How One Entrepreneur’s Health Scare Created a New Business

By Lynne Strang, Late Blooming Entrepreneurs

YadaBags Inventor Janet Goodman with her husband, Fred

YadaBags Inventor Janet Goodman with her husband, Fred

Sometimes a life-changing event leads  people to start a new mission. That’s what happened to Janet Goodman five years ago.

Goodman woke up one morning with blurry vision and unquenchable thirst. Her doctor ran some tests. The results showed she had type 1 diabetes.

The news came as a shock. Type 1, previously known as juvenile diabetes, is usually associated with children and young adults. Goodman was 61 at the time. She also is thin, follows a healthy diet, works out six times a week and has no family history of diabetes.

“I was really upset,” said Goodman, a psychologist and business coach based near Cleveland, Ohio. “For a month, I was on the verge of tears. I went out and bought 15 books to educate myself.”

She also began looking online for something to carry the diabetes equipment she now needed to keep close at hand. The search proved to be frustrating. Medical bags were too drab. Oversized purses required a search-and-rescue mission.

From Concept to Product

Since she knew how to sew, Goodman decided to create her own diabetes carryall — one with style, fun and function. After a few attempts, the first yadaBag prototype was born.

“It made me feel better. You can’t have a depressed psychologist,” she laughed.

The product’s name comes from Seinfeld, the TV sitcom credited with the “yada, yada” phrase that’s become part of everyday lexicon. YadaBags’ Classic Purse has ten custom compartments to organize a diabetes glucose monitor, test strips, insulin, lancets — yada, yada everything.

Goodman founded her business in July 2011. Next came over three years of market research and design modifications to go from concept to product. During that time, she investigated 52 manufacturers before selecting a facility in New York City to produce the first round of bags. In December 2014, she had her first official yadaBag to sell.

To accommodate different budgets and users, yadaBags will soon introduce several new designs produced by a manufacturer in Portland, Oregon. Among the additions: a girls mini-bag, a boys backpack with a snap-in case and an organizer case for use inside a larger bag.

Key Business Ingredients

Several factors positioned Goodman to launch yadaBags. She’s a careful money manager and understands the startup process from her work as a business coach. She comes from an entrepreneurial household (her husband started a software company for real estate property managers).

From those endeavors, she knows the importance of a business plan. The one she wrote for yadaBags was 35 pages and included a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis. “It helps me make decisions,” she said.

She’s also benefited from being in the right place at the right time. While attending a conference sponsored by Inc. magazine, Goodman met a television producer who became interested in her story. That connection eventually led to an appearance on MSNBC’s Your Business.

Like many late bloomers, Goodman has different priorities than she did when she was younger.

“In my 20s and 30s, psychology was my focus,” she said. “At an older age, I want to have income, flexibility and the ability to visit my three grown kids. YadaBags is becoming my 24-7 business.”

Goodman, who’s now 66, has ambitious plans for her company. She wants to branch into new industries and produce custom-designed bags for visiting nurses, seniors and people who are infirmed.

“My business is more than creating bags to sell,” she said. “It’s about helping people. It’s about adding fun and function to a person’s life, a different way to deal with the emotions surrounding chronic disease.”

Tips for Entrepreneurs

None of this will be easy but the inventor of yadaBags isn’t deterred. “You have to be willing to be discouraged and to do it anyway,” she said.

Any other advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

“I tell people to read [Michael Gerber’s] The-E-Myth,” she said. Her other recommendations:

  • Be willing to pivot and change direction.
  • Have a clear vision. If you don’t know where you’re going, you can’t get there.
  • Be open to feedback. Don’t be too entrenched.

“You have to be hungry,” she added. “And really want it.”

November is National Diabetes Month. Visit the American Diabetes Association and JDRF websites to learn more about diabetes.

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Late-Blooming Mompreneur Thinks Outside the Lunchbox

By Lynne Strang, Late Blooming Entrepreneurs

Samantha Judd

Samantha Judd

One morning, Samantha Judd was packing school lunches for her two children when a thought popped in her mind. What if she could make a different kind of lunch box for kids who like variety? That idea led to meetings with an industrial designer – and eventually, the creation of the Flip Lid Lunchbox, a six-compartment design that separates different foods and keeps them from getting squashed.  

