My journey with Diaper Dust has been more of a roller coaster. It was an idea I had in my head, that I tinkered with for months. I wasn't pushed to pursue it formally until after my nursing contract was cancelled during the first wave of the Corona Virus.
I received an email saying that my contract at the hospital would be cancelled. Why? We were in the early stages of the pandemic; we knew there was a tidal wave of patients heading right for us so why would they cancel nurses? The obvious reason was to accommodate the financial burden the hospital was about to face. That was the only reason they needed.
As soon as I received the email, I immediately applied for an emergency nursing license in Massachusetts. I was ready to just re-deploy to a hot-zone because I was so worried about money and financial stability.
The next day I woke up. My boyfriend, son, and I sat down to have the BEST breakfast and I had myself a mimosa. I looked at what was in front of me. This is what mattered. (My family, not the mimosa - HA!) And if this pandemic was as bad as everyone was saying it was, this is where I needed to spend my time.
I had to process a lot during those first couple days. I realized that no matter how good you are at your job, no matter what you give, they can still decide to prioritize another aspect of business and that may not always be you. I decided I was going to prioritize another aspect of my life, and it wasn’t going to be them.
This is when I dusted off my deodorizing powder idea that would eventually become Diaper Dust. I spent those next few months working on something that wasn’t nursing.
Some may say it wasn't very "nurse" of me not to put myself into the line of fire, but I know that I make the biggest impact at home. Everything I put into my son, I know will be multiplied and spread into the world. In those weeks I needed him to know I chose him and our future as a family.
While I was developing Diaper Dust, I was also learning as much as I could about forming a business, and what I need to do to become a legitimate company. All of it was foreign to me.
I get the question “So how did you know the ingredients?” The truth is, I didn’t. Diaper Dust was supposed to be a solution for just my son’s diapers. I toyed around with products I already had on hand like baby powder, corn starch, different salts, even cat litter crystals. I took what worked about some ingredients, what I didn’t like about others and eventually found out that baking soda reduced the odor but only for a day – tops. When I tested the activated charcoal, I realized that it worked instantly and kept the odor eliminated for a long period of time. I also only needed very little of it. What I didn’t like about it was that because I didn’t need a lot of it, I had a hard time dispersing it evenly over the contents, and what I did have to sprinkle, created a big mess.
I decided to research how activated charcoal eliminated odor. In finding out that it is actually the surface area that is the powder’s biggest ally, I knew that whatever other ingredient I added- it couldn’t take away from the surface area of the carbon. I couldn’t create a past, or a spray, or make it into a granule. It had to be a powder. I looked back at the baking soda and decided that it would be the best ingredient to disperse the charcoal without binding to it, while contributing to odor control.
Next, I had to experiment with ratios. I landed on one that met four criteria: reduced charcoal particulate, eliminated odor instantly, control it for at least seven days, and was cost effective.
I then had to pick a vessel. Now, you would think this was an easy decision, but I had to consider quite a few attributes. I wanted packaging that would be somewhat recognizable to my market. I didn’t want to pick anything that would also require education before using. The bottle also needed to allow the product to flow without shaking, needed to withstand friction in the sifter cap, and needed to be non-porous (no boxes) so that the charcoal wouldn’t come through.
At this point I had a formula, and a vessel. I decided I wanted to protect my work. I reached out to a patent attorney to discuss the patentability. I have always been financially reasonable. Not taking big risks and only making an investment where I had a very high probability of ROI. Investing in myself, in a process I had zero experience with, was very out of character. But I was sitting on my steps, listening to my attorney explain the fees while looking at my TV, imagining myself watching a commercial for Diaper Dust that wasn’t being sold by me. I decided that the regret of not pursuing product protection, would crush me.
The process was fairly cut and dry. Provide the attorney with all the information for the product and after 4-6 weeks of research, a patentability letter is sent to me to decide what about the product is able to be considered intellectual property. After 4 short weeks, it was decided that; although there are other powder deodorizers on the market used for trash, none have been marketed to be utilized inside a dirty diaper. Using activated charcoal powder was especially unique as it is mostly seen in filters, sacks, granules, and bag liners.
