WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — What do you think the odds were of Nickey Ramsey of West Lafayette appearing on ABC’s “Shark Tank”?
If you guessed around 0.025%, you’re correct.
The show on average gets about 40,000 applicants per season, and only around 1,000 of applications get picked up by the show, according to an article written by Gary Levin.
Now imagine that 0.025%, and apply it to the whole country, and guess what the percentage is for someone from West Lafayette to have made it onto the show.
It’s still 0.025%, and Ramsey, a working mother of two and the owner of Junobie, beat those odds. She’ll will be appearing on “Shark Tank” at 8 p.m. Friday.
What is Junobie?
Junobie offers eco-friendly and reusable newborn products. One of the first and most well-known products was the company’s reusable silicon breastmilk storage bags, which are FDA-approved and made with food-grade silicone bags that are freezer-, dishwasher- and heat-safe.
Ramsey was inspired to create these bags after she experienced certain hardships as a mother.
“I didn’t just wake up one day and say, ‘Hey! I’m going to invent something and be an inventor.’ I had no background as an engineer or designer.
“My daughter has a neurological condition called epilepsy and she has seizures. When I was pregnant with her, I was very conscious with her about what I ate, any medications that I took, because I didn’t want her to have any sort of, like, birth or congenital issues. And she came down when she was 2 with epilepsy. And of course, I blame myself,” said Ramsey.
Ramsey began to wonder what may have caused her daughter’s epilepsy, “was it all the plastic milk bags that I used for her, or was it all the plastic bottles that I would heat her breastmilk up in?”
She eventually came to an understanding that there are certain things in life that are beyond her control. But in her search for answers, she developed a deeper understanding of plastics and, specifically, the harmful elements that come along with its convenience.
“I was very aware of the plastic leaching and all these things by the time I was having baby No. 2. I just wanted something that was going to be a healthier option, that was going to be lightweight, and it wasn’t going to be plastic and non-glass either. Traditionally the two methods of storing breastmilk are either plastic or glass. I needed something that would enable me to heat breastmilk up and could tolerate a safe, stable temperature,” said Ramsey.
The search for an eco-friendly, reusable breastmilk bag
Ramsey began to scour Amazon for anything that remotely resembled the product she needed. She found silicon products that were geared toward sandwich bags and sous-vide – French for “under vacuum” – bags, but nothing that she could use to store breastmilk.
“There was no reusable breastmilk bag. A specifically made for the size of breastmilk and I was, like, ‘OK, this is weird to me. Like, surely this should be a thing, but it wasn’t!”
But since it wasn’t on the market, she decided to just create it herself.
Ramsey began to conduct research on how to make this new product a reality. She found out that she needed to create a computer-aided design before any factory would touch her prototype product.
She hired an engineer and created the initial design of her product and sent it to a factory that was interested in the product. Unfortunately, the first prototype was a disaster.
“Of course, when I got the prototype it was not right. It was thin and falling apart. I was like, ‘This is terrible!’”
This mishap didn’t stop, Ramsey though. She returned to the drawing board and create several different designs to ensure one of them worked.
But by the time her team was ready to present their new design to the factory, the factory had moved on and stopped replying to them.
This didn’t stop her, either. She began to reach out to other silicon businesses on social media asking if they could refer her to any factories. Many just left her messages unread, but there was one company that replied to her and referred her to their partner.
Once the factory saw and tested the design, they offered Ramsey and Junobie a partnership if their product created a wave of demand.
There was one last hurdle the Ramsey needed to clear — enticing consumers.
Ramsey considered creating a Kickstarter for the product but realized that they would have to go through the Kickstarter’s partnered factories once they meet their goal.
By the time their product would have entered the market, it would have been in the public zeitgeist for so long that they surely would have been beaten to the market.
Shark Tank:Read more about the upcoming episode
Ramsey decided to rely on the influence of social media to attract her customer — which it did.
After promoting her product on social media, within 72 hours all of their pre-orders were purchased, and people were demanding her product.
Since then, there hasn’t been a day where they weren’t sold out.
Want to hear the rest of Ramsey’s story? Tune into ABC’s “Shark Tank” at 8 p.m. Friday.
The episode will explore her reasoning for wanting to partner with one of the show’s sharks and detail the twist and turns her company had to endure before becoming the internationally known business it is today.
Noe Padilla is a reporter for the Journal & Courier. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at 1NoePadilla.