In this interview, 45-year-old Samantha – a single parent who lives in Perth, Australia — talks about her entrepreneurial journey, the advantages of a late start in business, how she overcomes setbacks and her determination to succeed.

Flip Lid started six years ago. How is your company doing these days?   

It’s still a rollercoaster. While the idea for Flip Lid began six years ago, I’ve only had the product and been selling it for the last 12 months. From day one, it’s been a time of continuous learning about what works and what doesn’t.

With every challenge, I’ve thought: “Just get through this and then it’ll get easier.” That has proven to be so wrong. For instance, I used to think that once I had my product ready to sell, the hard part would be over. Now I’m involved with marketing and selling — a whole new ball game with its own obstacles and learning curves. I think it’s even harder than the design and manufacture phase.

Right now, Flip Lid’s distributors include a mix of online outlets, brick-and-mortar stores in Australia and one retailer in New Zealand. Direct sales to my own (domestic) customers are a big part of the business. I have customers overseas as well.

What role has your family played in the business? Do you come from an entrepreneurial background?  

I am the only one in my family with the entrepreneurial bug. My creative streak led me to start a business selling “party boxes” (with themed cups, plates, napkins, loot bags, balloons, etc. for kids’ birthday parties) years before anyone else was doing it. My children were very young at that stage and I didn’t have much dedication to the business — so I gave it up.

A few years later, I created an online scrapbooking store due to my passion for scrapbooking. But again, I wasn’t prepared to put in the time and effort that the business needed.

With the Flip Lid Lunchboxes, my kids — who are now 14 and 16 — are involved in the process. They have helped choose colors, logos, names and are my sounding board as well.

How has your life experience helped you as an entrepreneur? Do you think you could have started a business in your 20s instead of your 40s?  

As I mentioned, I started two other businesses. I was in my 30s. Even at that age, I wasn’t ready. I didn’t see myself as anything other than a mum and wife and had no confidence in myself. I didn’t have the dedication or focus to really apply myself to one thing and to put total belief and faith into it.

The way I view myself and my abilities has changed dramatically since I became a single parent. I survived one of the most depressing and stressful periods in my life and that has helped me grow and understand my strengths and abilities. My attitude now is, “Why shouldn’t I?” rather than, “Should I?”

I’m no longer afraid to put myself out there as the worst thing that can happen is I get told “no.” I’ve learned not to take that as a personal rejection, which I would have in my younger years. Now, “no” just means to try again.

Work-life balance must be a challenge for you. Any time management tips to share?

I try to set a schedule and time limits for particular tasks – i.e., a half hour to answer emails, one hour for social media, etc. — and stick to that schedule as much as possible. Having a deadline works wonders for me. Without one, I can be prone to dawdling. That said, if my kids want to chat or tell me about their day, I always stop and give them my attention.

You’ve weathered some ups and downs in your business and your life.  How do you keep yourself going during difficult times? 

Sometimes I wonder myself but at the end of the day, no one is going to make it work for me. I have two children. If I were to crumble or give in, where would that leave them? That has been my one constant thought through all the trials and tribulations of a divorce. I had to be strong for my kids and that’s pretty much what has pulled me through so many challenging times.

I have always believed that there is a positive in every negative. Sometimes you have to look harder but it’s there. This is such a powerful thing to know. It means that — even in times of severe hardship and upheaval — if you identify that positive, it gives you hope. And hope is what keeps you moving forward.

One of your favorite sayings is, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” How does this apply to entrepreneurship?   

I think it’s best summed by a situation I encountered about four years ago. I met with a large, well-established distributor here in Australia who had links to major retail chains. He was looking to become involved in my product and get it onto store shelves. I remember being uncomfortable, as he was very direct — bordering on blunt, I felt. I stammered out a couple of questions but he did most of the talking. I decided that I didn’t want to do business with him and declined his offer. I might have been inexperienced but I knew that the deal he was offering was a pittance.

