Be open to all things possible. When you keep an open mind, it’s amazing what opportunities may arise.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Romy Taormina, Founder/CEO of Psi Bands. Puking was what inspired Romy to take the leap of faith into the entrepreneurial stratosphere. Romy oversees the daily operations, marketing, financials, and sales at Psi Health Solutions, Inc., the maker of Psi Bands. She is a Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo alum with a business degree and marketing emphasis. Psi Bands are clinically proven, patented acupressure wrist bands, a medical device. They sell at Target, CVS, REI, Meijer, Motherhood Maternity, Amazon, etc.; hospitals; and internationally.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a bit of the backstory about how you grew up?
I’ve always had that entrepreneurial spirit. From selling lemonade curbside to Girl Scout Cookies to magazines and candy for school fundraisers, I embraced these experiences and was willing to go the extra mile to set an ambitious goal and stretch myself. It was not easy, and it required hard work. It was that hard work that earned me those prizes. At the time, I thought the prize was something materialistic like a boom box. Later in life, I realized that the true prize was that I could withstand and overcome challenges more easily than some others. I could appreciate hard work and commitment in myself and others when things were not easy. It gave me life long “suck it up” lessons that would provide a stronger foundation for myself from which to grow.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
With more than ten entrepreneurial years under my belt I have many interesting stories. The one that many others seem to find the most interesting is my appearance on Shark Tank. It’s not the outcome that others seem to find so interesting, it’s just the fact that I was featured on the show that immediately develops interest. How did I get on the show? I was willing to put myself out there, and I had the stamina to work through an arduous process to get on the show. Lessons that I would share on this experience: “1) Own your voice. We each have a unique voice. Tell your story and share what makes you uniquely you. Your voice, whether you are ‘loud’ or ‘Quiet’ (Susan Cain is a master on this topic), is a powerful one. 2) Be willing to take risks because when we do, we grow and ’Thrive’ from those that cause us the most discomfort. 3) Work hard. Sounds so cliché, but stop the talking and DO. I recently heard Adam Grant say that “passion is the consequence of effort” and it so rang true for me. Most of us do not wake up one day and say “this is what I want to be when I grow up” and then actually stick to it. College students change their majors a lot. Most of us work numerous jobs throughout our lifetime. Discovering one’s passion comes as the result of working hard. The more we work at something, like any muscle, the stronger it gets. So work hard to discover what resonates with you.
Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?
Well, I am not the best at laughing at myself. Therein lies the irony and humor in this question. I need to get better at that! Like everyone, I make mistakes. I consider mistakes to be learning opportunities as they help me to grow. I made the mistake of putting too many eggs in one basket. Our very first client was a major retailer. We had 4 skus in 2 planograms, and it was an ambitious timeline and launch. We met our commitments. However, when that chain was acquired by a larger retailer, 900 of their employees, including our buyers, were laid off. The transition period between the old retailer and the acquiring one was lengthy, and we were forced to experience what is referred to as “mark downs” (product sold at deeply discounted prices). We later were able to become a vendor of record at the acquiring retailer, but that took a lot of time and hard work, and at a cost. Lessons to be learned: 1) diversify your portfolio; 2) remain steadfast in your commitment to seek out the business that you want (just because you lost it, doesn’t mean you can’t regain it); 3) approach things from a new perspective.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
One of our growth strategies includes expanding our international footprint. We are a Two-Time State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) Grant Recipient. As a result of these grants, we have been able to attend past international tradeshows and we will be attending others. STEP services are managed and provided at the local level by state government organizations. The program is managed at the national level by the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of International Trade.
Ok, thank you for all that. Let’s now move to the main part of our interview. Many of us have no idea about the backend process of how to apply and get accepted to be on the Shark Tank. Can you tell us the story about how you applied and got accepted. What “hoops” did you have to go through to get there? How did it feel to be accepted?
