Vicki Matranga, Design Programs + Services
“What’s New?” is the big question at each International Home + Housewares Show. Retailers, media and exhibitors hunt for the latest products, trends and ideas. In 2014, the Show offers an exclusive, one-time occasion to a select group of young companies whose products demonstrate high design and innovation. These emerging talents appear in Design Debut, a unique “incubator” section of Discover Design.
“Design Debut is a unique opportunity for companies and designers to Show their homewares for the first time at the International Home + Housewares Show. Once the companies experience a successful introduction to our Show, we hope that they will return to exhibit in Discover Design with a full booth presence,” explains Laiza Altaf, trade show sales manager.
Design Debut introduces ten companies; some are U.S. designers who launched their first products with crowdfunding. Other entrepreneurs come to Chicago from the U.K, Spain, and Italy to dip their toes in the global market. Make time on your Show schedule to get acquainted with these mini-exhibitors and get inspired by their fresh ideas.
S2BH: Minnesota Architects Build Tableware Business
Scott Helmes (pictured left) and Steve Buetow (pictured right), friends for more than 40 years, found themselves laid off from architectural firms in the fall of 2011. Since they both had time on their hands and a healthy amount of creative energy to spare, they naively thought that, rather than pursue further architectural work, they might try their hands at making a product. Their first ideas were bud vases and candle holders made of metal. Steve the main designer and fabricator; Scott, a widely published poet and writer, artist and photographer in addition to being an architect, is the creative front person. They were delighted after three weeks to find a gallery in Minneapolis that wanted to handle them. Six months later, they thought about solid surface material and their experimentation with that material resulted in the DuPont Corian® tabletop accessories being produced today.
Scott, when did you form your company?
We set up shop in 2013 in St. Paul, Minn. S2BH is just a combination of our names: SteveScottBuetowHelmes. We didn’t want to get too cute.
How did your product concept come about?
A friend suggested we investigate what we could do with solid surface materials. A local fabricator gave us some old Corian® and we talked to various people who could explain about some of the properties of Corian®. Steve started experimenting with it and we came up with a variety of products. Since we use post-consumer waste and discontinued materials, our end result is a curious synthesis of visualization, material properties and production techniques. Form follows function.
Did you have a “light bulb” moment about a problem that needed a solution?
No, we did not have a singular event or idea that could be described that way; nor did we start out to solve a problem. We started with a material, and the properties of the material dictated what we did. We discovered that there is minimal use of solid surface material other than counter tops, etc. and our resulting tabletop accessories resulted from that investigative process. We are still discovering how we can apply design to the material in a useful manner.
Is this your first product line or have you had earlier experience in taking a new product to market?
Our first product line involved recycled metal and test tubes made into bud vases and candle holders. They are still available at a local gallery and we are considering doing more of them.
How did you engage advisors or investors in your idea?
We connected with our product rep because she called us out of the blue when she saw some of our designs at the Walker Art Center gift shop. We blend handmade and CNC processes in low volume production, so at this stage it’s the old sweat equity model.
What inspires your passion in your work?
The excitement of creating something, and figuring out how to make it.
How do you stay motivated as young entrepreneurs?
We’re actually older entrepreneurs, having started this when we were both past 60. Our creativity, passion for design and the excitement of doing something we haven’t done before keep us going!
Why did you decide to try the International Home + Housewares Show?
We think it’s going to be a great venue and we are in the new designers’ section which will showcase our company. This our first trade show, so we’re eager to see what happens.
What do you see as consumers’ biggest concerns regarding housewares products?
A lot of consumers don’t seem to get excited about the products on the market; they see them as practical utensils rather than as beautiful objects that also perform well.
What are some of today’s challenges that new product development professionals face in the housewares market?
Going the next step and really making a bold statement.
Thank you, Scott, for sharing your “creation story.” It’s refreshing to hear about how you took life’s lemons and made lemonade. Good luck with your Show debut! We wish you success and hope you find new sources of inspiration!
Meet Scott and Steve (the “S2”) at Discover Design S4083.
Discover Design is the premier design destination at the International Home + Housewares Show. Located in the South Building, the invitation-only category features more than 100 exhibitors from around the world. Companies driven by innovation and design present distinctive products and collections in Tabletop, Gift, Textiles and Home Décor categories. The Discover Design Gallery, accessible to buyers and media, features select products that are entries in the Global Innovation Award (gia) for Design. Learn more about Discover Design exhibitors and their products at www.housewares.org/discoverdesign.