For Collon Brown, the revelation came in Toronto, when he was fiddling around with the large elastic bands that are used as truck tie-downs.
Brown had already burned out of his career as a graphic designer and had lately become obsessed with yoga, meditation, and righting his body and mind. He hooked the bands from his waist, around his back, and across his shoulders. It was a eureka moment.
"Immediately I felt better; I was breathing better," he says. "And I thought to myself, This is it!"
From that rumination eventually came the Perfectore Posture Transformer, Brown's somewhat bizarre-looking -- but miraculously effective, he swears -- posture-correcting device. The wearable elastic band with adjustable straps lifts the chest, strengthening the body and counteracting the natural slouch that, over time, develops in everyone's spine, Brown claims.
"Everyone, in a sense, is sort of suffering from gravity," Brown says.
The Miami-based entrepreneur is just one among a growing crowd of idea men and women in the Magic City, which recent studies have found to be home to an active hub of innovators. Many, including Brown, gather Wednesday mornings in Wynwood for waffles and coffee and share their budding business ideas -- like an elastic posture-correcting device.
"[It] actually transforms you into a new stance so you're standing more weightlessly. And then you just get stronger every day," Brown says.
It was the early 2000s when the Toronto native had his light-bulb moment. He concocted a bulky first incarnation of the product, what he calls a "full body unit," with a tube covered in spandex and buckles at the hips to keep the cord in place. He marketed it as a strength-improver and tried selling it for $45 at exhibitions around Toronto. "It was slow at first," he says.
But at one of the exhibitions, Brown picked up an astute business partner, Marina Prospero -- the woman who would become his wife. "I put it on her," he says of the early product. "It lifted her up. It took away her back pain... Immediately she thought to herself, This guy has something that's really cool. And she thought I was cute."
Working with Prospero, Brown refocused his business plan and simplified the device. After feedback from users raving about its effect on posture, he also tweaked his marketing by rebranding the product explicitly as a posture improver. He and Prospero ditched Toronto for South Beach -- where Brown believed he could tap into a larger, more health-conscious market -- found American manufacturers, and began pitching the product at various exhibitions and home shows.
They had some initial success but then returned to Canada when business was stalled by the recession and visa requirements. "We went back to the drawing board," Brown says. "Tweaked the handles, the cushion."
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After securing investor visas, Brown and Prospero relaunched last year, and finally now, he says, the business has really built momentum: This year nearly 10,000 Perfectore devices have been sold in Florida at $99.95 each, he says, and Brown is eyeing expansion.
"We find the right investor," he says, "and this thing can go nationwide."