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Inventor Julie Austin: “They Told Me It Was Impossible And I Did It Anyway”

Follow your passion — If you’re not following your passion, it’s way too easy for a naysayer to step on your dreams. If what you’re doing is a passion you just have to see through to the end, you will make sure you achieve it. Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper job because he was told he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Good thing he followed his passion and didn’t listen to the naysayers.

As a part of our series about “dreamers who ignored the naysayers and did what others said was impossible”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Julie Austin.

Julie Austin is an award-winning author, inventor, futurist, and innovation keynote speaker. She’s an internationally known thought leader on the topic of innovation, and CEO of the consulting firm Creative Innovation Group. She’s been an innovation keynote speaker for corporations such as Procter & Gamble, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Northrop Grumman, and Cognizant Technology Solutions. She’s also been featured in the books “Patently Female” and “Girls Think of Everything”.

Her patented product, swiggies, wrist water bottles, have been a NASDAQ product of the year semi finalist and are currently sold in 24 countries. Julie and her products have appeared on The Today Show, The Queen Latifa Show, HGTV, Lifetime, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX News, Inc. magazine, Fast Company, and the Wall Street Journal, along with dozens of TV shows, magazines and radio shows around the world.

Her new books “The Money Garden: How to Plant the Seeds for a Lifetime of Income” and “From the King’s Court to Kickstarter: Patronage in the Modern Era” are currently available on Amazon.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us your ‘backstory’?

I started out as an actor in TV shows, movies and commercials. I had no real background as a business owner. I became one as an accident when I passed out while running from dehydration. I looked everywhere for a hands-free water bottle, but I couldn’t find one on the market.

I decided to invent one myself, but had no idea how hard that would be. I got a patent, built a prototype, and started working 2 jobs to pay for this new venture. Slowly I learned how to manufacture a product and found a factory in Malaysia to make it. Then I had to figure out the packaging, distribution and marketing.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Since I learned the hard way how to invent a product and get it on the market, I’m now able to help other small and large companies do the same. It was a very big learning curve!

In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?

I’m able to teach others how to invent and innovate because I went through it the hard way and learned everything from the ground up.

Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?

Inventors do the impossible. They do what hasn’t been done before. Therefore, there’s no blueprint on how to do it or any guarantee that it will work. So, inventors are always being told something is impossible and it will never work. They do it anyway. You can’t be an inventor and listen to other people say that something can’t be done. Maybe it won’t work. Not everything does. But inventors will try everything possible to make it work and figure out the solutions to problems.

When I first started working on swiggies, the wrist water bottles, I had many people who told me along the way that I should give up. Especially when I was at the point where I had maxed out my credit cards and was working 2 jobs. At that point I was too far in to quit. I knew my idea would work and I kept at it. It was a lonely time though. As an inventor or innovator you will probably go through times when you are the only one who believes in your idea.

In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? :-)

Though I haven’t made millions of dollars yet, I have made my money back and then some. If you were to add up all of the time and energy I’ve spent on the product I guess you would say I haven’t gotten very far. But I still haven’t licensed the product or sold my business yet. I’ve been racking up more intellectual property which is very valuable in itself.

I have also turned my learning curve lessons into a thriving motivational speaking career and have been a highly paid consultant for major corporations. So I still have made it a success.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I did have a turning point in my manufacturing career and it all happened by accident. I had paid for a booth at a sports trade show. It turned out that it really wasn’t my market at all. After a very bad morning at the booth I decided to close it up and go home.

As I walked the show I ran into a guy who was doing the same thing. He said it also wasn’t his market. But he gave me some advice that totally changed the way I sold my product. He said that my product would make a great promotional item. You know, the things companies give away for free with their logos on them.

He said he had a booth in Vegas at a promotional products show and asked if I wanted to go out there and test it. He gave me a corner of his booth and I was shocked at what happened. I had been trying to get people in the sporting goods industry to buy, but they weren’t that interested. At the promotional products show I was mobbed in the aisle the entire weekend. I couldn’t even walk around without people asking about the product.

This changed the whole direction of my business. This is how I was able to sell almost a million units around the world.

It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?

Good question! I have always been someone who marches to a different beat. I was the kid in school who started trends, but never followed them. Once a trend was popular it would lose it’s appeal to me. Being someone who bucks the trend doesn’t always make you the most popular kid in school.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)

  1. Don’t get caught up in group think — If you’re going to be an inventor or innovator you can’t think like other people and you can’t care what other people think about your idea. If I thought like other people and listened to them when they said my idea wouldn’t work, I never would have followed through with my invention.
  2. Follow your passion — If you’re not following your passion, it’s way too easy for a naysayer to step on your dreams. If what you’re doing is a passion you just have to see through to the end, you will make sure you achieve it. Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper job because he was told he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Good thing he followed his passion and didn’t listen to the naysayers.
  3. Don’t quit — This sounds really simple, but too many people quit right before they make it. Thomas Edison tried hundreds of times in his perfection of the light bulb. If he had quit after a few dozen times, we might be reading this article by candlelight.
  4. Ignore the naysayers — Another bit of simple advice. Achieving something big is hard enough. Just tune out the naysayers and you will be able to focus without any interference from anyone with negative feedback. Elvis Presley was once told that he should go back home to Memphis and drive trucks for a living. Luckily for us, he didn’t listen.
  5. Listen to the people who are your best fans — When I was in the beginning stages of my product development I would hang out with other inventors who had been through the same things I was going through. I would hang out with other business owners who had launched businesses and made it.

What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing” — Helen Keller

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

One of my businesses is an online sponsorship marketplace where speakers and artists can meet small business sponsors. I would love to bring back the days of the Renaissance when artists became entrepreneurs by partnering with small businesses.

Can our readers follow you on social media?

Yes -

Thank you for these great stories. We wish you only continued success!



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