Fast forward approximately 12 months, when this distributor wanted to have another meeting. This time, I was the complete opposite. I was the one who asked the questions and made my feelings clear if I felt he was being evasive in his answers.

I reflected on what had changed. Turns out it was me! I wasn’t intimidated or out of my depth because I didn’t let myself feel that way. For someone to make you feel worthless or useless, you have to think that about yourself first. So it’s simple — don’t ever think like that.

What’s next for Flip Lid? And for you?

My product is a lunchbox, which is seasonal. The busiest times are either Christmas or back-to-school. Obviously, back-to-school here in Australia falls at a different time of the year than it does in the USA or UK. I would love to find retail distributors and direct customers in those markets. My aim is to expand internationally, as it’s always back-to-school time somewhere in the world.

I recently introduced a second product, a cooler bag that has been a great addition. I’m planning to expand my product line with new lunch boxes and drink bottles.

I have also started to create weekly lunchbox planners to inspire parents looking for school lunch ideas. After I began selling Flip Lid, I received many compliments about the lunchbox’s ample space and compartments. Soon, people started asking for suggestions on how to fill all that space — so the idea for the planners was born.

Personally, as a single mum, financial stability for my little family is at the top of my list. That’s why I’m striving to grow my business. My ultimate dream is to buy a house.

Any advice for someone who wants to start a business later in life?

Forget about age! Everywhere you look, there’s another story about a successful entrepreneur who is still a teenager. I went through a stage, albeit briefly, thinking that I was too old to start, compared with all these young kids with such great ideas. Entrepreneurship doesn’t have age limits — it only has self-belief limits. Believe that you can — and you can. I say go for it.

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Seven Aha Moments That Started Late-Blooming Businesses

The patemm pad

The patemm pad

Entrepreneurs need research to determine if a business idea has the potential to succeed. But the idea itself often comes from an “aha moment,” defined by Merriam-Webster as “a moment of sudden realization, inspiration, insight, recognition, or comprehension.”

Here’s a look at the aha moments that led to seven businesses founded by 40-and-older entrepreneurs:

1) Filling a need in the souvenirs market — While living in Doha, Meredith and Lee Hedrick considered starting a business that would offer unique souvenirs and crafts from Qatar. Then Meredith happened to encounter a woman in a coffee shop who was buying eight or nine mugs to ship home to family and friends. “The person who comes up with a good Doha souvenir will become a millionaire,” the woman predicted. Soon after, the Hedricks started Doha Designs.

2)  Making diaper changes easier — Grace Welch’s business idea surfaced while she was changing her baby’s diaper. Snapping orders to her sister to bring wipes and other items, Grace struggled to keep the baby from squirming off the small, rectangle changing pad. “What they need to do,” she said in exasperation, “is get rid of this crazy pad.” That moment led Grace to design the patemm pad, whose innovative round shape is more accommodating to wriggling infants.

3) Bringing the world a better hotdog – One day, Chris Schutte walked into a Home Depot and saw a product that was almost identical to one he had conceived – but never did anything about. That turning point prompted Chris to start Innovative Everyday Products, whose flagship item is a hotdog bun steamer.

4) Turning rubber bands into a kids craze — Cheong-Choon Ng, a former crash-test engineer for Nissan, found his business idea while watching his two daughters making bracelets from rubber bands. His product is Rainbow Loom, a kit that allows kids to create colorful rubber-band bracelets using a loom and a crochet hook.

5) Finding a new passion from a paper napkin — Jeff Block became interested in origami, the art of making designs out of folded paper, after a friend showed him how to make a rose with a cocktail napkin. One night, Jeff was showing some kids how to twirl a cocktail napkin rose around their fingers when a light bulb went on his head. That moment led to Just Paper Roses, which sells roses made of paper and other wedding anniversary gifts.

6) Jazzing up boring canesHappy Canes got its start after founder Pearl Malkin (known as “Grandma Pearl”) became bored with her plain black cane. She glued on some flowers – and a new look was born.

