Romy Taormina is the inventor and founder of Psi Bands. She'll be appearing on Shark Tank in episode 420 to pitch her acupressure wrist bands that ease nausea for motion sickness, morning sickness, and chemotherapy related nausea. I caught up with Romy Taormina for a pre-Shark Tank interview.
Romy Taormina Background
Romy Taormina has a last name that is the name of the beautiful small town on the east coast of the island of Sicily, Italy, in the Province of Messina. She actually honeymooned there with her husband. They're both graduates of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, which has a great business school. They weren't classmates and they didn't date in college; they're from the same area and met as post grads.
Romy Taormina started Psi Bands back in 2007 while she was looking to combat severe bouts of morning sickness with her two pregnancies. She didn't want to take medication, so she sought a proven, non-chemical solution. “I tried Sea Bands,” she explains, “but they didn't fit right and they weren't waterproof. They didn't look good either. I wanted something cute and stylish, fashionable, adjustable, and waterproof. At the time, I was working at an ad agency, so I just developed the idea, it was born out of a personal need.”
Psi Bands look more like a watch band than anything else. Sea Bands, an older type of acupressure wrist band, looks like a tennis wrist band. That would be OK if it were still the 1980's, but not for a fashionista like Romy! “People say Psi Bands look like a Swatch watch. They come in a variety of styles, so you can have a subdued or flashy look. It's good for pregnant women who don't want to announce they're pregnant in the early stages, they can ‘hide' a Psi Band with other bracelets. I have many family members who've had cancer, so I have been personally touched by cancer. To be able to provide a product that provides relief really fuels me. When you're an entrepreneur, there are so many bumps and challenges, when you're passionate about something, it makes it easier.”
Psi Bands are available in many locations, online and offline. “We don't sell direct to consumers, we sell through distributors on sites like Amazon, drugstore.com, walgreens.com, cvs.com – we're also on the shelves at Rite Aid, CVS, REI, Babies R Us, and regional chains like Wegmen's. We're trending toward $1 million in sales for 2012 and in 2013 we're going into 7,500-8,000 stores with one of the major chains we're dealing with now.”
Sounds like Romy Taormina is close to being a Shark herself!
Romy Taormina in the Shark Tank
Even though it appears Psi Bands is a robust and growing business, Romy applied to be on Shark Tank. “I believe in opening doors. I've been a fan of the show for years, because I believe in the American Dream, even though Shark Tank isn't a natural environment. I actually got an introduction to a producer through a contact in a Savor the Success forum. I sent her an email and she got back to me in two days. We talked for 15 minutes, then I sent in a video, did the paperwork, and the rest is history. If I hadn't made that connection, I wouldn't have applied – I'm not the type to go to a casting call.”
“I ended up taping in September along with Rebecca from Hoodie Pillow and Bea from Pretty Padded Room; the tattoo guy was there too. I taped for about 40 minutes. When we air, I'll be working. I'll be out on social media, working through it; we can party later. I told the web team to be prepared and I alerted our retailers, on and off-line, about what was happening so they can be prepared too. We made the decision to stock up on product, even though we weren't sure we'd air.”
Psi Bands Business
“Psi Bands is self funded, we have a bank loan and a credit line too like most typical start-ups. The business is profitable, but I am personally invested, both emotionally and financially. I am the sole financial provider for my family, so I have responsibilities. A few years ago, my husband and I reversed roles; he is now a stay at home dad and basketball coach. He's not active in the business, but he helps with financials and contracts (he's good at that).”
“I ran the business out of our home for quite a while – we'd have meetings at the dining room table! I made the transition to an off site location 4 minutes from my house. I won a Huggies MomInspired Grant and I used some of that money to get an office. I have 5 employees, which is another motivation for me. I have responsibilities for my family and my employees' families. We've been together since day one and we have the same core values.”
“A good takeaway from the Shark Tank experience has been getting to know the other entrepreneurs. The support we have for each other is helpful in so many ways. I'm a believer in the ‘give, give, get' philosophy and when you're surrounded by people who share that sentiment, it's empowering.”
I asked Romy whether she got a deal or not, put she wouldn't tell me. Instead, she said, “savor the journey. Entrepreneurship, like life, is a journey. You have to keep moving forward. That's what separates the successful people: when you fail, you have to get back up and keep moving forward.”
I had one other question for Romy. She answers it on The Hot Dog Truck.