EazyHold — Kerry Mellin, Simi Valley, California
Mellin went from a career designing film costumes to inventing an adaptive cuff for people who struggle to hold everyday objects.
What was the inspiration for your business idea?
Kind of crazy story, but I went to sweep out the barn for a family get together. A lifelong cowgirl, years of ranch work had taken its toll on my hands, and on that day I found my thumbs too painful to grip the broom. But with my family coming soon I had to figure out a way to finish. So I made a duct-tape loop on the broom handle and slipped my hand inside. I was really surprised to find that little bit of support over the back of my hand gave me the grip and control I needed.
It got me thinking about all the other people who might be experiencing the same thing and looking for help. After a little research I learned that there was a huge population of children as well as adults with grip disabilities and special needs, and no adaptive aids to help them.
How did you fund your business at the start? And what is your top tip that might help other entrepreneurs who are growing their businesses?
EazyHold was definitely a bootstrapped company. I always wanted to open a family business with my sisters, and they liked the product idea, so we each contributed $6,000 to design our product line and open Mellin Works LLC.
We found that one of the best ways to grow a business on a shoestring budget is to do the initial work yourselves. Product drawings, prototyping, photography, graphics, packaging, and marketing can make bringing a product to market affordable if you can work in-house as much as possible.
What feature of the Amazon platform are you most focused on right now, and how does that fit with your overall business strategy?
We love the Fulfilled by Amazon feature! Having them pack, sort, ship, keep a record of the sales and returns, not only makes selling super easy for us but provides excellent 24-hour service for our customers. As a brand new product and company, our business strategy is all about being a small family business you can reach out to at any time with questions. We let the customer know that our product will arrive on time and in good condition, and if not satisfied can be easily returned. It’s a win-win feature!
What is your business education background, and what resources (books, trainings, podcasts, etc) do you use to learn and stay on top of your game?
As a motion picture costume designer in the film industry for 35 years, designing and building our product line has come easier for me than the business part of running a company. My sister Merrily, however, has 35 years in the corporate world as director of early education in the independent school system, and so maintains the day-to-day operations, and the importance of keeping good books.
When we first started our company we often used the Small Business Administration for free advice and resources, and also took advantage of the nonprofit Score, which provides free mentoring from successful business people in all industries across the US.
For staying at the top of our game in design and manufacturing of adaptive daily living equipment, we not only seek out expos and conventions to keep abreast of the latest equipment for occupational therapy and rehabilitation, but we try to reach out and speak to doctors, therapists and caregivers about what kinds of products are most needed for their targeted demographics.
What is the top tool, app, or technique that helps you stay organized?
For driving sales and building our community, we are sold on Mail Chimp. It’s a great platform for newsletters and marketing, has plenty of templates and is very easy to navigate, as well as a great resource for customer engagement.