7) Putting an end to missing keys – On a rainy night, Linda Nagamine headed to her car parked in a poorly lit area and, once again, couldn’t find her keys in her handbag. She promised herself then and there to invent a solution to her problem. The result was the Joyful Keeper (formerly known as the Cle-a-Porter), which keeps keys close at hand.

What about you? Has an aha moment sparked a business idea? Please share your experience below.

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Networking 101: Five Easy Ways to Follow Up

Networking can be one of the most effective ways for entrepreneurs to find customers, business partners, investors and mentors. Whether it’s an in-person event or an online forum, here’s what often happens: people make useful contacts and don’t follow up, missing out on a chance to form new relationships that may become valuable.

Sometimes the lack of follow up relates to a life-long habit of procrastination – a serious concern if your goal is to start a business. But in many cases, a few time management or organizational techniques can go a long way to increase the return on networking efforts.

For easy follow up that gets results, consider these tips:

1) Follow up as soon as possible.  The longer you wait, the harder it gets – and the less likely you are to take action.

2) Be concise.  A follow-up email or voice mail message that gets to the point won’t take as long – and is more likely to generate a response. Suggest a phone conversation for action items that require more time.

3) Have a reliable system to capture contact info. It can be an iPhone app or hand-written notes on the back of a business card. Use a method that works for you.

4) Start small. Again, the follow up won’t take as long – plus it will be easier to deliver on any help you’ve promised. That’s important if you want to earn the trust of your new contact.

5) Designate a place for business cards. This favorite tip from space organizers also works well for post-networking. Put cards in the same spot after each event so you can locate them – and don’t waste time looking for the information you need to follow up.

“A strong beginning is a good thing only when coupled with a strong finish,” observed Mary Kay Ash, who started her Mary Kay cosmetics company at age 40. Why not apply this principle to your networking?

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An Actor Turns to Entrepreneurship — And Finds Success

LeVar Burton

LeVar Burton

LeVar Burton’s long career in the entertainment industry spans a variety of roles: Geordi LaForge on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” Kunta Kinte from the famed television miniseries “Roots” and longtime host of PBS’ “Reading Rainbow” TV show.

Now the actor-turned-entrepreneur has a business that’s encouraging the next generation of children to read. But he’s using the Web this time instead of TV.

Burton, 58, and business partner Mark Wolfe are the co-founders of RRKidz, which has reincarnated “Reading Rainbow” for today’s computer-oriented kids. The show first launched in 1983 as a children’s television series. It ended in 2009 after earning 26 Emmys, the Peabody Award and more than 200 other broadcast awards.

Burton and Wolfe bought the rights to the show and, in 2012, released a Reading Rainbow iPad app. A Kickstarter campaign begun in May 2014 reached its $1 million goal in just eleven hours. It eventually raised $6.4 million (600% of its original goal) from more than 105,000 backers.

“What that said to me was – you made a difference in my life and I want Reading Rainbow to be there for succeeding generations. … That’s no small thing,” he says in this CNET Magazine article.

“The thing I’ve learned most about being an entrepreneur is to not be afraid to fail.  I make 10 mistakes practically before I get out of bed every morning, and I’ve learned much more from my failings than I have from my successes in my life” — LeVar Burton 

Clearly, “Reading Rainbow” still has many fans – but that isn’t the only explanation for the strong response to the fundraising campaign. Burton made it personal, offering to record voice mails, chat with backers via Skype, have dinner with them and even have them meet his “Star Trek” co-stars.

Earlier this year, Burton and Wolfe used the Kickstarter funds to launch Skybrary, a digital library with more than 500 interactive books and over 150 video field trips on the Web. They’re also offering the Reading Rainbow app, initially available on Apple’s iPad, for other tablets, set-top boxes and game consoles.

Burton may be a well-known entertainer but that hasn’t shielded him from the same challenges faced by others who start a business.

“The thing I’ve learned most about being an entrepreneur is to not be afraid to fail,” he says in this interview. “I make 10 mistakes practically before I get out of bed every morning, and I’ve learned much more from my failings than I have from my successes in my life.”

