As part of my series about prominent entrepreneurs and executives that overcame adversity to achieve great success, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tiffany Krumins. Tiffany is one of the first winners on ABC’s Shark Tank & founder of Mom Genius and Product Genius on iHeartRadio. Tiffany’s story has been featured everywhere from The Dr. Oz Show to ABC News. Called a modern day Mary Poppins, Tiffany has gone from nanny to entrepreneur, and has seen her passion to help children grow into a business that is now known and loved all over the world.
Jason Crowley: Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
Tiffany Krumins: My entrepreneurial journey has been one filled with many exhilarating, yet terrifying, turns. While working as nanny for children with special needs, I noticed that Gibby, a little boy I had been working with for over two years, had an extreme fear of taking medication. I had a lightbulb moment and realized that it wasn’t the medication that bothered him, it was the syringe and the process. I went home that night determined to create something that would make the process of administering medication a POSITIVE experience. I created the first Ava the Elephant out of sponges, fabric and the recordable electronics from a greeting card. Ava the Elephant was born. I took this “prototype” to work the next day and it worked like a charm! Although I knew I had something special, it wasn’t my goal at that time to “launch a product”. It wasn’t until about three months later that I considered taking this idea to market when I received an email from a friend. It was a craigslist add that said, “Do you have the next Million Dollar idea, but you don’t have the funding or knowledge to make it happen?!” I thought, yes, I think I do! I submitted and before I knew it, I was pitching on the inaugural episode of ABC’s Shark Tank.
Crowley: Can you share your story of when you were on the brink of failure? First, take us back to what it was like during the darkest days.
Krumins: Just months after my appearance on Shark Tank, I was diagnosed with cancer. My (first) daughter was a newborn and I was in the thick of building a business I knew NOTHING about. Along with my cancer battle, I was overwhelmed by the immense responsibility involved in founding a company and satisfying an investor. And although Barbara Corcoran was absolutely incredible, I wondered if I had made the right decision in going down this path.
Along with my cancer battle, I faced some failures in business, due to lack of experience and/or knowledge of this very complex industry. Although Barbara was my investor, she wasn’t involved in the day-to-day and some of the tasks proved to be more than I could handle.
Crowley: What was your mindset during such a challenging time? Where did you get the drive to keep going when things were so hard?
Krumins: My drive has always been and will always be helping children. I knew if I could make them smile and ease their pain, if only for a moment, it would all be worth it. Every time I was ready to throw in the towel, I would receive an email from a customer saying something profound like, “My 13 month old just had a transplant and Ava the Elephant is the only way he will take his life-saving anti-rejection medications, THANK YOU.” Or “My son has an inoperable brain tumor. He will only use your medicine dispenser. Thank you”.
Crowley: Tell us how you were able to overcome such adversity and achieve massive success? What did the next chapter look like?
Krumins: I was able achieve success simply because I refused to give up. As someone who didn’t attend college and who has struggled with ADHD and anxiety for years, I doubted myself daily. But I kept my eye on the prize, which for me was more of those positive emails and reviews from the families I was helping. THAT was my pay. THAT was my motivation, and it still is today. Yes, its fun to be interviewed by Dr Oz and have your story featured all over the world, but knowing that my product has had a POSITIVE impact on a child was all I needed to push forward.
The next chapter was very BRIGHT! After licensing my product to Baby Delight, I had a newfound vision and passion to get back to where it all began, being creative and working with children. That led me to my newest venture and all of the incredible things happening now.
Crowley: Based on your experience, can you share a 3 actionable pieces of advice about how to develop the mindset needed to persevere through adversity? (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Get the chip off of your shoulder. No one owes you anything. The most successful people I know (Barbara Corcoran included) move on from failure VERY quickly. Those who wallow in it rarely succeed.
- Just because you think you have a great product idea doesn’t mean it will succeed. Many factors determine if a product is successful or not. Market, margins and manufacturability are a few of the many things that need to be considered.
- One of the great things about entrepreneurs is our ability to go full force ahead, sometimes with very little fear of failure. This can also be one of our worst qualities. Knowing when to let go and move on is just as important as perseverance.
Crowley: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Krumins: Barbara Corcoran was obviously very influential in my life. She was the first person to believe in me, in the form of investing her time and money. She was not only my investor but a mentor and I owe much of my success to her! With that said, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention those who might be less famous, but have just the same had a major impact on my life.
Both of my parents are survivors in their own right and they have always inspired me not to give up. After one of my most difficult periods in business, I connecting with a few local mentors I now call dear friends. Bill Gafford, Jay Hassell, Burke Allen and Bud Parker all advised and coached me through a major challenge and allowed me to see very clearly the path ahead. If it weren’t for them, I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now.
Crowley: Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Krumins: I recently launched a very exciting venture, MomGenius.com. The newly redesigned Ava the Elephant is of course one of the first products we are offering!
Mom Genius has three related but unique characteristics: 1) Mom Genius is an e-commerce site that sells one-of-a-kind inventions and also shares the inventors’ stories of why and how these innovations came to light 2) Mom Genius shares our teams entrepreneurial passion and vast, collective wisdom to nurture other inventors and help them launch their creative geniuses into today’s big, scary marketplace 3) Mom Genius is committed to giving back to smaller foundations and organizations who support the special needs community & pediatric research and support.
Crowley: You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Krumins: I believe I have launched an inspiring movement with Mom Genius! Our goal isn’t simply to sell product. We want to empower other inventors (Mom’s, Dad’s and even kids!), we want to mentor young people (who just happen to have special needs or are battling cancer) and we want to GIVE-BACK intentionally to local foundations we are already involved with and committed to.
Crowley: Any parting words of wisdom that you would like to share?
Krumins: Punch fear in the throat (a little thyroid cancer joke).
Crowley: How can our readers follow you on social media?
Krumins: @TiffanyKrumins on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter! www.MomGenius.com
Crowley: Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.