100 Entrepreneurs Hawk their Inventions on QVC

It's being called the American Idol of television commerce... the QVC cable shopping network has chosen 100 entrepreneurs from across the nation to hawk their inventions on-air. Mitch Teich of member station KNAU reports from Arizona about one of the broadcasts.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

`Quality, value, convenience'; that's the salesman pitch that started the QVC cable shopping network nearly 20 years ago. Since then, we've seen the advent of the Internet and booming retail sales all over the Web, but QVC has continued to grow and prosper. Recently, in Sedona, Arizona, would-be entrepreneurs tried out for a chance to get in on the action. Arizona Public Radio's Mitch Teich reports.

MITCH TEICH reporting:

Thousands of people flock to Sedona, Arizona, every year for a spiritual experience amidst the red rocks, or maybe to pamper themselves at a spa. Keri Barney came to Sedona to sell gourmet peanut butter live on television.

Ms. KERI BARNEY (PB Loco): I really, really, really want to sell out today. That's a really important goal for us.

(Soundbite of QVC broadcast)

Unidentified Woman: Welcome back to QVC's Decade of Discoveries store, live from the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona.

TEICH: Barney was about to represent her Minnesota-based company PB Loco on a remote broadcast on the QVC Network. PB Loco already has a modest Web site and a cafe at the Mall of America, but Barney says going on QVC was an exceptional opportunity for the two-year-old company.

Ms. BARNEY: Well, from all I've heard, it could be huge for us in terms of getting the brand out there--I mean, we'll be in millions of people's homes that have never been exposed to us. And just people hearing the brand--so when people see us, I think that it'll click in their memory and they'll be, like, `Oh, yeah, PB Loco. I've heard of them on QVC.'

(Soundbite of QVC broadcast)

Mr. DAVID VENABLE (Host): It is a beautiful day to be here in Sedona, and we are continuing our summer journey.

TEICH: Keri Barney was one of 10 entrepreneurs from across the nation picked to showcase their products in this Arizona broadcast. Each got eight precious minutes of air time to sell things like peanut butter, inflatable futons and an all-natural anti-odor spray. Marilyn Montross is QVC's director of vendor relations, meaning she helps decide which product make it on TV. Montross says all the products have some commonalties that make them a good fit for QVC and the nearly 90 million homes it reaches.

Ms. MARILYN MONTROSS (Director of Vendor Relations, QVC): A lot of them are problem-solvers, products that solve a common problem. And then, of course, products that are demonstrable are great on QVC. It's live TV, and it's actually one of the things that sets us apart from brick-and-mortar retail, that we can bring the product to life.

TEICH: It's that last factor that also sets QVC apart from e-commerce. Moren Levesque teaches marketing at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. She says seven with technologies like streaming video, the Internet isn't as good at demonstrating a product as a live host on television, and she says TV remains good at introducing products for the impulse buyer.

Ms. MOREN LEVESQUE (Case Western Reserve University): You're sitting there, you're watching TV, you become aware of some products that you never knew existed, whereas on the Internet, you usually have an idea of what it is you look for so that you can do a search.

TEICH: Which brings us back to PB Loco and QVC host David Venable.

(Soundbite of QVC broadcast)

Mr. VENABLE: Now let's talk a little bit about gourmet peanut butters, because as every one knows I'm a big fan of the peanut butter.

Ms. BARNEY: Yes? Oh, yeah!

Mr. VENABLE: (Smells) That's good.

Ms. BARNEY: You love it? I love that one.

Mr. VENABLE: Oh, my word. I love it.

Ms. BARNEY: Oh, you gotta try it.

TEICH: Keri Barney says her company sales were already growing, but never so fast as on that day in Sedona. QVC viewers bought nearly 5,000 jars of peanut butter in just six minutes.

(Soundbite of QVC broadcast)

Mr. VENABLE: And this just sold out.

Unidentified Man: Oh, my goodness, it's gone!

Ms. BARNEY: Oh, thanks. Thank you, everybody!

TEICH: In fact, QVC oversold its initial stock of PB Loco peanut butter, which Barney hopes will mean QVC will ask her back on television soon. For NPR News, I'm Mitch Teich.

(Soundbite of QVC broadcast)

Mr. VENABLE: I'm going to ask you to do one thing for me.

Ms. BARNEY: We will.

Mr. VENABLE: Make more peanut better and come back and see me.

Ms. BARNEY: Right on! You asked. Thank you.

Mr. VENABLE: Absolutely. There we go. All right. Good deal. Keri, come here, give me a squeeze, baby girl. All right. That's my girl.

Ms. BARNEY: Yeah!

CHADWICK: DAY TO DAY is a production of NPR News with contributions from slate.com. I'm Alex Chadwick.

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