Episode 13 : Turning Your DIY Project Into A Successful Business
Stephanie couldn’t find on the market a product that would meet her son’s needs, so she built her own. Little did she know that she had just created the first sample of the Senseez pillows and entered an emerging multi-billion dollar industry: the sensory toys. Years of hustle and a feature on the Dragons’ Den later, her products are now sold in over 300 stores worldwide. Here’s a glimpse at the amazing story of the mom who built the vibrating cushions for children with special needs company Senseez from scratch.
Stephanie’s Growth Story Book Title:
It’s an important word. We see it every day without really knowing what it means. Resilience is the ability to get back up after you’ve been knocked down. All of us have been knocked down. Businesses are roller coasters. You will get down times and with strong resilience, not only will you get back up, but you will need less time before you can keep on seeing the positive and keep on working.
What you’ll learn:
- The first version of the vibrating pillow was homemade by Stephanie and there were only a couple of them for her son’s use. They were heavy and expensive to produce. Then people around her started asking for it… and that’s when the Senseez adventure began.
- As a teen and young adult, Stephanie worked as a receptionist and in executive assistant positions. That lead her to be very skilled at admin tasks and ready to launch her first business at only 22 years.
- One of the biggest challenges with launching Senseez was that they didn’t have capital of funding behind them. Stephanie had to personally invest a lot of capital and it did put a lot of pressure.
- Stephanie insists on the importance of building relationships, not only with clients but also in your network and being able to ask for help or advice. She is thankful for the people who’ve helped her and is now glad to be able to give back some of that guidance.
- “I went looking for a portable type of cushion, I looked and there was nothing I could find… and it didn’t exist.” – Stephanie on how she built a product because she had a need but couldn’t find anything on the market to address it properly.
- “When we’d lose business, I would think that there was something wrong. Looking back, I’ve learned that there was a cosmic reason for it every time. It was making space for me to do something else I had to do.” – Stephanie on her one-door-closes-a-window-opens type of journey.
- “I think we jumped in the water without knowing how to swim.” – Stephanie reflecting on how little she knew about merchandizing, factories, and shipping before her partner Todd helped have a bigger vision for the company.
- “When people tell you it takes five years to launch a business, they aren’t lying. It’s blood, sweat, and tears. And no salaries, pure debt. It’s early mornings, late nights, and weekends.” – Stephanie on the difficulties of building a business from scratch with no initial capital and in a field where she had no contacts or experience.
02:18 – Stephanie Mitelman is a part-time professor and sexologist.
03:30 – Stephanie is the mother of a young boy. She recently tied the knot with Todd who’s also her business partner.
09:18 – Stephanie mentions having another business related to her curriculum as a sexologist and professor called Sexpressions. It distributes educational material and offers training for youth about healthy relationships and sex.
10:12 – Stephanie Mitelman graduated from Concordia University.
10:40 – Stephanie discovered courses about human studies and sexuality while studying at Dawson College.
12:30 – She has a double degree in Sociology and an undergrad in Women’s Studies. Part of her studies was done at the University of British Columbia.
12:50 – Stephanie also did a certificate in Family Life Education at Concordia.
16:05 – Stephanie’s first job was at 14 years old, she was answering the phone at Domino’s Pizza.
30:15 – Without them really knowing about the market, Stephanie and her partner were launching a product in an emerging toy category at the time which is now a multi-billion dollar industry: the sensory toys.
30:45 – They started out by knocking doors on school catalogue companies. Every purchase was a personal phone call at first.
45:45 – Stephanie auditioned at an open casting call for the Dragons’ Den at John Molson Business School’s. There was a seven-hour wait.
56:00 – During her passage in the show, Stephanie got offers from three of the Dragons. She was called “the Dragon’s slayer” for about two weeks after that.
57:10 – Stephanie took a week off to prepare for the Dragons’ Den. She watched all the episodes, studied all the entrepreneurs, and rehearsed her elevator pitch over and over.
59:40 – Stephanie stayed in touch with one of the Dragons afterward, David Chilton from the book The Wealthy Barber. She describes him as a true gentleman and holds him in the highest regards for his professionalism and resourcefulness.
01:04:00 – Senseez pillows are now available everywhere in over 300 stores worldwide.