Many people have heard of the wildly popular hair insert called the Bumpit. Maybe they’ve used one, seen a commercial, or even observed a celebrity like Carrie Underwood sporting this creation.
Yet, many Kingsburg residents might not know the inventor of the creative little device grew up here.
The inventor, entrepreneur and KHS Viking Kelly Fitzpatrick-Bennett has shown America that a little bit of creativity and determination can go a long way, especially when one’s humble beginnings are strong.
For Fitzpatrick-Bennett, these were indeed humble beginnings. It was May of 2007 when she got a simple idea that would immediately turn her into a success story. At the time, Fitzpatrick-Bennett was struggling as a mortgage broker just after California’s real estate market crashed, and to make matters worse, her first husband had also filed for divorce.
Although this seemed like rock bottom for the young mom, the only place Fitzpatrick-Bennett could go was up. It all began one day as she, in a state of distress, became enthralled by an episode of “The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch.”
After the show, Fitzpatrick-Bennett realized that it was entirely possible to focus on her passion for hairstyling and turn that into making a living.
“I always wanted to be a hairstylist. We could never afford to go to a hairstylist when I was young, so I also wanted to reach out and help others,” explained Fitzpatrick-Bennett.
As a result, from 1994 to 2001 Fitzpatrick-Bennett ran a little salon, and a recurring problem she had noticed from her clients was that they often wanted their hair to appear fuller.
Fitzpatrick-Bennett was inspired to create the solution: a crescent shaped, hair insert to prop up teased hair and make it look fuller. “It was this love of hairstyling that made me want to help women by inventing the hairstyling tool, Bumpit” Fitzpatrick-Bennett stated.
In the beginning, Fitzpatrick-Bennett was making prototypes for the Bumpit out of anything she could find. Popsicle sticks were not out of the question.
Fitzpatrick-Bennett stated, “Growing up poor, I was a chick MacGyver. If you didn’t have something, you make something.”
To model the prototypes, Fitzpatrick-Bennett used her daughter Katherine. Once she found her final prototype, she took it to a design engineer to create a plastic model. Then, she began production of her invention after contacting a friend with a plastic injection molding business.
In addition, Fitzpatrick-Bennett set up her own website and office for her new company, which she named Big Happie Hair. Her next step was exposure, which she achieved by frequenting hair product shows where she was met with lots of demand for her product. So much so, that her friend’s company couldn’t make enough units of the Bumpit to meet the high demand.
Fitzpatrick-Bennett then found a new producer in San Francisco and was able to expand inventory. With this new supply, she was ready for more product exposure and increased advertising for the Bumpit.
She enlisted the help of her daughter and some of her sorority sisters to act in her homemade commercial. Once the ad was on air, the response was overwhelming, and soon celebrities like Carrie Underwood were sporting the popular Bumpit.
Eventually business grew to become too much for Fitzpatrick-Bennett’s 20 person operation, so she partnered with Allstar Products Group to help with distribution.
At its peak, Bumpits were sold at a clip of a million units per month, and now Fitzpatrick-Bennett is enjoying the fruits of her labor.
The Bumpit truly went a long way from Kingsburg, but Fitzpatrick-Bennett is still able to reflect on the good times growing up in our little town.
“My memories of going to school at KHS circle around friends and football games. Friday nights were a huge deal! So many happy times and lifelong friendships!” she explained.
It is hard to imagine that a product that became so big originated in a place as small as Kingsburg, but Fitzpatrick-Bennett was a dreamer.
Her message for KHS students is simple, “Be kind! Reach out and say ‘hi’ to someone sitting or walking alone. You’ll never regret it. This is going to be such a short period in your life, so try to really enjoy it. Smile, and of course, dream big!”
Fitzpatrick-Bennett is proof that Kingsburg’s small town roots are the perfect environment for harvesting big dreams. In fact, her tenacity, innovation and passion are all reasons why she is this month’s Viking Valor honoree.
By Karley Hager, Viking Voice Staff Writer