When creating the Diaper Dust brand I also considered colors. For that I walked through Target and analyzed why I was drawn to some products and not others. Being a new product, new brand, new name, I wanted “trustworthy” to translate in my marketing. I cross refenced my findings in Target with some research on consumer response to brand color templates and picked my green and periwinkle shades.
For product developers, this all comes second-nature but for someone like me with no experience in product development, I had to be very in-tune with my inner consumer. I would look at companies and brands and ask “How does this company show up on a Google search and how can I accomplish the same? What are the words that stick out the most of me as a consumer? Why am I seeing a different ad for the same product and why does this one make me want to buy something? By the end of every day, I was just worn out from analyzing everything I saw.
Where I was consumed by developing a market-ready product, I felt very under-prepared in how to "launch." Something to know about me is that I like to move quickly, I hate the planning stage. I had no idea how important it was to build anticipation and interest in a new product. I truly felt that all I had to do was say "Hey! I have this product for sale, it's amazing. It works." and people would buy it.
I had no idea how to do SEO, build a following, or even post content. I was failing miserably. My sales would come from the word-of-mouth from the small pool of customers I had. I knew I needed help.
I am no stranger when it comes to anxiety so if you had to pick someone you know that would apply to be on Shark Tank, I wouldn’t make the list of 1000 people. When I first invented Diaper Dust I wasn’t looking to make money. I was simply looking for a solution to a major problem I was having. It wasn’t until I realized that there wasn’t a product like it on the market, I decided to get out of my comfort zone. I needed to let everyone know about it, and I needed to do it fast.
When I applied to be on the show, I simply filled out the 10 question application on the website. I had a solution to a problem, I had a patent application, I was motivated. The one thing I didn’t have though, were sales. I had close to zero revenue when I applied for the show. WHAT WAS I THINKING. Being a long time viewer of the show, I KNEW that sales was the weighted variable to getting the deal.
I applied for two reasons. The first, because I saw myself on that carpet, in front of the Sharks. I saw myself on TV. I was manifesting this dream. The second, because I knew that I was at a disadvantage in business. To be in front of a handful of the most successful people in it, I could gain experience and feedback fairly quickly even if I didn’t get a deal.
Throughout my entire Shark Tank screening process I never got my hopes up. Eyes forward but levelheaded. I was told at every step “we cannot guarantee that you will pitch in front of the Sharks.” I took that seriously. Disappointment is a very long-lasting emotion for me. What I feared more than standing in front of those Sharks, was being told it wasn’t going to happen after building up the excitement for it. I stayed pretty neutral and levelheaded throughout my pre-pitch process. I continued to sell and made it a point to never give them a reason not to pick me. I followed every direction to a T. I told no one, I answered honestly, and I was prompt with all my responses.
I was originally told I would pitch mid-July. When it got closer, my junior producers told me that the show wanted to see more sales. They wanted me to be in the best position to get a deal. I truly felt that Shark Tank wanted me to be successful in this endeavor. They put my pitch on hold. By the end of August I submitted my new sales numbers and got a pitch date of Sept 21.
My hopes still did not budge.
Other than nail my pitch, I had to do a lot to prepare. I had to design my set. I had to get posters printed, email my logo in the right format, confirm my outfit. What color looks best on me? What color will look best on TV? Do I even have business casual clothing? It was a lot for one person to put together.
The demo. Demonstrating the odor eliminating effects of Diaper Dust on national TV was harder than anticipated. I needed a substance that smelled just as bad, if not worse, than a DIRTY DIAPER. How would I pull that off? A lot of ideas were thrown around like onions, old hot and moldy protein powder ect. But none of them were consistently smelly enough to create the “WOAH!” reaction I was looking for. I had one chance to show just how strong Diaper Dust was and I needed something that pack a punch. I couldn’t leave the Sharks second guessing if Diaper Dust worked.
I went to old faithful – Google.
I searched for the top-rated prank spray on the market. When it arrived, I didn’t even have to spray it. I smelled the bottle and almost got sick. That was it. This was definitely what I was going to use. When the junior producers asked if I thought Diaper Dust would be strong enough to eliminate it instantly for a timely reaction from the Sharks, I replied “Absolutely.”
