How a Sketchbook Helped Me Capture a Million-Dollar Idea

Don't let your creative ideas fade away. Record them, capture them and create them.
How a Sketchbook Helped Me Capture a Million-Dollar Idea
Image credit: Venus et Fleur
Magazine Contributor
5 min read

This story appears in the September 2020 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Every entrepreneur has had some burst of creativity — the aha moment that set them on their path. But sustaining that creativity can often be the most challenging part of the process. We’re continuously bombarded with new information and demands that can cause good ideas to get lost in the rush of our everyday lives. That’s why I carry a sketchbook everywhere I go. It’s the key ingredient in a super simple practice that helps me develop new products, brands, and business strategies. No matter what industry they are in, I recommend this to other entrepreneurs as a tool to fuel their own creativity — and the best part is that drawing skills are not required.

I’ve never considered myself an illustrator by any means. In fact, I started sketching in an environment most would consider nonartistic: I grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia, working at my dad’s plumbing manufacturing plant. For years I watched him sketch the sinks and toilets he wanted his teams to make. It taught me at a very early age how even the most basic illustrations can bring big ideas to life. Drawing validates the idea. It makes it more real. 

Related: 9 Ways to Rewire Your Brain for Creativity

Years later, I started dating a man named Sunny Chadha (whom I’d eventually marry). He sent me a bouquet for Valentine’s Day — but the flowers arrived damaged and sparked an idea on how the industry could be improved. I started out by sketching how florals could be arranged in elegant, durable containers. Soon after, Sunny and I formed a luxury floral company based on those sketches called Venus et Fleur, and it has thrived for five years. We recently launched our second company, a crystal energy infused candle and skin-care  brand, Chiji, which began life with drawings, too. 

Image Credit: Sketch by Seema Bansal

To continue innovating for both, whenever I have a thought about a new product or concept, no matter where I am, I do a quick drawing of it in my sketchbook and jot down a few words to remember why I created it in the first place. Once every quarter, I set aside a few hours to review them and everything I’ve done over the past few months. This is when the ideas are processed — and when new ones are born.

Related: 4 Ways to Unlock Your Inner Creativity

I prefer to be alone for this part. I kick everyone out of the house and find a place where I’m most relaxed, which is usually my bedroom. I meditate first and put on soothing music — mostly instrumental, because lyrics can be distracting. I’ll often use the Calm app and sometimes drink tea. None of this is required for your creative process, but I think it’s important to be in a serene space. 

Once I’m settled in, I look through my sketchbook for any potential winners and spend time tweaking them. I let myself envision all the new products I want to create. I draw in more detail, and sometimes I take out my computer to look up the history of a name or word. After a session, I show the sketches to my team, and it becomes a more collaborative process. 

So many of our products have come to fruition this way. I had an idea for an advent calendar that looks like a book. It’s actually a box with 12 hidden compartments; when you open each, there’s a different-colored rose in a lipstick-like container. On the sketch I wrote “12 lipstick minis” and “$299.” We’ve been selling this exact product for two years. I also typically draw all the products we’re planning to roll out for the next three or four months on the same page. It lets me see how they line up together, and if something feels out of place. 

Related: Why Creativity is Key For The Post-Crisis Rebuild

That’s not to say this always works. Once I drew a foldable tray table filled with flowers. I thought, This is going to be such a cool SKU! Who wouldn’t want a nightstand or a coffee table that has a full bed of roses covered by glass? We went through a year of product development and ordered multiple samples. After going back and forth with the engineer, it just wouldn’t ship properly. 

But my advice to other entrepreneurs? No idea is a bad idea — and whenever you feel stuck, all you need to do is go back to the drawing board.

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