Friday, May 28, 2010

Inventor Showcase: Banana Blossom Press - Greeting Cards For Runners, Walkers, Everyday Athletes & Fitness Enthusiasts

I have had so much fun getting to know Maria Millsap, Owner and Founder of Banana Blossom Press.  Not only does she reside from Seattle, which makes her cool already, but she also has the most awesome personality and outlook on life.  I love the message she brings to the average person wanting to get fit through her beautiful greeting cards and clothing line.  Here's her story:

Q. How did you come up with the idea of your product?

Nine years ago, I was a heavy smoker.  I started running while still a smoker.  I would have a cigarette at the parking lot after each run; that was my "reward" for exercising.  Eventually I quit smoking and decided in 2006 that I would train for a marathon.  I joined a local running group called Seattle Fit who helped me train for two marathons and a number of half marathons.  After finishing the first, I was on a fitness high and searched for another challenge and that's when I found mountaineering. I've lived in the Pacific Northwest all my life and not until I became fit that I started to think about climbing Mt. Rainier, which I did in 2007.

When training for an endurance sports, there are so many components involved including having a great support system. I was able to run and climb because of the support from my husband, son, family and friends and I wanted a way to acknowledge them.  I started to research and look for greeting cards specfically for runners/walkers and other fitness enthusiasts and found two or three companies but their cards didn't appeal to me. Together with my business partner at the time, we started to think about the $7 billion greeting card business.  We figured if we were going to be a greeting card company, we needed to be a niche greeting card company and that's when we decided to form Banana Blossom Press.

Q.  What makes your product unique?
The fact that they are fitness related greeting cards makes them unique. Couple that with a simple, minamalist design brings them to another level.  Our cards are text-based only, focusing on the message. I also love that they have rounded corners, it completes the look of beautiful simplicity. If you were to walk in Oblation Papers & Press, a popular stationery store in Portland, OR, you would easily recognize BBP cards.  That's difficult to do with thousands of cards in the store.  If you don't stand out, your product will get lost in the crowd.

Q. What was your experience like in the actual design and manufacturing of your product?

The actual design has been less work that I had imagined.  I don't have a design background, but I do know what I like.  Our protype looks exactly what we have out in the market now.  We come out with new cards as we retire old ones and experiment with different fonts.
I've worked with several printers for the cards and designers for our t-shirt line since we've started, and all I can say is that I work better with some people than with others.  It's been a big learning curve with the printing business and the t-shirt industry is a completely different ball game.  I'm still learning.

Q. How do you balance launching a new business with family?

I'm so thankful for my husband who is a very kind and patient man. He has been a great sounding board for me since I am now without a business partner.  It also helps that my son is older and less dependent on me at this stage in his life which gives me a little more time to focus on the business.

Q. What did you do prior to launching your business?

I stayed home when my son was younger and started to work and still work full-time after he started Kindergarten.  My day is dedicated to my day job which makes me more focused when I work on Banana Blossom Press business during my off hours.  I like being in both worlds, they complement each other and the skills I learn in one world I certainly use in the other.

Q. What fact would readers find interesting about you?

Two things...first: I am a ham!! I have a great sense of humor and don't take things too seriously.  I love to laugh and I love to make people laugh.  Second: I love dessert.  I mean, I LOOOVEEEEE dessert.  Cakes, cookies, ice cream, you name it, I'm going for it.  Once in a while my husband and I do a bakery crawl where we visit 3 to 4 different bakeries on a Saturday :) Not good for someone who is currently not running. If you're ever in the Seattle area I highly recommend Old School Custard Ice Cream on Capitol Hill. Bliss.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur

The tell-it-like-it-is guide to cleaning up in business even if you are at the end of your roll!

When I was first introduced to Mike Michalowicz I knew he was an expert in providing resources and inspiration for entrepreneurs across the nation, but I didn’t realize how much I was truly going to enjoy and ultimately rely on his book, The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, during some the growing pains of my own business.   Throughout those challenging times I found myself being inspired through his hilarious stories of self awareness and historical accounts of true toilet paper entrepreneurialism.   It’s true….the longer you just sit on the pot and don’t be creative with the three sheets you’ve been given the less likely you are to achieve success.

The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur is a book filled with

countless life lessons and advice that anyone at whatever level of business experience would greatly benefit from reading.  I’ve read numerous business “self help” books and usually come away with MAYBE one piece of advice I can use if I’m lucky.  They’re usually filled with a bunch of fluff and the same information said over and over….just in a different way.  This book is the complete opposite and is why I read and reread many sections of the book and have filled it with sticky notes for future reference.