For aspiring business owners, he has this advice: “I would encourage anybody who’s contemplating a career as an entrepreneur to remember that it’s not pretty. It’s not for the weak. You really have to have a sense of purpose and determination. You need to be resilient. Life isn’t always fair. It’s gonna knock you down. But it’s those who get up who succeed.”

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What You Can Learn from this 42-Year-Old Intern

Andrew Brill wanted a career in sports reporting. He pounded the pavement to find his first opportunity. In 2008, he  joined the sports desk at WABC-TV New York when the news director decided to give him a shot.

But here’s the thing: Brill wasn’t your typical, wet-behind-the-ears intern. He was 42 years old.

Several days a week, he’d go to the station after working all day at another job. The long hours didn’t bother him a bit. “I was watching sports at work,” he said.

After the internship, he moved on. Eventually, he became the sole sportscaster for a TV station in Albany, New York. This spring, he received an offer from ESPN Radio, one of sports’ biggest and most revered news outlets.

Brill’s story isn’t like others that you’ll read on this blog. He didn’t start a business later in life. To the contrary, he left a family business because he didn’t enjoy it. “When you wake up and dread going to work, thinking, ‘I can’t do this for another second,’ it’s time to change,” he told Men’s Fitness in this profile piece.

His story is worth reading because it has some lessons and reminders:

1)  A business owner needs passion to be successful. Brill recognized this — and got out since the passion wasn’t there.

2)  A career change later in life has its advantages. Years of life experience as well as business experience helped Brill identify a path toward his dream job.

3) Sometimes you have to start at the bottom when you start over.  At age 42, Brill had to do grunt work — and learn the nuts and bolts of his new profession. His age gave him a good perspective on this.

4) Family support is critical for career transitions. Brill’s wife and three children knew he had been miserable before — and could see how much he enjoyed his new career. Their willingness to endure long separations, make sacrifices and support him along the way made all the difference.

5) You never know when an opportunity will turn out to be “the big one.” Jump at every chance you’re given. That’s what Andrew Brill did.  And it paid off — in spades.

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Where to Look for Your Second Act

Last week, I did an audio interview with Angela Raspass, an Australia-based entrepreneur and the host for the 2015 Second Act Success Summit. I am one of 16 speakers for this year’s summit, an online event for women seeking to start a new life journey.

Speakers for the 2015 Second Act Success Summit

Speakers for the 2015 Second Act Success Summit

Among Angela’s questions was this one: What does the second act concept mean to you?

To me, a second act is something you do later in life after years spent on something else. Unlike some first careers, the second go-around isn’t about meeting someone else’s expectations or going to work just to earn a paycheck. It’s about dedicating yourself to an endeavor that brings gratification and a sense of purpose.

For the late bloomer whose second-act aspiration is to become an entrepreneur, here’s the big question: How do you create a business that provides personal fulfillment and profits?

Thorough research is needed to find an answer. So is self-introspection and an understanding of what matters to you. Here are six places to start looking for your business idea:

1) A vexing problem in your life – Ever wished that one of your everyday products worked better? Grace Welch, a mother of four, invented the Patemm diaper changing pad after she became frustrated with the traditional pad she was using to change her baby.

2) A personal causeJohn D’Eri, whose youngest son is autistic, opened the Rising Tide Car Wash with his older son, Tom, to help people with autism find employment.

3) Your hobbiesJohn Olson turned his pastime of carving stone fountains into Graystone Industries, a pond and fountain supplies distributor/retailer.

4) Your skills – An aptitude for accounting, tutoring or organizing can lead to a business. Just be sure to choose a service you enjoy providing so you don’t find yourself in a rut.

5) Your network – Consider a brainstorming session with friends, family, a personal coach and/or professional contacts. Giorgio Armani’s success might not have happened if his partner hadn’t seen his gift for fashion design.

6) A childhood dream – At age five, Rory Kelly longed to drive a shiny, elegant limousine. That dream became a reality when he founded Prestige Limousine in his late 40s.

Speaking of Rory, here’s his motto: “Be profitable and have fun doing it.” Why not go for a second act that lets you do the same?

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