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The Entrepreneur Factor

Tiffany Krumins was a nanny caring for special needs children and children who had been diagnosed with cancer when she came up with the idea for a new product. Her product, AVA The Elephant, is a talking, elephant-shaped medicine dispenser for children. The idea is that AVA will reduce children’s fears about taking medications. Krumins applied for a spot on the ABC television series, “Shark Tank,” to pitch her idea to a panel of investors.

The idea came when Krumins was caring for a young boy with Downs Syndrome. Cutting the boy’s hair was extremely difficult, so Krumins lined up some toy animals around the kitchen table and incorporated them into the haircut. The animals calmed the child down and resulted in a less problematic haircut. After that experience, Krumins was the only one who could cut the boy’s hair. She experienced similar issues another day when she and his mother were trying to administer medicine to the child. That night, she created an animal out of sponges and fabric, using the device from a recordable greeting card to record her voice.

Krumins’s product idea caught the eye of Barbara Corcoran, the show’s real estate mogul. Corcoran offered to invest $50,000 in Krumins’s company. In exchange for the investment, Corcoran wanted a 55 percent stake in the company, which also made her a  majority owner. Although this news came as a surprise to Krumins, she accepted the offer. Neither Krumins nor Corcoran knew the business, so it was a learning experience for both.

Shortly after appearing on “Shark Tank,” Krumins was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She was forced into isolation while she received her chemotherapy, which gave her additional time to work on her business plan. The experience also helped Krumins empathize with children with long-term illnesses and cancer.

Currently, AVA The Elephant sells for $9.99 at more than 10,000 retail outlets in five countries, including CVS, and Kroger. The company is anticipating sales of more than $1 million for 2012.


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