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Name: Anna Ellis
Business: Stone Mountain Consulting
Location: Scottsdale, Arizona, U.S.
Industry: Consumer Goods
Reason for starting? My partner, Megg Berry, mentioned to me one day while riding horses, that she hated taking her phone out to take pictures while we were riding for fear that she would drop her phone. I had the same challenge, and when we queried others we found that they all had the same challenge. I have been creating and inventing things all my life, so I didn’t think twice about working up some prototypes. Attempt number seven seemed to work well for me, so I made 10 more and distributed them to friends and family to try out. When I asked for the devices back a month later to do some stress and function testing, everyone refused to return them until they had a replacement! During that time, my teenage daughter was testing one out, and I saw what is now known as ‘StayC’ save her phone on three separate occasions. We also had feedback from testers that StayC had proved incredibly helpful to people who frequently misplaced their phones, people whose work takes them to places where they don’t want to drop their phones, and many others.
Related: Read about another consumer goods entrepreneur here.
How do you define success? To me, success is all about follow-through. As women, we are met with many more challenges than men. First and foremost is overcoming other women! I’ve found that men will question a woman’s abilities, but women will absolutely doubt the abilities of other women, and they aren’t shy about saying so. Success is having an idea that transforms into a vision that transforms into a reality, and it’s that transformation into reality which is the toughest. Women communicate much more than men do, and I had to find it within myself to just shut up sometimes and avoid negative feedback that was certain to be provided by specific individuals or groups. A big part of success for me is helping others. In producing the StayC tether, we will be manufacturing during off-times to allow us to employ women who have come out of challenging backgrounds, including abusive situations and prison, and thus helping an incredibly under-served and growing group in society.
Biggest success: My biggest success to date was having StayC testing completed by a group of 50 users and having no product failures! Better yet, none of the test group were willing to return their StayC for follow-up stress and friction testing of the devices. I had to fabricate 50 new StayC tethers in order to get the test models back. Close on the heels of the success of testing was getting the first production model back from manufacturing.
What is your top challenge and how you have addressed it? I would have to say that my top challenge was in negotiating with vendors and manufacturers. In beginning negotiations, I felt like I was swimming with sharks, and knew that I was not getting the best deal that I could. I actually had a male friend who I knew was a great negotiator conduct a call with me so that I could learn from him. In one call, he shaved 15 cents off unit cost for production of one of the components that make up the StayC tether. I took notes and practiced with my business partner, until I felt like a shark entering a fish tank on calls and meetings with vendors. Thankfully, I now look forward to negotiations instead of dreading them as I have in the past.
Another challenge was my own mindset. After 12 years with a very abusive husband and a three-year War of the Roses style divorce, I was broken in every way possible. My now ex-husband vowed to bury me if I filed for divorce, and he came very close to doing so. It took me eight years and a lot of self examination, counseling and hard work to return to the spunky, fun-loving, and adventurous person I had been before my husband. We were officially divorced in 2005, and it wasn’t until my semi-annual visit with my family in 2013 that my mother started crying tears of joy, and said “My Anna is back!” I am back, and better than ever!
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Who is your most important role model? Hands down, Barbara Corcoran. She is the reason that I watch Shark Tank. Barbara boot-strapped her way to success taking a no-nonsense, but sometimes unconventional, approach, and she is not afraid to share her insights and wisdom with others.
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Edited by The Story Exchange