Mike is an invaluable resource and supporter of the women entrepreneurial movement.  I strongly advise all of you to hurry and purchase his book and follow all of the projects he is involved with.  You can buy a copy of his book at along with other valuable resources at  I’m grateful to have met Mike and thankful for his generosity to not only me, but also to my Womentorz ladies who he so graciously gave signed copies of his book to.  Thank you Mike!!!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pieces of Me by Cindy has a new design that's great for kids!

Pieces of Me by Cindy is proud to announce they are now making hearts out of Silicone for just $5 instead of $90. Preorder today and the
first batch will be done in about 4 weeks. Pink and Blue are available.
This 6 piece heart breaks up into 6 puzzle piece charms to be worn on achain, bracelet, key chain or attach to your... SillyBandz. Give a piece ofyour heart today! Preorder here

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Inventor Showcase: BabyAnywhere

I was so pleased when I received a call from Shlomit Haller, owner of the BabyAnywhere product line expressing her interest in becoming part of the Womentorz community.  Not only was I extremely impressed with the product, but their product development and personal story are very inspiring.  Plus, Shlomit lives in Seattle, so I knew I would like her!!!  I'm pleased to introduce BabyAnywhere to the Womentorz community! 

Q. How and why did you come up with the idea of your invention(s)?

Michal First, an Israeli mom of two girls and an artist, invented her first baby bath product when she had her first daughter, Tommy. Michal couldn’t find a product that will help her wash her newborn safely and at the same time provide a warm, soft and cradled environment for such a small baby. She created the first Batya: a soft infant bather. Tommy was so relaxed nestled and floating in the Batya, that bath time became the most pleasurable time in Michal’s family day. Friends and family wanted the Batya too, and soon it became a best seller in Israel and Europe, and the brand Pomfitis was born.

Q. You have several inventions.  Can you tell us more about all of your products?

When Tommy grew up and was too big for her Batya infant bather, Michal invented the Papillon- Baby Bath Ring. The Papillon was such a great alternative for the classic plastic baby bath seats, that it soon was known as “the Batya’s big brother” with buyers all over the world. The Shibaba toddler bath seat was invented when Tommy was 18 months old and became Tommy’s best bath friend. Watch the clips of how the products work at

Q.  What makes your product so unique to the baby product industry?
All three products, Batya (0-10 months old), Papillon (10-18 months) and Shibaba (18 months – 3 years +) are made of soft fabric and they float. This is so unique and make a great alternative to cold and firm baby bath plastic seats and baths. The fact that they float enable baby to develop his sense of movement, balance and independence and at the same time hug and safely secure the baby. There are no other products in the American market that has those qualities!

Q. How does your product keep babies safe?

All three products have special ergonomic shape and unique sewing that makes baby safe in the water. They are safe to parents too: no more holding your slippery baby in one hand and wash him with the other! More specifically for each product: The Batya adjusts itself to baby’s shape and nestles infant’s body while supporting his head safely out of the water.

The Papillon is even safer than a plastic baby seat since it supports baby that tries to stand up and fall back to the water. A plastic seat doesn’t support a baby that stands up in it.  Older babies, 18 months and up, like to ride on the Shibaba instead of floating around in the tub with no support.

Q. What was your experience like in the actual design and manufacturing of your product(s)?

Shlomit Haller, (myself), a mother of 2 girls, an online entrepreneur and the owner of based in Seattle,  was using the Papillon for my 2nd baby and fell in love with the product. I was sorry I didn’t know of Pomfitis’s products with my first daughter. I contacted Michal and started to import the Batya, Papillon and Shibaba to the USA and sell them online through and soon it became an online great success. Michal and I decided to cooperate and now I am the marketing manager of the brand- Pomfitis. The orders for these unique three bath products are growing and expending around the world.

Q. How do you balance running a business with family?

Raising a family and a business is not easy BUT I L-O-V-E doing both! While my kids are at school, I am working as Pomfitis’s marketing manager AND also: cooking, doing the laundry, doing the shopping… I try to finish all my duties before I pick up my girls from school so I can be with them in the afternoon. Since Pomfitis has clients around the world with different time zones, sometimes I have phone conversations after I put the girls to sleep.

Q. What fact would readers find interesting about you?

Born and raised in Israel, I was obliged to serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. I took it far and volunteered to a top secret unit. I got to demonstrate for the commander-in-chief when he was visiting the unit!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

It's a Small Online Community After All

Since starting Womentorz I have been amazing at how small the online community is within the women entrepreneur and inventor world.  It seems the more people you meet the more everyone is somehow connected.  There is definitely a very clear degree of separation between all of us.  Here’s a picture after throwing an Twitter Party where Kleen Slate was one of the prizes given away.  It shows how the partnering of two companies online can help promote both entities.

