A breast cancer diagnosis and a host of medications to take during treatment, led Leeanna Gantt to an unlikely place: entrepreneurship. Gantt struggled to keep track of which medications she had or had not taken when she was sick, so she came up with a dosage reminder system. Today that system is her business, tooktake, hourly, daily, or 7-10 day tabs that can be easily applied to pill bottles to peel off as each dose is taken. The Pasadena, California-based businesswoman can count Walmart and CVS as stores that carry her product and is navigating the process of scaling up even further for continued expansion in the retail market.
Gantt’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
What was your reason for starting your business?
My inspiration for tooktake dosage reminder labels came from my own breast cancer treatment. I was stuck in bed for six months, miserable and stubborn. I told my family I could do things myself, but I really couldn’t. I would take one of my many medications that helped manage the side effects of chemo, only to forget when I took it. Which made an already stressful situation even worse.
Eventually, I made labels to help us keep track of everything. When I started to feel better, I searched for something that was similar to what I was making, but there was nothing even close to my simple system. That’s when I knew I had to make tooktake available for everyone.
How do you define success?
I don’t really have one definition of success. It really depends on the context. For example a successful day might be crossing a few things off my ever growing to-do list or being able to take the day off to spend the day with my family. As far as my business, tooktake, I think that I am already a success in that I set out to help people with a product that I invented and I am doing that. There are a lot of other things that I hope to achieve with tooktake, but knowing that even though tooktake is still a small bootstrapped company it has been able to help thousands of people, keeps me inspired to keep going every day.
Tell us about your biggest success to date
My biggest success to date has been getting the patent for tooktake! When I first came up with the idea, I thought that there must already be something like this out there. But when I couldn’t find it anywhere I decided that I really wanted to make it a real thing! When I first spoke to the patent attorney she said that she thought we would probably run into some obstacles with a utility patent, but I had done a lot of research and thought we should give it a try anyway. It turned out that not only did we not have trouble, we got the patent issued in record time! I am really happy that I trusted my instincts and got the patent before we took the product to market.
What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
My biggest challenge so far has been scaling up for retail. I thought that the hardest part would be getting big chain pharmacy buyers to add tooktake to their stores. That has been tough! But what has been even more challenging is learning how to navigate the complicated systems that each retailer has in place. So far we are in Walmart and CVS stores, and of course they each have completely different systems and ways of doing everything! So it’s been a huge learning curve.
Have you experienced any significant personal situations that have affected your business decisions?
Having breast cancer and being in treatment for a year is how I came up with the idea for tooktake. Before that I did branding and design work for other companies. But during my treatment I thought a lot about what I wanted to do when I was feeling better and design just wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore. Since I had stopped working for so long, it kind of gave me a clean slate to start whatever I wanted to do and I chose to be an entrepreneur!
What is your biggest tip for other startup entrepreneurs?
My biggest tip for entrepreneurs who are just starting out is to not wait until everything is “perfect”. It will never be perfect and the things you think are perfect, won’t be. At least that was my experience! It’s best to make sure you have the basics covered and learn as you go and ask anyone and everyone for advice!
How do you find inspiration on your darkest days?
Dark days do happen. On those days, the ones where I wake up and wonder “What on earth was I thinking?!? Why did I think I could do this?” It helps me to really think about all the things that I have accomplished and take time to give myself credit and acknowledge the hard things I have already overcome.
Who is your most important role model?
I love this question! My biggest role model is my mom. She has never been afraid to make big changes in her life. If she is at a point where she knows it’s time for her to do something different or be in a different place she embraces the change and finds the right solution for her and our family. These changes aren’t always easy, but she puts in the work and they always work out.
I have learned so much from my mom, especially as I have gotten older, She has always made me feel like there is nothing I can’t do and that if I make a choice to try something and it’s not working out it’s okay to move on. Changing your mind isn’t the same as failing, it’s taking the time to learn enough about something to make an educated decision if it is the right thing for you. ◼