More To The Story...#1
You should be on Shark Tank!
Every time I hear someone say this, I smile to myself. From the outside, my invention seems a simple concept, some might say a no-brainer, but there is so much more to the story. I hope you enjoy this insider glimpse into my journey.
I remember the very moment the idea for MaskIT came to me. I was staring at the overflowing trash bin in my hallway bathroom, filled with complete frustration when it hit me.
Every annoyance I ever had with discarding my menstrual items flashed through my mind.
In an instant, it suddenly became very clear exactly what was needed.
Why not something that could cover my hand during the removal process, invert to contain everything, seal shut, block odor and not leak, all without drawing attention to the bin?
I wanted a cleaner, better way.
The Handmade Prototype
I went into my kitchen and made my first prototype with Glad Press and Seal and Scotch tape.
I wasn't trying to be an inventor, I wasn't trying to think of an idea, it just came to me. I have three daughters, we had a septic tank and I was tired of wasting toilet paper trying to cover tampons.
My only suspicion for why something like MaskIT did not already exist…the stigma around menstruation, the lack of conversation.
Early on in my research, I learned that 20 billion tampons and pads go to US landfills every year. I could hardly put my head around it. This was a telling moment for me. I knew I would need a flexible material with specific properties, similar to plastic, to create MaskIT.I knew the half life of plastic is 500 years and I was not willing to be responsible for contributing single use plastics to our landfills. I decided that I would not move forward unless I could find an environmentally responsible way to bring my idea to life.
Six Months later
After endless research and countless phone calls, I finally found a 100% plant based biofilm that could be extruded with the properties I needed, and could be consumed by microorganisms that naturally occur in our soils.
I was on cloud 9!
I filed my patent application.
My research continued - how bloodborne pathogens are contracted, the true cost of wasting toilet paper, plumbing problems caused by tampons, etc. The more I learned, the more clear it became that MaskIT was really needed.
I had already jumped.
I realized that my idea could change the world. MaskIT could save lives by preventing exposure risks in public restrooms, save trees, and it could be my vehicle for challenging outdated cultural norms around menstruation. I became more and more passionate about doing something, building something that really matters.
I needed someone to convert my plant based biofilm into MaskIT and I wanted someone in the United States.
Over the next year, I was turned down at least 100 times.
There were moments when I felt incredibly discouraged. I remember reasoning with myself. I could give up, and MaskIT would never come to be or I could keep trying, and perhaps my invention could change the world. Time would pass either way, so why not try? I wrote a 45 page business plan.
Imagine my excitement when I finally heard my one “Yes” from a converter in California!
I sent videos of my prototypes, the technical drawings from my patent, and all the appropriate measurements. About a month later my friend and I drove to Southern California for the first manufacturing run.
My heart was racing as I walked into the building. I could see several white bags laying on a table. I immediately went to check them out, only to find that the bags were all wrong. In fact the sides were closed completely, which would not allow the puppet pocket function of my MaskIT design.
My Heart Sank
At the same time, I was determined to stay positive because I was so grateful that someone had tried. I sincerely thanked Mike for his effort and proceeded to explain what I actually wanted. He listened for awhile, looked up at me and said, "I don’t think it’s possible to do that."
There I stood, sifting through all these unusable bags he had made, trying to hide my heart break. I happened to notice one particular bag with a small flaw. There was a slight offset in the bottom gusset.
Do you see this mistake?
Inspiration struck and I asked him "Do you see this mistake? Do you think you could duplicate this mistake consistently, but larger?" It had occurred to me that perhaps a large offset could allow the puppet function I needed. I could see the wheels in his head begin to turn. After a long pause and several audible "hmms", he looked up at me and said that "it might be possible".
My heart was racing again.
I went back to my hotel room and stayed up until 4 in the morning redesigning my prototypes with the new knowledge of what he could potentially do.
I brought my new prototypes back to the shop in the morning and he had a machinist come in to custom fabricate a subassembly for the machine so he could make this mistake consistently and larger.
MaskIT® was finally real!
It turned out even better than my original prototypes.
Words could never describe how thrilled I was. I was so grateful for Mike and Chato. Naturally I went and got them each a pie. Yes, really.