...I had spent all my money, maxed out all my credit cards, but I had MaskIT.
According to the extensive business plan I had written, we should launch the solution for public restrooms first, which would allow us to address the most obvious problem, while creating awareness among our future customers.
The problem: I didn't have money for the tooling we needed to manufacture the wall mounted dispensers and we couldn't sell the solution to businesses without the dispensers.
I had already borrowed money from my Dad and I had no idea where to look for or how to find outside investors. I could let these circumstances stop me, or I could choose to be flexible. I wanted to start somewhere, so I changed my plan. We would launch the home solution first.
Actualization September 2014
I had butterflies in my stomach as I walked into the first store to ever have MaskIT on the shelves. I had been working so hard for so long with so much focus that this was a true moment of realization for me. OMG! I had actually taken something that only existed in my head and brought it to life. My heart was full.
A reporter met me at Ashland’s Shop N Kart, in the menstrual hygiene aisle, to interview me, "a 35 year old single Mom who had invented a new product."Within a few weeks, we had our second customer, Food 4 Less. The local news station featured the story. I guess there is not too much excitement going on in Southern Oregon. Seeing the product I had invented on actual store shelves felt nothing short of surreal. Real people could buy real MaskIT!
We went live on Amazon in October, 2014.
My initial euphoria was short lived.
It didn't take more than a few weeks to discover that our packaging would not stand up on the shelves and the stores were not happy about that. Not only that, the travel sized packs would not stay closed and our customers were losing product because of it.
I was quite literally sick to my stomach.
When manufacturing, in order to get the price point to a place that makes sense for your margins, you must order in large quantities. For us, that price point was at 20,000 units. I had launched the product line with four sku's, so here I was with 80,000 cartons I simply could not use.
I was so upset with myself.
"It's only human to make mistakes. You always have a choice to learn from it, let it go, forgive yourself and start over." -unknown
Back to square one...
We had no choice but to redesign the packaging and purchase it all over again. I will be forever grateful that my boyfriend believed in me.
He let me borrow all of his credit cards so I could buy the new packaging.
A few months later...
I personally went into all the local stores, removed the faulty packaging from the shelves and replaced it with new packages that would stand up on their own and travel packs that would stay closed. The work had really just begun.
A few at a time, we were adding more retailers, but it was slow going. The sales cycle was long, with most retailers conducting category reviews just once a year. I was starting to feel frustrated and a bit discouraged. Many of the retail "buyers" themselves loved MaskIT, but that wouldn't matter long term, if people didn't know it was on the shelves to purchase in the first place. We had social media accounts, but our reach was extremely limited. People needed to know about us. Unfortunately all aspects of marketing, promoting and advertising require money and we didn't have any.
I was laying in bed one night suffering with entrepreneurial insomnia (yes, it is real) when it suddenly occurred to me; we may not have marketing money, but we did have product (and packaging we couldn't use or sell).
I had an epiphany...Puberty Education. My vision was to create a supplementary
program. We could become the facilitator of invaluable conversations for pre-menstruators. At the same time, we could get MaskIT samples into the hands of our potential future customers.
Exposure. I knew this was a long term investment, nothing that would give us an immediate return, but it was perfect. We started calling schools.
Turning Obstacles into Opportunities.
We were able to repurpose the packaging and send out student sample kits to schools all over the country. It took almost 5 years to send out all the original packaging in the form of "student sample kits".
And a side note...
We still send out thousands of student sample kits to schools all over the country every year, only now with intentionally designed packaging for the program.
The Great Outdoors
By early 2015, we had recognized that MaskIT is particularly handy for those that love spending time in the outdoors.Most people were using ziplock bags, aspirin, paper bags and duct tape to carry their personal items out of the outdoors! MaskIT was so much better.
We designed a special package for the outdoor audience, crossed our fingers and held our breath.
I had been bootstrapping it big time, but by the middle of 2015,