The approach varies as much as the person who appears on the show. I submitted an email directly to one of the executive producers. She replied within 15 minutes of my submission and we were on the phone the same day. I was asked to submit a 5-minute video, which I did. It evolved from there. Many, many, many steps and months later, I filmed. And 6 months later, I was on air. While each of the impressive entrepreneurs that appear on the show has a unique story, our collective respect for one another is undeniable. Beyond publicity, “Shark Tank” alums vouch for the benefits of the post-tank community resources. One of the most profitable outcomes we value is the willingness and commitment to helping each other out. While most of us have not actually met the others in person, there is an automatic bond that ties us together because we all understand what it took to get on the show — and what it takes to be an entrepreneur, including a lot of hard work, creativity, and strategy. We all believe that the sum is greater than its parts.
I’m sure the actual presentation was pretty nerve wracking. What did you do to calm and steel yourself to do such a great job on the show?
I practiced, practiced and then practiced some more my introduction. In front of the mirror, in front of a camera, while driving. I re-wrote my introduction 13 times. I practiced it until I knew it forwards (and backwards). I watched a ton of prior episodes. I interviewed other alums. I sat in a conference room and was bombarded with questions from colleagues. And, yet, nothing can prepare you for the lights, camera, action. It is an experience unlike any other.
So what was the outcome of your Shark Tank pitch. Were you pleased with the outcome?
I was extended an offer that I turned down. It was not what our board had established as meeting the minimum requirements. As such, I needed to walk away. Another lesson to be reinforced or gained: be prepared to walk away when the deal is not right. That can be very hard to do. I have had to turn away business throughout the years that also didn’t meet certain financial and/or other important criteria. It’s not fun. But, it’s a necessary component to running a company. There is so much to be grateful for… so many amazing opportunities have come as a result of being on the show. The relationships with fellow show alums, sales and marketing opportunities, and lessons learned and applied both personally and professionally, just to name a few.
What are your “5 Important Business Lessons I Learned While Being On The Shark Tank”? (Please share a story or example for each.)
All of these lessons were reinforced for me as a result of being on the show:
- Be true to yourself. At the end of the day, we live with our own choices.
- Be prepared to walk away. This is a business, not a hobby. We are accountable to many.
- Be open to all things possible. When you keep an open mind, it’s amazing what opportunities may arise.
- Be grateful. It provides a foundation for kindness. And kindness begets kindness (see below for more on this).
- Be willing to take risks. Unless we DO (see below for one of my favorite quotes), we will never know.
What advice would you give to other leaders to help their team to thrive and avoid burnout?
Surround yourself with positive and honest people who understand what it’s like to be in your shoes. They are active listeners and provide genuine, caring, and candid advice. Like our friendships, our buckets are filled with various people who meet our different needs. So it goes for business, too. You might find these people in an entrepreneurial group, through mentorship (maybe many mentors), and/or having a great team who “thrive” on your company mission and who practice daily their hard work and commitment.
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. 🙂
I believe that you should be grateful and show your appreciation. It makes people feel good when they are recognized, seen, and heard. Acts of appreciation can take shape in many different forms. Say thank you. Write a thank you card. Send someone an email letting them know they made a positive difference. Thank you’s do not need to cost anything — other than your time.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” — Yoda
I believe that you should DO your hardest. DO your best. It may not be perfect but it may be amazing. And you will have created movement. It’s so much easier to have momentum when you are already acting. It’s when you stop that things become static. So, DO. My example: I created a product, Psi Bands, and took it to market and it now sells at Target, CVS, REI, Destination Maternity, Amazon, etc.; and internationally.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Oprah. She is incredibly inspirational and has so much perspective and wisdom. A few years ago, I attended the Oprah’s The Life You Want Tour, which delivered on its promise to be transformative. I had the opportunity to meet Gayle King and Adam Glassman and listen to a host of dynamic speakers on important topics, including gratitude. When asked recently by the Founders of Camp BizSmart (www.campbizsmart.org), the premier entrepreneur academy for ages 11–19, what I would suggest as their 2019 theme (they choose one word each year to incorporate into their program), I proposed gratitude. They went with it! #grateful. Can you set up a lunch date for Oprah and me? I just asked and I am prepared for a “no”. I did just increase my odds of it happening, though, by asking. Fun fact: Thanks to Adam Glassman, Psi Bands are an Oprah Magazine O Pick.”