Melissa Gersin was an EMT and a pediatric nurse – not very different from any of you. Then she hit on the idea of designing the “Tranquilo Mat”, a baby soothing mat which emulates the sounds and movements of the womb. Now she is a successful businesswoman, who persuaded not just one, but three of the five investment “sharks” on Shark Tank to offer her a deal.
In an exclusive interview with NurseRecruiter.com, she talked about how she came up with the concept for the Tranquilo Mat during a particularly challenging shift, and how it can provide relief for parents — and maybe even nurses too.
In this second part of the interview, we ask her two key questions. What would she tell other nurses with entrepreneurial dreams? And what would she say to (expecting) parents about babies who have trouble falling asleep?
What advice do you have for other nurses who want to start their own businesses?
Go and do it! But break down your ideas into steps, and focus on what’s just in front of you.
Don’t think, oh my god, it’s Mt. Everest — this is so big, it isn’t possible. You’re at base camp, and you need to just take it step by step from there!
If I’d known everything I was getting into I don’t think I would have done it. I would have had too much fear and doubt. So look at it as taking a single step at a time, and feeling OK about just doing that one step.
Don’t think, oh my god, it’s Mt. Everest — this is so big, it isn’t possible. You’re at base camp, and you need to just take it step by step from there! Ask yourself “what is the bare minimum I can do as first step to move things forward?”. Then do that, and the other steps will continue to show themselves as you keep moving through the process.
When I first had the idea for the Tranquilo Mat, I had no intention of starting a business. Frankly I didn’t see myself as a business owner nor think of starting a business because I had no background in business, and didn’t really know anyone that owned a business. I didn’t know any inventors off the top of my head. So it was a matter of what I saw as a possibility in my life.
To be honest, it’s just that the Tranquilo Mat was an idea that wouldn’t leave me alone. It kept bothering me, whether I was at work or just trying to have some time off to enjoy my life. So I would work on it for a while, and then life would get in the way and I’d forget about it. Or I’d make some progress but hit a wall, and think “Meh! OK, I guess we’re done now.” Then a couple of months later it would be like “Hey! Don’t forget about me”, and the whole process would start again.
At the time, becoming an entrepreneur wasn’t deliberate.
It was curiosity and annoyance that moved me forward
Since my product is for babies, maybe a good way of looking at it is that the idea was a little bit like an infant, who would cry when it was time to change their diaper or feed them.
Looking back, I’m grateful that the idea didn’t leave me alone, but at the time becoming an entrepreneur wasn’t deliberate. It was curiosity and annoyance that moved me forward. I didn’t just start a business to see what I could get out of it. I also did it to help parents and their babies, because crying is stressful for everyone in the family!
One of the biggest benefits of starting a business was
seeing my self-esteem skyrocket
I didn’t truly consider myself an entrepreneur or business owner until last summer, even though I’d already been selling the product for over almost a year. Then once I became a part of the startup accelerator MassChallenge, I thought “Oohh! – this is a possibility. I have been running a business; I can continue to run a business!”
One of the biggest benefits of starting a business was seeing my self-esteem skyrocket. It showed me what I was truly capable of and I began to see myself as a worthy person, regardless of whether I succeeded. And I wouldn’t change a thing: I’d do it all over again.
What mistakes do most parents make when they’re trying to make babies fall asleep?
Most parents either don’t know about the 5 S’s or don’t truly understand or believe them, so they don’t implement them correctly. After parents have just given birth they may attend classes which teach them how to implement the 5 S’s, but usually there’s no follow-up.
Some parents have a doula who visits as a post-birth companion, and get follow-up feedback on how they are doing that way. That works better for a lot of parents than just reading a book or watching a DVD. You might not have time to read a 200-page volume or take a two-hour class if you’ve got a newborn and you’re still trying to figure out breastfeeding!
This is where products like the Tranquilo Mat can play a really helpful role too. When I was developing the product, so many parents told me, “this product is too loud!” My reply is almost always: “that’s actually the point.” The womb is as loud as a vacuum cleaner (80-90db). Your child’s crying is 100-120db. Our product is 65db max. So you may think 65db sounds too loud, but it’s a drop in the bucket.
That’s a kind of vigorous motion that babies actually enjoy,
and which they miss and need when they’re upset or crying
When I asked parents to show me how they swayed their baby, they usually did a slow kind of rocking. That won’t soothe a baby. You need to do fast motions.
People assume that babies are extremely breakable. They often think they have to hold their baby like it’s made of porcelain. Yes, they’re small and delicate, and you certainly need to take care when you’re holding a baby — no shaking! But if you’re holding a baby, supporting their head and neck, and you’re running after a bus, that’s a kind of vigorous motion that babies actually enjoy, and which they miss and need when they’re upset or crying. That’s why dads, who might play a bit rougher with toddlers, are often actually better soothers.
If you could give one piece of advice to budding parents what would it be?
I love this question. In our western society, we don’t have our community around us. We often don’t live around our parents, who might be a couple hours adrift from us. So people don’t have a tribe who could support and help them.
At the same time, Dad is often expected to be at work within days, and Mom a couple months later. If you ask me, paternity leave should be mandatory, and longer.
In our western society, we don’t have our community around us.
People don’t have a tribe who could support and help them.
Being a new parent is a big transition. You can’t look at Hollywood and expect your body will just bounce back, or that going back to work with a two-month old is going to be easy. I highly recommend that people truly get as much help as possible. Don’t be afraid to ask for help — real help!
Have as many people as you want come over. Get friends and family to visit. But don’t feel like you should also entertain them. When they want to hold the baby, say “great, you can do that, and then I can take the time to have a shower!” You’ve got to leverage your adorable baby to let visitors help take care of your baby, while you get some time for yourself.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help — real help!”
In society we should really stop expecting to come to a new mother’s house and hang around while the new parents entertain us, and we get to snuggle up close to the new baby. Look at Mexican culture. The first 40 days, all the mom is expected to do is to breastfeed, rest and eat, and the extended family does the rest, even change the baby’s diapers and soothe them to sleep.
So when your friends or family visits, it’s OK to tell them that, of course, “you can come hold the baby, but could you also do the dishes?” Either they won’t come over anymore — which is fine, as it gives you more time to breastfeed and bond with your baby, or they’re going to come over and you’re going to get the actual help you need!