Effectuation in Action: Annabel Love + Nori
Updated: Jun 30
How undergraduates leveraged basic entrepreneurial concepts to build a game-changing clothing iron and become founders.
Annabel Love, Co-founder of Nori, started her company with her roommate at Wake Forest University in an entrepreneurship class not too different from those taken by students studying entrepreneurship around the world. Nori produces a lightweight, user-friendly clothing steamer and press to remove fabric wrinkles.
The idea for their product and the way they started up their company reminds me of the Effectuation principles Annabel and her roommate always used hair straightening irons to get wrinkles out of their clothes before going out, since an ironing board was too large and annoying to have in a college dorm and steamers were leaky and would burn their hands with boiling water. After they thought to create a product with the same portability and ease of a hair straightener but made specifically for clothing, they began to test the viability of their idea with friends. They asked if they had similar frustrations, what methods they currently used to remove clothing wrinkles, if they would even buy this type of product, and how much they would be willing to pay for it, among other questions. They also did some research on the existing marketplace and found that there was very little innovation in the space since the steamer had been invented in the 1980s. This background information, coupled with the support and guidance of their entrepreneurship class and startup lab at school, prompted them to follow through with their idea for the company. They started with what they know and who they know and used these factors to shape the product they hoped to create.
As Communications students, neither Annabel nor her roommate had any experience with hardware engineering. They began taking apart circuit boards themselves, quickly realizing that they would need to find people who had more specialized knowledge in the area. One theme that Annabel emphasized in our conversation was the need for resiliency when it comes to starting a new project. There were many times she thought her product was going to be too difficult to create, but she had to continue to make a choice to follow through with it and make it work with her existing experience and by finding those around her to complement and build on her skillsets, reminiscent of the Patchwork Quilt framework that exists as a part of Effectuation. While she stressed the importance of resiliency as being the most determinant factor of an entrepreneurial venture’s success, when asked if she thinks entrepreneurship can be taught, she says that aspects definitely can be. More specifically, she believes she was taught in class the importance of knowing her customer really well and doing that through interviews, connecting with customers, and testing out the product herself While these individual conversations are not possible when you run a large business, they are important for turning a small company into a large business, in the same vein as doing things that don’t scale.
Annabel also covered an area similar to that of “Affordable Loss,” which she called “derisking her entrepreneurial venture.” She described both herself and her cofounder as very risk-averse, so they both went into other corporate jobs out of college and continued to work on Nori on the side. She mentioned a few times that bringing in external capital early on was what allowed them to be successful so far since both founders were not ready to put their personal savings into the company and give up their stable jobs. They considered more what they were willing to lose rather than potential to gain, which allowed them to start small and grow their company effectively and efficiently which led to them eventually quitting their corporate jobs and working on Nori full time. They were willing to give up part of their equity to gain capital and an advisory team.
I was also curious to ask Annabel what entrepreneurship means to her. She said, “Anyone can come up with a million-dollar idea, but what differentiates successful entrepreneurs is the ability to execute.” Ideas come a dime a dozen, but putting them to action is what can make them successful, and small actions lead to larger steps. She emphasized the importance of learning from your actions and learning as you go, but the most important part is just “going.”