By Leigh Hornbeck Times Union, Albany, N.Y.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Even though there are numerous tools for soothing a baby -- swings, rockers that vibrate, stuffed animals that play a heartbeat -- entrepreneur Melissa Gersin created a unique product that has even drawn the attention of at least one Shark Tank investor.
Times Union, Albany, N.Y.
Melissa Gersin was a fussy baby who grew up to be a nurse and now an entrepreneur. Her product, Tranquilo Mat, is designed to soothe fussy babies with vibration and sounds that mimic a mother's heartbeat.
Gersin, 33, grew up in Saratoga Springs. Her parents, desperate to stop her crying, took her for drives and even taped her car seat to the dryer in hopes the gentle vibration would be calming. It worked.
Years later as a maternity nurse in Boston area hospitals, Gersin became a crying baby specialist, using the advice of Harvey Karp, a pediatrician and author of "The Happiest Baby on the Block." One night during a shift, she found herself calming three babies at once. She started turning the idea over in her mind, looking for a better way. Tranquilo Mat was born in a light bulb moment in 2011.
Even though there are numerous tools for soothing a baby -- swings, rockers that vibrate, stuffed animals that play a heartbeat -- Gersin was shocked she didn't find a mat like the one she had in mind.
Six years and many ups and downs later, Gersin appeared Feb. 10 on ABC's "Shark Tank," a reality show where entrepreneurs pitch products to potential investors. Robert Herjavec, the leader of an information technology security firm, offered Gersin $200,000 for a 15 percent share of her company. While the deal is still being finalized, sales of the Tranquilo Mat exploded ($84.99 for the small one, $99 for the large). Within three hours -- before the show aired on the West Coast -- Gersin sold out of 1,200 large units. In less than 24 hours, all 2,000 mats -- the total number Gersin sold in 2016 -- were sold and the following week, thousands of pre-orders rolled in.
It's exciting, but it hasn't been easy. She was told no at first, and even her family, friends and colleagues were skeptical. She had a good job as a nurse and a salary that allowed her to buy a condo. They wondered why she would quit her job as they watched her buy and take apart electronics at Radio Shack to teach herself circuitry.
There were several moments Gersin, who invested $198,000 of her own money into the venture, thought the dream was dead because she was running low on money.
"I didn't set out to start a business, I just had this idea that wouldn't let me go," she said. "And the deeper into it I got, the harder it was to let it go."
But there were wonderful moments too, similar to the relief a parent feels when their baby finally stops crying.
Gersin watched it happen on a mat she created. Success on "Shark Tank" didn't mean Gersin could take it easy. She was in China this week overseeing production of the Tranquilo Mat and has a trip planned to India to source organic cotton.
And she has more ideas to grow her business.
"The entire process taught me a ton about myself, and it has given me a lot of self confidence," Gersin said. "It helped me focus, which I haven't always been good at doing. I am grateful for the opportunity, and I knew that even if I didn't make it, the money was well spent."