by Sarah Mott
Nurse Born Products,(nurseborn.com) specializes in products designed by nurses. Inspiration for Nurse Born came about while I was in the process of developing the Lotus Stethoscope Holder. Nurses are incredibly resourceful, creative and inventive people and I wanted to provide them with a platform in which they could sell their products. Nurse Born went live this past September 2013 and we are adding new products all the time.
My journey into entrepreneurship was not an easy one – Here is my story:
As a Registered Nurse working on a busy post-operative nursing unit, I frequently experienced neck strain and headaches caused from the weight of my stethoscope hanging around my neck. Stuffing my bulky stethoscope in my already too full pockets was not an option. Leaving it on a desk was inconvenient and resulted in someone picking it up and forgetting to return it.
I shopped for a product that would allow me to attach my stethoscope to my uniform. I wanted something that was convenient and easy to use. I could not find the product that I visualized in my mind. I remember wishing that “someone” would invent the product that I imagined.
About a year later, I developed a neck injury that took me away from nursing. While home recovering, I decided to put together a stethoscope holder. I made the prototype with odds and ends that I found around the house. My prototype worked great and all my nurse friends wanted one.
While researching how to get a patent, I found an opportunity to receive free patent work through The University of Connecticut’s Law School. The University offered to do the patent work in exchange for using my product as a teaching tool. The University thought that their Business School would also benefit from my idea. They sent the stethoscope holder over to their business department so that a group of students could prepare a business plan for me. I felt very lucky!
It was at the University’s School of Business that I met a woman from China. She introduced herself as a manufacturing agent and offered to help me produce my stethoscope holder. We exchanged contact information.
My luck started to falter, After about a year and half of waiting the law clinic notified me that my patent was not approved. The Professor told me that this was standard practice and that they would make some changes and re-submit the application. Another year or so went by before I found out that my revised application was also denied. I believed in my product and felt certain that it was an original, I sought out a private attorney who made the necessary changes required for patent approval.
The manufacturing agent that I met at the business school contacted me and explained how she could help me get my product manufactured. At the time, I did not understand manufacturing and did not have the knowledge to ask the right questions. I was also very naive and trusting.
My agent secured a relationship with a manufacturer in China. I was told that the manufacturer was reputable. Because of the language barrier and distance, I had no choice but to rely on my agent to convey my needs to the manufacturer. We started product development. The manufacturer provided me with several prototypes that I found unacceptable. My agent expressed annoyance stating that I was too “fussy”. The project was often delayed due to the manufacturer taking weeks to months at time off for holiday. My agent told me that extended holidays were the norm in China.
Finally, the manufacturer produced an acceptable prototype. A mold was made and I approved production of my first batch of inventory. When the inventory arrived, it was poorly made, the pieces were not aligned properly, the springs were the wrong size and the color was wrong. My inventory did not look anything like the prototype that I approved. My agent tried to convince me to keep the inventory. The trust that I had for the agent was waning.
I started to visit manufactures in my area and became more knowledgeable about the process. It was during this time that I also realized that my agent was not only taking advantage of my innocence, but she was taking a bigger “piece of the pie” than she reported. I ended the relationship, lost a ton of time and money. However, I was a lot smarter!
Determined to pursue my dream, I set up an appointment with the Small Business Association’s mentoring program, SCORE.
Two volunteers were assigned to mentor me. My mentors shared their expertise in business startup and product development. They helped me find resources, gave me advice and provided honest feedback. Calling SCORE was one of the best decisions that I could have made. With their help, I was able to secure a reputable manufacturer, raise enough funds for tooling and inventory and form my company Nurse Born Products.Websites: nurseborn.com