Inspirational Woman: Sophie Trelles-Tvede | Founder, Invisibobble

Sophie Trelles-Tvede

Swiss-born Sophie Trelles-Tvede was 18 and in her first year at the University of Warwick when she went to an ‘anything but clothes’ night held by the student union.

Whilst looking for something to wear to it, she noticed an old disused telephone on her wall and used its retro spiral cord to tie up her hair. The following morning she noticed, despite a hangover, she didn’t have a headache or a dent in her hair from this hair tie alternative. 

Sophie called her then-boyfriend Felix Haffra, now her business partner, to share her discovery. They then began working on a self-funded prototype for a spiral hair bobble. Whilst it took several attempts, including asking a man who produced telephone cord to strip out the wire and solder it into a round shape. They eventually produced the now multi million selling Invisibobble, putting three hair ties in a transparent box with a RRP of £5.

In 2012 they swapped to a bigger producer in China in order to produce the ties in bulk which meant they could sell them online and to hairdressers. They were an immediate hit and Invisibobble went international in 2013, shipping to 12 countries.  Whilst still at university Sophie had a business changing meeting with Boots. By the time Sophie graduated in 2014, her company had an annual turnover of £5million. 

Since creating the original hair tie, Sophie has expanded the range to include new designs of hair bands and clips, all with hair-friendly technology. Although the best-selling spiral hair tie is made from plastic, it is made from just polyurethane, making it fully recyclable. They are also designed to last (you can place well worn stretched ones in a cup of boiling water to shrink them back to their original size), with Sophie advocating buying better and consuming less. 

Sophie was named one of ‘Forbes 30 under 30’.

Invisibobble is now sold across more than 100,000 locations including in chains CVS, Walgreens, Boots and Sephora.

Tell us a bit about yourself, background and your current role

Spanish/Danish parents, grew up in Switzerland, studied in the UK and currently residing in Munich where the company is based. My current role is that I head the invisibobble brand, and I also take care of HR… two very different tasks!

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

Nope…

You’re the founder of invisibobble – could you tell us more about how this came about?

Back in 2011, I was a first-year student at Warwick University.  Studying in the UK was my dream and I had worked so hard to get there, but found myself feeling quite unfulfilled.  All of my exams and deadlines weren’t due until summer, so the work was back-loaded, and we were about to go into the Christmas holidays.  I had been invited to a fancy dress student party, and just as I was leaving for the party I spotted a disused telephone on my wall in the hall of residence, so I decided to unplug the spiral cord and tie my hair up with it.  The “light bulb moment” came the next morning.  I woke up hungover, but with no headache at all, even through I had been getting them regularly due to the pull on my scalp of a traditional hair tie.  The spiral cord didn’t pull at all, or leave a dent in my hair.  I called my then boyfriend Felix (now my business partner), and together we worked on creating a prototype – a spiral hair tie – that later developed into the version you now see today at the heart of our brand invisibobble.   

Have you faced any challenges along the way?

The first big challenge we faced was getting people to like and accept the product. People didn’t know hair ties as we brought them to the market, and often the feedback was that they (rightly so) ‘look like telephone cords, I don’t want to wear that’. We invested a lot of time and energy into getting the products in the right hands. Family, friends, influencers, hair dressers etc, to get their feedback on looks and performance, so we really knew we had the best product we could make before we brought it to the greater markets. When we then did the official international launch, we knew for a fact that once people would try the product, no matter how skeptical they were, they would like the performance of it, and gain trust in the brand.

Invisibobble

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Definitely that we managed to make a product that is inclusive enough that people around the world (70+ countries) are happily using our products. It was important from the beginning that we make a product that can benefit all, and not have it be a niche that only serves certain demographics or hair types.

What one thing do you believe has been a major factor in you achieving success?

That no matter what, we didn’t give up. There are hard days, demotivating days, and its not always fun. The point is to look past that and see the bigger picture. If you have a child, do you give up on them when they are having a grumpy day? In that same way, we never gave up on our business, day in, day out.

Do you have any advice for our readers who are thinking about launching their own business?

In my opinion, the most important thing is to truly believe in what you are doing, and do so with passion. A business is nothing tangible, it is a state of mind. If you as the founder don’t believe in your business, then how will you ever get others to believe?

You wrote a book during lockdown – tell us a bit more about this

So many people through the years have praised me for what I have achieved. I see it more as a life decision that was made which turned into a success. I want to remove the ‘fear’ and stigmas people have around founding a company, and make it a more reachable goal or thought. I really wanted to be fully transparent in my book, and talk about the good, bad, stupid, and funny experiences I have pulled together throughout the years, and hopefully with that, inspire someone else to take that leap and actually start their company.

What is your next challenge and what are you hoping to achieve in the future?

We wish to further establish the brand in the different markets we are in. I’m currently writing this from my hotel room in New York before I go off to a press event to launch or newest innovation: the invisibobble BARETTE. We are always pushing for more, and the job is never done 😉

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