Q&A with Tangela Walker-Craft
Tangela Walker-Craft is a wife, homeschooling mother, and blogger. She’s the founder and President of Simply Necessary, Incorporated in Lakeland, Florida. Tangela is the inventor of the patented GoPillow, which she licensed to Kushies Baby (Canada/USA).
Can you tell our readers about your background?
I’m a graduate of the University of South Florida with a degree in English (Creative Writing). I have a background in Technical Writing, Accounts Receivable Collections, TeleMarketing Sales, and Language Arts instruction. I taught Language Arts for 7 years before deciding to be a work-at-home mother. I’ve been married to my husband (Ernest Craft, III) for over 25 years. I homeschool my daughter (Emari).
What inspired you to start your business?
After my daughter was born, I breastfed her for two years. Due to my own breastfeeding needs, I invented and patented the BEST multipurpose breastfeeding and travel product that a mom or caregiver could ever have – The GoPillow! I had the idea for the GoPillow because my daughter was born with a head full of black, silky hair. Each time I would breastfeed her, the back of her neck along her hairline would perspire and my arm would be damp. I decided that I needed an arm cover of some kind.
The original intent of the pillow was for cradling babies for breast or bottle feedings. I also knew it would be an excellent travel pillow. The idea for adding the privacy blanket came later. It was added after I was caught in a crowded area during a rainstorm at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. My husband took off his shirt and gave it to me to use as a privacy cover so that I could nurse our daughter more discreetly. We realized that a privacy blanket or cover would separate my pillow from any other nursing pillow on the market. The blanket turned the pillow into a multipurpose product.
Where is your business based?
Simply Necessary Incorporated is based in Lakeland, Florida. (The licensee of my product, Kushies Baby, operates out of Stoney Creek, Ontario, with a location in Niagara Falls, New York.)
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
I filed for a patent for my invention. While my patent was pending, I went through prototyping, fabric sampling, packaging selection, etc. and finally got the GoPillow ready for market. I founded Simply Necessary, Incorporated to market and distribute the GoPillow after my patent was approved.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
I used social media to to promote my business. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were very effective marketing tools. However, television news interviews helped me to reach the broadest audience. I was able to share my company and product in several television news interviews, as well as on a few national talk shows.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
The biggest business challenge for me to overcome was being an unknown inventor. When I introduced my invention to the product market I was completely unknown. I also had to overcome working on a tight marketing budget. I used social media, my creative writing skills, and my background in sales to get the attention of different media outlets and the buying public. Once the GoPillow began to gain some traction, I was able to show Kushies Baby how much people liked the GoPillow.
How do you stay focused?
Everything I do is directly influenced by the fact that I am a wife and mother. I know every positive accomplishment will make life better for me and my family. That’s what keeps me focused.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
Simply Necessary, Incorporated was founded to market and distribute my invention. The GoPillow is wearable and more portable than competing products. Its uses can be adapted to the age of a baby or child. It can be used hands-free. Breastfeeding and bottle feeding moms can use the GoPillow. The GoPillow’s blanket is retractable, allowing for it to be tucked out of the way when not being used. The GoPillow is perfect for air travel because its compact and fits on the arm of many airplane seats.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
My marketing strategy is based on treating potential customers and business partners the way I’d want to be treated. If I’m marketing my product to a customer, I try to include answers to questions that I know I would ask if I was the customer. When marketing to a business I try to show them why working with me is better than working with a competitor.
What's your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
I would advise new entrepreneurs to do their homework. They should know who their competition is, and know why they’re a better alternative. A new entrepreneur should always be an expert on their product or service. It’s essential to have an “elevator pitch”. That means they should be able to summarize who they are and what they have to offer in two minutes or less, about the time it would take to make a pitch on an elevator ride.
What's your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
My favorite app is Twitter. It doesn’t matter if you’re a celebrity or a hermit, you have the same opportunity to communicate to a worldwide audience on Twitter.
Other than my own Simply Necessary Inc. blog, I enjoy the Allrecipes (http://allrecipes.com) blog because I like to cook and the Visit Florida (http://www.visitflorida.com/en-us.html) blog because I love visiting new places in my home state.
My favorite book is the Bible; it’s a manual for my life as a Christian.
What's your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
I couldn’t function without my iMac computer and Google. None of what I’ve accomplished in business would have been possible without my computer and Google. All of my initial business contacts were made through email, Facebook, or Twitter messages. I prefer being able to utilize multiple windows at the same time on my computer monitor.
Who is your business role model? Why?
Sarah Breedlove was born in 1867. She became known as Madam C.J. Walker before she died in 1919. She created specialized hair products for African-American hair and was one of the first American women to become a self-made millionaire. When I decided start my business I told myself if Madam C.J. Walker could accomplish what she did in the perilous times that she lived in, I should be able to do the same.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
I plan to continue to promote the Kushies GoPillow through social media. I hope to post new videos on YouTube promoting the Kushies GoPillow. I also want to add new posts to the Travel page of my Simply Necessary Inc blog after visiting as many new places as possible.
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