Rising to the Challenge: How a Big Order Forced Romy Taormina's Small Business to Grow Up Fast
When Romy Taormina suffered intense morning sickness during both of her pregnancies, she decided to manufacture a product that would relieve nausea for others — whether it was caused by motion sickness, morning sickness, chemotherapy or anesthesia.
Now, as Romy is considering expanding her product line and expanding her business even further, she talks with us about the order that allowed her to dream big in her business, how she learned to price her products and why she still sees every single day as a growth opportunity.
I suffered from debilitating morning sickness throughout both my pregnancies, so I was basically sick for more than a year. I tried some anti-nausea wristbands but they looked like sweat bands — they weren’t waterproof and they weren’t adjustable, so they would move and stretch. This meant they no longer worked on the Nei-Kuan acupressure point, which is the acupressure point that is clinically proven to relieve nausea.
I decided to createPsi Bands, a medical device you wear on your wrist that's FDA-cleared and made with medical-grade materials. They’re also stylish, drug-free, adjustable, comfortable, waterproof, affordable and reusable!
I have a business degree with a marketing emphasis fromCal Poly, San Luis Obispoin California. Having worked as a consultant from home since the birth of my first child, I learned quickly that my degree was a major asset when it was time to start my own business.
Who was your very first customer?
My first customer was Longs Drugs, now owned byCVS. We pitched to a contact there through someone we met at a mother's group. We showed up with our prototype and our plan was to ask for input on packaging, product design and those kind of things, but they ordered enough to put Psi Bands into 400 stores!
We had to quickly take major steps to establish the foundations of the business, such as finding a warehouse for our inventory and systemizing it for massive orders. Longs Drugs ordered three units per store with two to three units in the store room, so that was six units per store in 400 stores. Plus, we needed inventory on hand with six weeks sell through, as retailers can charge noncompliance fees for empty shelves.
After that, we just kept growing. In 2008, our product was featured in Oprah’s magazine as an "O pick." With that huge exposure for the brand, we could create eye-catching emails to get our product into more retailers and enjoy a dialog with them.
Understanding how to reframe your product for different markets and at different times of year is so important. In the summer, we push it as a travel product. In October, we think about Breast Cancer Awareness Month and how it helps with nausea from chemotherapy. It’s about always repurposing the story.
When did you know your business was going to work?
I knew it right from when we had the idea. I’m very driven by research — I did a market analysis and lots of homework, looking at selling, margins, marketing opportunities and the percentage we could take from existing competition.
I’ve evaluated a lot of products I’ve eventually ruled out, but I always felt this one would win. That first big order reinforced it for me.
What has been the biggest surprise throughout the whole process?
I’m surprised about how much it’s taught me about me: my strengths, my weaknesses and that I don’t have as thick a skin as I thought.
I keep changing every day — as a mom and a business owner, I’m learning that I must be fluid and willing to adapt. I rely on networks and have found that people want to help others out. My philosophy is give, give, get — the more you give, the more you get back when you need it.
How do you price your products?
I evaluate from different angles, looking at whether we should put the price up or down. I assess the margins for retailers and distributors and consider how variables such as the number of units will affect things. We never want to have the price lowered and then have to put it up again. We have to hit our numbers and sell!
A pack of two — one for each wrist — costs $15. Internationally, getting the product out there is more challenging for us right now, as there are customs and duties to account for.
Everyone thinks it costs less than it does to make the product, but it’s a device manufactured in an audited facility with medical-grade materials, so that’s expensive. But when there’s high volume, we can work with a distributor — volumes speak volumes!
What does a typical day look like for you?
I naturally wake up early, around 5:15am, and then I go to the gym. When I get back, I help the kids make breakfast and get ready for school. Then I head to my office, which is about four minutes away.
Every day is different. There are new challenges and experiences — which is both scary and exciting! Usually I’m home by 5pm, but I don’t switch off. The major benefit of being an entrepreneur is the flexibility, so I can turn on and off when I want to. Every day is a new opportunity, a growth opportunity. It’s a journey and it’s best to savor it.
If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?
I try not to live with regrets and I believe I should celebrate the wins more.
I have a small team who are committed and loyal, and a wider team of lots of consultants for HR, graphic design and PR. But I find any challenges we face are easier because we’re helping people and have had some special moments with that, like the time we donated our products to a children's hospital.
What would you like to learn today from a community of other small business owners?
All small business owners are in the trenches together and we need to lift each other up. To the other business owners out there, I struggle with how much research you should do before you take the leap into developing a product.
How much time should I spend on this? Should I focus my resources on new products or my existing line?
QB Community members, do you have insights for Romy that can help her decide how she should develop a new product? Do you have experience with expanding your product line? How did you decide where and how to focus your resources, and what did you learn throughout the process?
We can't wait to hear your stories and thoughts in the comments below!