Gail Falzon founded TMJ Pain Solution in 2004 in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
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Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
At TMJ Pain Solutions we teach patient and practitioner alike the easiest, fastest and most effective way to eliminate the muscle pain and dysfunction associated with TMJ jaw disorders, headaches and facial neuralgias. The MyoFree Solution is the world's only patented intra-oral trigger point release system. The "kit" consists of the MyoFree massage tool, carrying case, Quick Start Reference Guide, and a 20 minute highly detailed instructional video with 3-D animation of the 5 muscle groups INSIDE the mouth, showing the patented Inside-Outside technique. Statistics show that 80% of ALL headaches originate in the chewing muscles. Now…we have an answer to break the pain-spasm-pain cycle.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I am a registered nurse and was a Director of Nursing for a large Home Health Care Agency. Although I already had 2 inventions on the market, a MVA in 1994 changed my life forever. It was this horrible experience that led me to invent the MyoFree Solution. Doctors convinced me that I needed a $30,000 reconstructive jaw surgery and 2 more years of braces. But, the surgery, the braces, the medications and the bite splints DIDN"T relieve my pain! I have spent 10 years researching, treating and teaching this intra-oral system that relieves pain immediately without drugs or surgery.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Some inventions only require that you find someone to manufacture market and sell your product under a standard licensing agreement. This is by far the easiest way to go.
Since I have financed all of TMJ Pain Solutions and have to teach all over the United States, I have to build the business into a prosperous company where someone will want to buy me out in a few years. Taking an idea to complete fruition is very difficult and requires sincere dedication and passion-not to mention money! You don't have any idea of all the issues that come up along the way. Now that I pay company liability, marketing and all other expenses, I really appreciate the licensing agreement.
I think the biggest mistake an inventor makes is thinking they must get a patent before talking about it. Even worse, NEVER go to a "patent your idea" company that promises the moon for thousands of dollars. One of my product sales are amazing and we never got a patent on it. The second one, I patented myself without an attorney.
TMJ Pain Solutions required an attorney. My advice is to use the non-disclosure agreement to try and spark interest in your product. Until you find a market for it and someone willing to sell it, there is no sense in spending all the money for a patent. The MyoFree invention required tooling for injection molding. Since I refused to outsource, I had to pay a much higher price. This process alone should be looked into fully before committing any further. My principles would not allow me to outsource.
Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?
I wrote an Executive Summary for a contest and it was helpful. I know my market, have a marketing and financial plan but didn't feel as if I needed to write a full business plan. For those new to being an entrepreneur, I would recommend it.
Who did you hire to help you? Bookkeeper, Accountants, Lawyers …? Would you suggest others do the same?
First, you have to learn the bookkeeping program yourself which for me as a nurse was just pure torture. I hired someone to come out and teach me the program and he comes on an as-needed basis to help with questions, inventory adjustment, etc. I recommend that every business owner know how to manage their own books even if it is hired out later. I hired a patent attorney and another attorney to write up contacts for selling the MyoFree Solution through catalog and medical/dental distribution channels. Liability insurance is something most people don't think about and it's very expensive!
What outside resources were helpful for you? Business incubators, Chamber of Commerce, SCORE, ….
The Small Business Development and Technical Center was very helpful in pointing me in the right direction to network, establish a business plan, etc. We were able to get some funding from SPARK for updating graphic design and web site changes and optimization. I attended meetings for the New Enterprise Forum to network in the community and those connections led me to the perfect business partner. It is just her and I with no outside financial help. She has a Master's in Health Administration from the University of Michigan and had all the criteria I was looking for in a partner.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
I contacted what is known as "key opinion leaders" in the specialty field of TMJ jaw disorders that affect 1 in 5 people. Publishing, speaking and connecting with leaders in the field have made my business a success.
Thank you for sharing your story with our readers. I'm sure many entrepreneurs will benefit from your experiences!