We chatted with Melissa Gersin '10 about pitching her product on Shark Tank!
What was your major at Simmons and what's your current job title?
I earned my BA in nursing as a Dix Scholar. I'm the founder and CEO of my company, Tranquilo! I'm still a licensed Registered Nurse, keeping my skills sharp with the occasional labor & delivery shift at Mt. Auburn Hospital.
What was your inspiration for the Tranquilo Mat?
After my Simmons graduation, I landed my dream job in maternity nursing. During my first year I had the opportunity to attend a workshop held by the MA Department of Public Health to become an Infant Crying Specialist. After that workshop, I tried using some of the techniques, particularly the Shhh-ing and Swaying. The Shhh-ing techniques rely on the use of a loud white noise to mimic the "whoosh" of maternal blood flow baby's experience in womb; while the Swaying techniques rely on constant motion to mimic the jostling baby's experience when suspended in amniotic fluid in utero.
The idea for Tranquilo was born one night while I was trying to calm 3 different babies by using both hands and a foot to make the different bassinets move. I thought there had to be a better way, something flexible and versatile to be used in different settings. And then – bingo! The idea popped right into my head.
How long did it take you to build the prototype for your first product?
It probably took me about 40 hours to build my first crude prototypes – the ones I personally built, soldering the electronics myself.
After these first prototypes, I started working with a factory to build consumer grade samples.This whole process took just about a year to complete. It required 4-5 different iterations to perfect the right foam and get that heartbeat vibration just right. The next biggest hurdle was to navigate through all the complicated safety requirements for baby products. We even went above and beyond some of the required standards to ensure our product was as safe as possible for our tiniest, most precious customers.
How did Simmons help prepare you for your career?
I left Simmons with a very well rounded background in nursing. I had some of the most amazing professors who really tried to teach us to think critically about a problem and find a solution. Being motivated to understand and figure out the "why" was at the core of our nursing studies and a HUGE help in developing Tranquilo Mat!
What was it like being on Shark Tank?
The entire process was incredible but really stressful. They reached out to me at the end of July about applying and by early September I was in L.A. for filming. The amount of paperwork and preparation in the application process is staggering. Most companies have several months to navigate multiple 30+ page questionnaires and video auditions but I had just about 6 weeks.
I worked really hard with my mentors and team to be prepared for all the questions I might face but with such a short timeline I was still quite nervous, hoping it would all turn out well. Ultimately I was so surprised with how nice all the Sharks were while I was in the Tank!
By the end of it, I was so happy with my performance and how everything worked out! It was a very validating moment for myself and my business just to be able to pitch to the toughest, most well-known investors in the country.