reason to smile and laugh.
De-Stress Technique: Getting advice from my kids.
Latest Gadget: Loopit!
Favorite Travel Brand: Re.design
Next Vacation Destination: Scuba Diving – place TBD but open to suggestions!