Shoestring Success: TMJ Pain Solutions – bootstrapping the entire business using the other royalty checks

TMJ Pain Solutions was founded based on my personal experience and my passion for helping others. One in five people have some type of jaw disorder/dysfunction and 90% are women. I began having jaw problems at the age of 14 when I got braces. But after suffering a whiplash injury in a car accident, the pain got much worse and they talked me into having a complete reconstructive jaw surgery that I didn’t need. After this $30,000 horrific surgery, 8 weeks of having my jaws wired shut, 2 more years of braces, bite splints and medications, my pain was even worse than when I started. It was then that I set out on a 10 year journey of research to find answers. I discovered that trigger points INSIDE my mouth were the underlying cause of my pain. Then I learned how to release the muscle dysfunction and trigger points inside my mouth through an effective treatment known as myofascial trigger point release therapy. As I began to teach others, each person had their own “miracle” type story and I knew I was on to something big. Reaching into the mouth with just fingers and thumbs was not providing the therapeutic effectiveness I was looking for and also some people had difficulty treating all 5 muscle groups within the mouth without gagging. I began to develop what is now known as the MyoFree® tool or device. But, it wasn’t enough to have this awesome massage tool without somehow describing how to use it. Trying to convey this information about specific techniques, angles, pressure, what to expect, etc. led to the writing, directing and production of our 20 minute instructional DVD with full 3-D animation. A “kit” was created that included the MyoFree® tool, carrying case, DVD and full-color quick start guide with graphics and written instruction on how to locate your trigger points. The “kit” is now the MyoFree® Solution.

Although I already had 2 products on the market through licensing agreements, I knew I needed a business partner to complete this vision and make it come to fruition. I met the perfect partner with a MBA in Health Administration and Marketing from the University of Michigan. I met her through community networking with such organizations like the New Enterprise Forum and Small Business Development Center. She was also a consultant for our local SPARK chapter. I do all the clinical/teaching and she does the tech, web and social networking that I don’t have much experience with.

We started the company in 2004 but sales didn’t actually start until 2006 because I was bootstrapping the entire business using the other royalty checks, and it took forever to get the DVD (especially 3-D art direction) and web site together.

The best advice I ever got was to patent both the tool and the technique. The patent reads, “Method and apparatus for intra-oral myofascial trigger point therapy”. No one can break this patent the way its written where if it was just a tool, they could.

Initially, we over priced the product and that almost killed us. The one thing we did right was to start with the medical/dental community to get endorsements, diagnostics to prove what were doing, a published clinical report, etc. that gives us credibility within the medical profession that will carry over when we decide to go more direct to consumer through infomercial or other avenues.

Being a registered nurse does not automatically qualify me to be a therapist. It was years of learning and perseverance that qualified me. I also never received training in the things I have taken on to make this dream a reality such as accounting, writing an intense medical patent, writing, directing and producing an instructional DVD, writing web site content, marketing to the biggest names in the business, tooling, product liability, public speaking and writing articles for publication. If it wasn’t for the intense passion I have to help others in pain, I would have never stretched myself or my worn out shoestring. The business is now self reliable and we are finally turning about $75,000 in annual revenue.

My advice to others would be to evaluate your product and see if there is a business, catalog, etc. where your product would be a nice fit. If so, call the president and tell them you have a product that would be a great addition to their current line. I’ve done this twice successfully using only the non-disclosure agreement. One product didn’t need a patent, the other one I patented myself. For situations where you have to start from the ground up, I highly recommend networking in the community for new start-ups to learn about writing a business plan and just to learn from others who have been there. Even with the best laid plans and well written business plans, there is sometimes no accounting for miscellaneous items and the costs are never-ending. Most people think they can’t even talk about their idea without a patent. Until you established interest in your product, there is no sense in wasting your time or money. Call a patent attorney and ask questions. Use the non-disclosure agreement first and worry about the patent when someone shows genuine interest. I had a company pay for the mold for a positional wheelchair cushion that would have cost me thousands. If they really like your product, they may very well pay for the patent. Research, research research!

Gail Falzon, RN
CEO & Inventor
TMJ Pain Solutions
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One Response to “Shoestring Success: TMJ Pain Solutions – bootstrapping the entire business using the other royalty checks”

  1. Casey Turner says:

    I agree with you. It is important to understand what is causing the TMJ Headaches before you can really treat the problem. There is much misdiagnosis of this condition since it can resemble many other connected conditions of the jaw and inner ear for example.

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