The concept for Janice Shokrian’s business Tausi Brands was born after visiting her father in a nursing home. He had to sleep upright in a chair and was suffering from horrible neck pain as a result. Shokrian decided she would create a support that would ease his pain and help others, who for whatever reason, find they aren’t able to sleep or rest horizontally. The Lake Oswego, Oregon-based entrepreneur designed the Tausi pillowcase to provide head, neck and back support without having to lie down and has received positive reviews from customers.
Here’s our lightly edited Q&A, from The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project.
Tell us more about your business.
I started Tausia as a direct response to aid my father. Once I developed the product, it became apparent that it is tremendously comfortable. After forming focus groups and attending entrepreneurial classes, I realized that I have something unique with Tausi and that I wanted to fulfill my dream of inventing a product and taking it to market.
How is your business different from others in your industry?
Tausi is not a pillow – it’s a pillow case that transforms your favorite pillow into a support system. This is the first big difference between Tausi and other products. Tausi does not require you to lay horizontally to realize the benefits of the product. With Tausi you can have your head, neck and back supported while sitting upright.
What is your biggest success so far?
Tausi was just nominated as an early-stage startup for Oregon Entrepreneurs Network’s Entrepreneurship Awards
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Business know-how. The majority of my career was spent in executive leadership roles in nonprofits. Switching to a for-profit entity and raising money for my business was challenging, as I was accustomed to advocating for a cause. I needed to overcome my fear of asking for money during my first round of fundraising and communicate the financial benefits for all investors with an articulated ROI. I had to quickly learn how to speak to my audience. I addressed this through reading books, participating in webinars, watching Youtube videos and practicing until I perfected these conversations, which resulted in $80,000 investments in two weeks.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
I continuously questioned the timing of starting a business. We had two children in college and household expenses were very high. Working on my business full-time meant that we would be out an income and we were drawing money from our savings to pay for patent application, trademark applications, supplies and manufacturing. The stress wasn’t overtaking our household but I felt tremendous responsibility.
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
Take advantage of workshops and meet up groups for founders. Through these (mostly free) activities, I met a core group of people who shared valuable tips and introduced me to people who could help me. I also met Oregon Technology Business Center leaders and then qualified for a $25,000 convertible note through their angel investors.
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
I review the testimonies from those who sought support from Tausi during their dark days. A friend’s son had serious surgery and had to sleep upright for 3 weeks; Tausi eliminated his neck pain. My husband had a torn retina and following surgery had to sleep upright for a week to avoid scarring, and with Tausi he had zero scarring. These testimonies help me to remember why I’m doing it!
Who is your most important role model?
It’s actually a kaleidoscope of accomplished women, past and present: Oprah Winfrey, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Amelia Earhart, Sarah Blakely. ◼