After I packed up the smelly demo samples and mailed them off, I felt a sense of relief. Everything was mailed to Shark Tank, I had my pitch, my clothes were approved, and I had nothing pending. I felt great.
My junior producer said “we have a problem”- That’s not what you want to hear 30 minutes before your chance of a lifetime!
“The demo bottles exploded in transit and are leaking all over the vacuum sealed bags.” YIKES!
Thirty minutes before my pitch, me and the junior producers were outside of the set cutting the bags and pouring the smelly substance into the demo diapers for the Sharks. They-smelled-horrible. They were not meant to be sitting there stinking up the place until right before the pitch. I was slightly mortified but ultimately, it gave me something to focus on or those 30 minutes would have felt like days.
Next was my practice walk. I walked out with the set director. I landed on my spot. And I gleamed.
This was where my hopes could no longer be contained. I looked around trying to take it all in. My set. MY DIAPER DUST was out there on display to be shown to millions. I looked at one, two, three, four empty Shark chairs.
The time had come. I was standing behind the closed doors, ready to walk down that hallway, I turned and said “This might be better than a wedding day!”
I walked on queue, landed on my spot, made eye contact with every Shark all while the voice in my head was saying “Don’t you dare throw up.”
My pitch went off without a hitch and it was time for the demo. You are warned ahead of time to control the room. Give clear instructions and be commanding. Easy to say, hard to do. They smelled the diapers and went into a panic. There was chaos on set. I had to remind them to grab the diaper dust, sprinkle a little on top and give it another go. Their reactions were priceless. Seeing their reactions to how well and how quickly Diaper Dust took care of the odor was everything. I knew that even with little to no revenue, the effectiveness of Diaper Dust had leveled the playing field and now I needed to sell myself as a person and an entrepreneur.
I was asked what Diaper Dust meant to me. I responded that Diaper Dust is a representation of how my mind works. I think outside the box, constantly. I want the best solution, not just another solution. And as far at the journey of Diaper Dust and A Parent Company, it is to show my son that he can do anything. I am a nurse, a mom, no business background but I was able to work incredibly hard to stand in front of them that day. If I can do that, he can too.
As each of the Sharks were giving their feedback regarding Diaper Dust and the progress I was making with it, I tried to stay calm. On the surface I was making all attempts to be present and answer their questions appropriately and honestly. On the inside, I was screaming. Lori Granier had Diaper Dust IN HER HANDS. I just made Mr. Wonderful LAUGH. I just heard Mark Cuban say IT WORKS!
When the question came up “What are your sales?” I knew this was a weak spot for me. I had to show them that while I had very little revenue, the product could sell itself with the right know-how. I needed their help more than their money. I showcased my strengths of being a contract nurse to assure them that I can learn very quickly. Their time is valuable, and I didn’t intend on wasting it.
Although Barbara, Kevin, Lori, and Emma all went out for various reasons, the same voice inside my head that wouldn’t shut up, was there to remind me that “Hey, Mark is still ‘in’.” Again, being a long-time viewer of the show, I knew that if Mark was going to hurt my feelings, he wouldn’t have wasted any time. As he started to speak I made sure not to let the four ‘no’s I just received play any part in how I showed my appreciation for the opportunity.
Now that it’s over, I’m going to be completely honest, when Mark said “I’d like to make you an offer” I was going to say “That’s a Deal” no matter what he said. I needed a mentor, and he had the resources. When you see myself pinching myself before he gave me a hug, that wasn’t for show, that was a much needed “grounding” technique to keep me in control of my emotions.
When I walked back the hallway and answered the interview questions, I realized I had only prepared my answers for if I didn’t get a deal. Everything I had in my head started with “I’m ok. I’m just happy for the experience.” None. Not one of my answers was a response to the question “How are you feeling now that you got a deal with the biggest Shark on Shark Tank?” I actually think I’d have a response to winning the lottery before I had a response to that.
What was shown on TV that night represented the exact sequence of events during my pitch. I felt it was an accurate representation of me, and Diaper Dust.