Every idea starts with a problem. For 3MD | Three Mommy Doctors™, ours was simple. The first-aid kits on the market didn’t have the things that we, as emergency physicians would use on our patients. And we certainly wouldn’t use them on our kids. So we curated our own kits, made up of hospital-grade products we rely on in our daily practice and made a mission to make these accessible to all parents.
Two years earlier, we sat around my dining room table one night, enjoying each others company. It was rare to have all three of us off on the same night, let alone have our husbands watch our collective seven children, so that we could laugh, talk, vent and enjoy the camaraderie. We three EM physicians who trained together in residency at Los Angeles County + USC Medical Center, and having survived training and motherhood simultaneously, considered each other more as sisters than friends.
Inevitably our conversation included the weekly rant: which neighborhood kid we sutured up on our kitchen table; whose rash we texted back and forth to help diagnose; and whose friend was knocking on our door for a curbside consult. Of course being the “neighborhood doc” at times can be fulfilling, but we admit can have its challenges! Particularly when you don’t have supplies from work: coban, tegaderm, paper tape etc. handy to do a decent job. Eventually our conversation came to a unanimous conclusion: “We just need to re-vamp the first-aid kit one of these days, and include actually useful supplies!?!”
“One of these days” came sooner than expected, as we three EM physicians recognized a void in the market, and set out to fill it. None of us had a business background, none of our husbands were business entrepreneurs. So admittedly we were green, but we figured we made it through medical school, one of the toughest EM residencies and child-rearing…how hard can it be?! So in our “spare time” (i.e.: midnight) after we put our kids down, or got home from a shift…we’d meet.
We had many grand plans and great ideas…but as the creative juices were flowing, we first recognized that we needed structure. So in our first year we set out to establish ourselves as a small business. First challenge: LLC vs. S Corp vs. C corp? No idea! It was time to do a little reading, and figure out which best suit our goals and mission.
Our mission was not only to provide parents access to hospital grade medical supplies, but more importantly, we wanted to provide some basic instructions for parents to help them in the moment of panic. So with our desire to include educational content came the added need to write step-by-step instructions that were both helpful and specific, but didn’t place us in a medico-legal quagmire. This required “resource utilization” a skill not foreign to us EM docs: consulting our colleagues, obtaining legal counsel, having “test mom’s” (i.e.: our non-medical friends) review them and nearly a year of perseverating over every single word we revised until we were satisfied.
Then came logistics. We had an entire product line in mind, but our first goal was to create a first-aid kit for kids, and a baby care kit for infants, both with the goal to reduce parental distress. Understanding what the FDA required and how to obtain clearance was intimidating. One of the best investments we made was hiring an FDA attorney to guide us through this process. It was relieving to hear him say that he teaches an entire course to his law students on the “navigation of the FDA website”.
After logistics came more logistics…business taxes, insurance, packaging, labeling requirements, inventory and distribution processing…the list went on and on. None of this was sexy or cheap. Often requiring us to pick up a few extra shifts to fund the next “need”. We would have preferred to daydream about our logo, graphics, or tag-lines…but the “divide and conquer” method worked, and slowly we overcame the hurdles.
Along the journey we have stuck to our core values, relied heavily on our “gestalt” to guide us. We sat in many board rooms full of middle aged-men, walked into industrial warehouses, often as the only females on the floor, with our heads held high, in heels and pencil skirts…confidently walking away if they didn’t seem to have the qualities we were seeking. Sure, failure was always an option…but none of us would let ourselves quit without trying.
Two years later, we were finally ready! September 2015 marked our launch as we introduced ourselves to the world through a crowdsourcing campaign on Indiegogo. More than the financial gain, we understood the importance of “testing the market” and proving to ourselves that we had a product worth pursuing. We exceeded our goal with flying colors, and later that month, introduced ourselves to the baby/child industry at the largest baby show in the U.S.. We lugged and built furniture with our blood, sweat and tears, built backdrops and stood in heels and white coats for 5 days in a tiny corner booth. Standing amongst big-box brands and having the opportunity to network with industry leaders was frankly surreal. Most humbling were the other physician entrepreneurs who took their time to demonstrate support. What an inspiring and amazing experience.
We are excited to see where this journey will take us. One thing is for certain…on days when the ED board is overflowing and the shift feels like an endless turnstile, it’s reassuring to know that there are other venues where your EM training can be put to good use. The business world does not have greener grass…it is simply a new challenge. For those of you with an entrepreneurial spirit…we say…go for it! You’ve got nothing to lose.