Interview with Jean Newell, Inventor of the Personal Utility Pouch.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Newco Enterprises creates, manufactures and distributes a line of wearable organizer bags called PUPs (Personal Utility Pouches).
When did you start the business?
How did you come up with your business idea?
As a 35-year realtor in Melbourne, FL, I found I had a problem keeping track of all of the little, and easily misplaced, high tech items. Because of the mobility of selling real estate we were all leaving our cell phones, digital cameras, lock box keys, pens, business cards, etc. at our past location. We needed one organizer that could be worn which would perform as our professional tool belt.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
Yes, I operated part-time from home as I continued to sell real estate. However, when my product became popular in mainstream America and was accepted at QVC, it became apparent I would have to make a choice. My invention business was growing fast as real estate was declining. It was the perfect time to transition into my new career.
Did you have a partner when you started your business?
How did you select a partner? Yes, I had a partner, another real estate agent. However, after 3 years we wanted different things for the business. When my partner decided to retire, I quickly took back my business and was able to proceed at rapid speed. I would advise anyone to always hold a 51% share and have an exit plan in place.
For women entrepreneurs, what specific advice would you have for young women who would like to become an entrepreneur? Are there specific advantages or disadvantages to being a women business owner?
I'm a 63-year-old woman entrepreneur. I had no previous experience or education in manufacturing, business, finance or distribution but I was able to find the resources I needed at the Small Business Development Center and the Women's Business Center. The advantage of being a woman is that there are many grants and contract advantages, but you must own at least 51% of your business. The disadvantages are that many companies still have the "good ole' boy mindsets". Women, especially young women, are a threat to them as they feel that either the women are not going to follow through with their business, or they don't know the unwritten rules of business.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Find a need for a product that you personally can use. In this case there was a need for a stylish bag that professionals could use to hold multiple electronic items. Originally designed for realtors, the bag became an all-purpose bag for multiple uses and age groups.
It makes sense that if you have a need for an item, someone else probably does too. Thanks for sharing your experience with me, Jean.