When Felicia Jackson’s son was two years old, he choked. Jackson was a medical professional in a hospital’s physical therapy department and was CPR certified. But at that moment, she froze. She couldn’t remember what to do.
Her husband stepped in. Their son survived that day, but Jackson couldn’t get it out of her head. What if her husband wasn’t there? What would have helped her?
She later learned that people typically only retain CPR certification for a few months. Just one year after being certified, you can forget how to perform CPR.
That was in 2002. Over a decade later, Jackson founded CPRWrap, a single-use translucent sheet that lays over a person’s chest and mouth with instructions to remind the performer exactly needs to be done.
Now, Jackson has raised $600,000 from single investors and is working on raising $1 million. CPRWrap’s e-commerce site, where the sheets sell for $9.99, brings in $100,000 of revenue. Jackson expects revenue to grow as she begins selling in bulk to CPR training facilities and first aid organizations — those deals can be up to $1 million for one transaction.
Jackson’s Dream Journal
The idea came to her in a dream. She saw the design. When she woke up she drew her dream device in a journal she kept by her bed, she said.
“I’m a serial inventor, but I’m a procrastinator. Those don’t mix at all. So whenever I have a dream about a product, I keep a book by my bed. And I traced what I saw. And once I get to that point, where I knew I wanted to mass produce my product, I actually took it out and found a manufacturer.”
Then she took a leap: In 2017, she quit her job at the hospital. It was a decision she was so nervous about that she didn’t tell her husband right away.
“I went to college for so long to get this degree, and now I’m not doing it anymore,” she said. “I’m working twice as many hours, not making any money. I was kind of scared he wasn’t going to understand my drive.”
The family struggled financially, nearly losing their house. But she wanted to see her purpose through.
“Shame on me if I had a product that could potentially save lives everywhere and I didn’t share it with the world,” she said. “So I just stepped out on faith.”
Jackson never went to business school and wasn’t sure where to start to build a business. Her first step was Chattanooga SCORE, which offers free mentoring to business owners.. Then she took her rough drawing of the product to Launch Chattanooga. She initiated her patent and formed an LLC with their help. Then she went to CO.LAB, where she learned how to identify her customers and bring her product to market.
She was accepted to Techstars Austin in 2019. Now, she’s a fellow at Washington D.C.-based Halcyon.
The programs have pulled her across the country and away from her family in Chattanooga. She said it’s hard leaving her family and town for long periods of time (she’s been in D.C. for five months during the Halcyon program). But it’s a little easier because her daughter, Carlicia Woodruff, who works for CPRWrap, travels with her.
Keep a journal. Not everyone’s ideas come to them in dreams, but however they arrive, keep track. Look for connections. Many entrepreneurs say that the ideas that keep resurfacing are those that should be followed.
Mentors help entrepreneurs avoid costly mistakes. “Connections are key,” she said “You really have to really make those connections through networking, build up your mentor and your advisor pool. Because those are the people that you can really go back to that can help you from making some big mistakes that can be costly.”
Not all money is good money. It’s more important to align yourself with investors that see your vision, she said.
This story and others on New Builders Dispatch are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.