If you’ve ever flown on a plane, you know how miserable it is to have a baby on board. A crying baby will ruin any fine-dining experience at Applebee’s or watching a movie at the AMC. Imagine how difficult the parents have it! Melissa Gersin could understand. She is not only a maternity nurse in Boston-area hospitals but also a former screamer herself.
One night while taking care of three fussy babies, she came up with the idea to invent an electronic, portable mat that consoles babies by mimicking the sound and motion they felt in the womb. The Tranquilo Mat, based on Dr. Harvey Karp’s theory of the 4th trimester and the 5Ss to help calm thousands of babies, was born.
“All of the current soothing methods like swings and vibrating chairs are equipped with cute melodies. They don’t work like the strong white sounds that babies crave from being inside the womb,” said Gersin. “Chairs and swings are also big and bulky. Good luck lugging them on a plane or even just across town to Grandma’s house. Plus, they always require parents to break contact with their baby.”’
Tranquilo Mat proved to be the answer to parents’ prayers. Gersin sold more than 3,500 units, totaling $300K in sales, in less than a week after appearing in a February 10, 2017 episode of Shark Tank. More than a thousand customers have pre-ordered the ensuing production run. Sales are on track to reach $500K in 2017 for an eye-popping fivefold increase over 2016.
“As a nurse, I saw how difficult inconsolable crying was for so many parents,” said Gersin, the founder, and CEO of Tranquilo LLC. “I know my wails also took a toll on my own parents’ coping mechanisms. I feel like my product is a beautiful tribute to my parents’ struggle and is an essential part of my purpose on this planet.”
The patented mat, manufactured in China, comes in two sizes: small for $84.99 and large for $99.99. They roll up and fit in a diaper bag. The small mat was designed to use in baby carriers, strollers, and car seats. The large mat was made to go in bassinets, cribs, activity mats and play pens. The company earns $20-$25 per unit.
She aims to get into regional baby boutiques by third quarter 2017 and big-box retailers — Babies R’Us, Buybuy Baby, Target — in 2018. Up until taping Shark Tank in September 2016, Tranquilo Mat was sold in only 12 brick-and-mortar stores and had $65K in sales from 1,200 units.
Before going on the show, Gersin mainly used social media marketing and partnered with influencers in her niche — baby gear curators, mommy bloggers, and newborn photographers — to drive sales.
Gersin plans to launch some complimentary products such as decorative covers and a swaddle blanket.
“My background as a nurse means I’m able to develop products from my clinical expertise and experiences working with parents,” said Gersin. “This allows for our products to meet our customer’s needs in ways that bigger manufacturers in the market aren’t currently doing. My expertise and my value on safety first means our product is of the utmost quality and effectiveness thus making it worthy of it’s higher premium price point.”
Bringing Up a Shark Tank Deal
She went on Shark Tank asking for $100K in exchange for 10% of her company, valuing it at $1 million. Kevin O’Leary offered $250K for 25% equity on the condition she quit her job as a nurse. Daymond John bid $100K for 20% plus an opportunity to license the product. Gersin countered by offering $200K for 15% and upsetting O’Leary for increasing her company’s valuation to $1.33 million. Robert Herjavec clenched the deal in offering Gersin exactly what she asked for and not requiring that she quit her job.
“We might have been the only company in Shark Tank history to raise the company valuation in the middle of a pitch and still get a deal,” said Gersin. “Quite an accomplishment for an RN (registered nurse) with no formal business background.”
Gersin would not disclose whether the deal with Herjavec went through except that he and his staff have been a “great resource,” and they just started working together. Gersin hopes to raise an additional $300K from other investors for marketing, sales and research and development of new products.
Labor Pains in Giving Birth to a Business
Gersin had no previous business experience and built Tranquilo LLC through trial and error. She first came up with the idea in 2011 and turned it into a formal business four years later.
“2015 was when things started to get moving, and I spent most of that year working through numerous iterations with a manufacturer only to have them shut down just as we were about to place our order,” said Gersin. “I then had to scramble to find another factory and get new samples as quickly as possible, so I could move into mass production and fill the pre-orders customers had been anxiously awaiting.”
Gersin spent a year on research and development. It took another year for testing and creating a minimum viable product that met all the rules and regulations for baby products.
“When I hear from our customers that this product helped their 16-month-old sleep through the night for the first time or that this product has been a lifesaver for their colicky baby, I’m brought to tears of happiness,” said Gersin. “Knowing that I’m making a difference for those babies and parents keeps me going on the toughest of days. It’s been the validation I’ve needed to know I’m on the right track and I’m doing what I was put on earth to do.”