This Entrepreneur Wants to Bring Independence and Dignity to Mealtimes for Stroke and Paralysis Patients Founder Ilana Herman discusses the genesis of her Independent Feeding Tray Inc. company.
In this ongoing series, we are sharing advice, tips and insights from real entrepreneurs who are out there doing business battle on a daily basis. (Answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.)
Who are you and what's your business?
My name is Ilana Herman. I am the founder and owner of the Independent Feeding Tray Inc., located in the Bronx, NY. The name of my invention is INFT1. It is a unique Adaptive Innovative Technology that will provide adults and children who have the use of only one hand with the ability to feed themselves independently.
What inspired you to create this product?
I have been a speech pathologist (SLP) for the past 38 years, working in long-term and short-term rehabilitation facilities. I have been frustrated for my patients who have suffered a stroke, brain injury, Parkinson's, tremors, orthopedic Injury and other neurological diseases who have use of only one hand to feed themselves. They are unable to scoop from a food cup on their meal tray with the use of only one hand.
INFT1 is designed to hold food cups (ice cream, yogurt, fruit, pudding, applesauce) securely. The food cup is placed into the molded cup that is molded to the food tray. The INFT1 will be used by patients in nursing homes, hospitals, rehab facilities, VA hospitals, home-bound patients and children with special needs.
What has been the biggest lesson you've learned in producing and marketing this product?
The biggest lesson was to conduct the necessary research to identify companies with the specific capability to meet the specifications of 3-D prototypes, actual prototypes and the final injection molding of the triple mold.
The INFT1 had to meet specific requirements for a food tray that would be offered to the healthcare market. I had to negotiate the budget and the arrangement with National Sanitation Foundation International to obtain the mark for both for the INFT1 tray and the plant. Without the NSFI mark, the INFT1 could not be marketed to the healthcare market.
The raising of funding for the INFT1 has also been a challenging lesson. I have tried crowdfunding twice and have been successful to some degree. However, at the moment I have invested 100% of my own capital funds into the development of the INFT1.
What does the word "entrepreneur" mean to you?
The word entrepreneur means someone who has a new unique idea, who takes it from design to an actual product offered in the market. You have to be prepared to work hard for the success of the product, spend money in the early stages as well as communicate and identify the key staff within the market as well as publish marketing literature that describes the product.
What trait do you depend on most when making a decision and why is that useful for you?
I have thought a great deal about my design and the value of the INFT1 for my patients. I have seen the frustration of my patients on a daily basis attempting to eat independently. I know that the INFT1 will improve the lives of my patients and I know that the design and my product will be a success within the market.
Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation?
The quote that I offer when I describe the product is that it will provide "independence and dignity " at mealtime. I am inspired to improve the quality of life of my patients and countless other adults and children to be as independent as possible at mealtime despite their physical limitations.