In the run up to a wedding, few people think of anything other than how to plan the perfect day. Is the cake ready? Tiara or train? Will anyone else really appreciate the release of live doves? There are few brides who think starting a new business in the middle of planning a wedding would be anything less than mad, but for Fortuna Burke, it was when she had her lightbulb moment. It was the eureka moment that kickstarted her business and when she knew exactly what it was she wanted to focus on.
“Rather than worrying about my dress, I was keen to ensure my hair was shiny and long rather than frizzy and rough. I've always been a beauty junkie and over many years have researched the key minerals and nutrients needed for healthy, shiny hair and fabulous skin,” says Burke.
She turned her attention to finding suppliers and packaging, and even held focus groups with just a few months to go before her wedding. “I wanted to develop an in-depth understanding into what potential customers were looking for in a male vitamin brand.”
For Burke, her lightbulb moment came in the middle of what can be one of the most stressful planning periods of a person’s life. It just goes to show that the moment of inspiration really can hit anywhere, and at any time. But how do you encourage them? What tips and tricks do entrepreneurs have to encourage inspiration to strike?
The original idea of a lightbulb moment originated with Archimedes, who, while having his bath, realised that the volume of displaced water must equal the volume of his body. He was so excited by this that he cried “Eureka!”, which comes from the Ancient Greek work “Heureka!”, meaning, “I found it!”. Since then a Eureka moment, or lightbulb moment, has been used to describe the moment when you finally find the missing piece of the puzzle.
Since Burke’s realisation, It Really Works Vitamins now has 40,000 Instagram followers, and has dispatched to 10,000 customers worldwide. “I'm so proud to have developed a product that people love.”
How to bring about that “lightbulb moment” is up for debate. Being submerged in water is seen as a classic way to get the creative juices flowing, probably because it lets you relax and lose the niggling to-do lists of everyday chores that don’t really matter. When we relax we get an increased dopamine flow. The more dopamine that’s produced, the more creative ideas flow. Dopamine is also released during sleep and hundreds of other moments throughout our day.
The ideal setup to bringing about a creative brainwave is to be happy or relaxed (and thus getting dopamine coursing through our brains) and also to be in a period of non-distraction. So you might be driving home and getting dopamine hits, but you’re focusing on not hitting the car in front. However, in the bath, you have all the time in the world to let those creative ideas bubble up from your subconscious and into your conscious mind. So bear that in mind the next time you’re tapping your pen in frustration waiting for genius to strike.
If a bath isn’t doing it, maybe try a chair lift. It worked for entrepreneur Andy Carr, founder of Spoon Customs, a handmade bike company. “My lightbulb moment came in the Alps, on a chair lift.” It was a world away from his stressful job in the City. Carr had a decision to make - he knew he needed to change his job. “I’d long harboured a dream to run a bicycle company, designing and making bikes, but I’d never considered it more than a hobby because I just couldn’t make the numbers work (in the context of my actual earnings).”
Carr decided to take a part-time job in the mountains, one that would give him some down time and space to think in a completely different environment. He’d made bikes at home, and one day a call came out of the blue from an acquaintance. “He asked me if he could buy one of my bike designs. I initially said it wasn’t possible, as I was no longer in town. And then it hit me, as I was answering emails about another project. I was getting stuff done, right there, from miles away, dangling on a chairlift and If I could set up a simple workshop here, with the tools I already had to complete the project from where I was with a simple set up, I’d have a way to make more.”
Being away from the city, and the exorbitant cost of living in London helped Carr realise his project. “In spring and summer the mountain is a cheap place to live, so the need to make money from the venture was lessened and the project became more about keeping me there in that healthy and inspiring environment than about making money. This was another key turning point. I didn’t need loads of cash to live a good life. I started to think of the project less and less about making money, less and less about a job, and more about it being my calling.”
Carr began to look for partners, parts, and tools, and soon he was able to kickstart his bicycle company, a long-held pipe dream, all thanks to being in a completely different environment than the one he was used to. “From that moment on decisions were made on the basis of whether or not it was a great idea, whether it would work or look good as a finished product. It became more about creating something wonderful and authentic, and today, with a little company making just 10 or fifteen bicycles this year, and forecast to double that next year, I’m really proud of what is an exceptional product, made one by one to the very highest standards.”
Sometimes having a lightbulb moment can actually come in the most cliched place of all - the shower. There’s nothing like a hot shower to switch off and get the creativity flowing. Storychest, a photo album meets scrapbook, was founded by Charlotte McMillan.
She said: "One busy morning in our household a couple of years ago, I was squeezing in a shower and came up with a solution for trying to sort out the mountain of stuff that a young family accumulates like first drawings and school reports. In the shower that morning, running through my mental to do list, lamenting on the fact that I'd made so little progress with it, and reflecting that all busy parents must have the same problem, I had my lightbulb moment.” She created Storychest, a virtual scrapbook, a place where families could keep all their keepsakes and also share them privately with family abroad.
For a writer with writer’s block or a creative who can’t choose what they’re going to create next, lightbulb moments sound elusive and impossible to create. But really, it’s all about giving your brain some time to recover, and recharge. Whether that’s by going for a coffee break at 11am and forcing yourself to stare out of the window and just look outside, or going for a quick morning swim to recharge your batteries, there are easy ways to create inspiration that don’t involve booking a one-way trip to the mountains.