Connie Sherman cooling off with her “Hot Girls Pearls”
Connie Sherman, 62, remembers, like a scene in a picture postcard, the beauty of New York’s Central Park that early spring day in 2010. After a “gorgeous, 36-hour snowstorm,” she walked the trails contentedly with her poodle-mix, Pogo. “But,” she laments, “the next day it was 70 degrees, and I knew I was returning to hell. I had to do something about it. Something just drove me.”
The “it” Connie had to do something about was . . . being overwhelmed by hot flashes. At 47 she had breast surgery. In the process, her physician found some questionable cells. So, though there was no history of cancer in her family, she started taking the prescription medicine tamoxifen, and “I turned into a flamethrower.” For 12 years, “I wore loose, summer clothes in winter. I stuck my head in the freezer. I was just way, way too hot almost all the time. And I couldn’t take hormone therapy because of the tamoxifen.”
Connie’s epiphany in the park led her, the next day, to Bed Bath & Beyond on a quest for some gel-filled plastic “ice” cubes. When she got home, she taped them to a string and froze them. Later, slipping them around her neck, she found, to her surprise, that they worked.
Connie has had careers in art direction and promotion for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and the retailers Bloomingdale’s and Lord & Taylor, as well as catalog work for Ralph Lauren, Estée Lauder, and Clarins. More recently, after receiving a degree from the New York School of Interior Design, she worked for several top designers, as well as on sets and props at Lincoln Center and the Roundabout Theater. So this New York sophisticate was not going to be caught dead wearing one of those gel-filled neoprene bandanas. “No way,” she says. “That’s not me.”
The successful cooling she experienced from the strand of ice cubes made Connie think “big costume jewelry.” She did a patent search, then looked online to find someone who could draw and make a prototype. After more research, she found someone in Hoboken who could do the manufacturing. In May 2011, she took the first run of Hot Girls Pearls to a local high-end pharmacy-emporium in New York City and to a spa in Massachusetts. Her cousin suggested that she email a pitch to a producer at the Kathie Lee & Hoda show. “The staff person got back to me in 20 minutes, but we hadn’t really started full production.”
Connie’s product appeared on the show on July 4, 2011. That same day, Connie processed orders on her website for 500 strands. Hot Girls Pearls can now be found in 250 stores—mostly in the East and Southeastern states and Arizona—in catalogs, and the company website, www.hotgirlspearls.com.
Today, the company offers strands in three lengths and two colors, White and Steel Gray, in addition to earrings and a bracelet. Prices range from $34 (for a bracelet) to $85 (the latter for a 20-inch necklace from the new Evening Collection), and all pieces come with an insulated travel pouch. After four hours in the freezer, “The pearls remain cool for 45 minutes on the body,” Connie says, and can be re-chilled in the travel bag ($15, sold separately), which remains cool for about four hours.
Two full-time employees and some part-time helpers work with Connie. “We do all our own packing and shipping to keep costs down. I have no life. I am so busy and so tired, but I would never give it up.”
That zeal is one of the reasons Connie was one of 39 entrepreneurs chosen for the new, 13-week PBS series Start Up. (Check local listings and www.startup-usa.com for more information.) ”I find it surreal. People call me a genius, and I am in no way that. I had an idea and acted on it. I didn’t know how brave I was. I just knew I had to do it.”
Her next big dream is to score a free Super Bowl commercial. “I’ve entered a contest. If I can get enough Facebook ‘likes” on our website, we could actually win!”
Now that would be cool.