I’ve found that networking is one of the most important things you can do for your business and for the success of your product.  I never knew how true it is, but in many cases your success is all about who you know…..and who that person knows…..and so on.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on the phone with someone I just met and we can keep going back and forth with all of the people we mutually know and groups we have in common.

This also holds true with keeping the peace with everyone in the online community.  As many of you know, email and tweets can come across wrong.  If you think you’ve offended someone it’s important to apologize and not burn a bridge.  Even though the people you meet online are all across the country and sometimes in other countries, the Internet brings them right into your room. 

Friday, May 7, 2010

Huggies Mom Inspired Grant Program - Receive Up To $15,000 To Get Your Invention to Market

The Huggies® brand introduces its MomInspired™ Grant Program, an exciting new product innovation generating concept providing inventive moms with the seed capital they need to help transform viable product ideas into successful new businesses. The program will award up to $15,000 per grant to help fund business startups based on innovative baby or child care products inspired by motherhood.

This grant program presents a new open innovation path for the Huggies® brand as well as Kimberly-Clark Corporation. In 2010, the Huggies® brand will invest $250,000 in these mom experts as a different way to capture, support and potentially bring to market real-world solutions for parents.

In order to be considered for a grant, inventive moms must submit a unique baby or child care product idea that addresses an unmet parenting need for the chance to receive seed money as well as expert business resources from one of the world’s most trusted baby and child care brands among moms.

Applicants must be: 
  • Women 21 years of age or older
  • Currently reside in the United States 
  • Are not employees, or related to employees of Kimberly-Clark Corporation or the Huggies® brand 
  • Submit original, innovative and viable business/product ideas for pre-natal care up to 6 years of age, designed to help make life easier for parents so they can better enjoy everyday moments with their little ones. 
  • Ideas do not have to be diaper or hygiene-related.

Dates & Deadlines
Moms have from April 28 to June 9 to submit their ideas online. Winning grants will be awarded by late summer.

Visit for more information and the full application.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Women Invent Best Gifts for Mother's Day

Sure, mom appreciates cards and flowers. But we also know that loving husbands and children everywhere will be looking for that extra special gift to surprise mom. Not to worry, Womentorz has got you covered with unique and innovative ideas sure to wow the special lady in your life!  Here are some options available on the site by our talented inventors:

Open Stems Dangle-link Earrings
A fabulous addition to your wife or mom's earring collection! This is the invented alternative to the hook earring that not everyone can wear.  Easily interchange the dangle component by simply linking dangles or charms over the open end of the Open Stems dangle•link.

Cutie Pa Tutus Super Mom Tee
Super Mom Tee - $28 Let Mom know she's SUPER in every way with our "blinged out" ladies’ SuperMom tee!!! Short sleeved, crew neck tee is pre-shrunk, 100% combed ringspun cotton. Tee has a contoured fit for a feminine--not boxy--look.

Esse Reusable Bags

Give the gift of fashion, functionality, organization, convenience and the knowledge that you're making the Earth a greener place.  Esse Reusable Bags makes grocery shopping fun for your wife or mother.
Give The Gift of Fitness

Banana Blossoms Press makes high-end, stylish greeting cards customized for any occasion, but all having a message of fitness and health for the "average" person to help motivate and inspire.  They also carry amazing T-shirts for adults and children.

Mommy Mittens is a fun gift to give to the woman who loves to jog with her little one and wants to keep her hands warm.   Mommy Mitten is a stylish hand warmer (aka: mitten) that easily secures around the handle bar of your baby stroller.  It will keep your hands protected from the elements without having to deal with clumsy easy to lose gloves or mittens.

Pieces of Me
Why not give a piece of your heart??? What a great way to show her how much you love her so she can show others her love!!! Pieces of me is on SALE, $40 OFF the original price of $90, Total cost of just $50 for all 6 pieces, plus 6 jumprings, 6 boxes, and 6 explanation cards!!!

Lizzie Lou Shoes

Every woman loves bling, bling on her feet.  Lizzie Lou Shoes are the perfect gift when presenting a wonderful getaway for a pedicure.  These fashionable shoes are incredibly comfortable and are embellished with genuine crystals

Suitable Pajamas
Give the gift and comfort and the ultimate in convenience.  Now women have the ultimate outfit: loungewear good for anywhere!  At home, on a plane, carpooling, answering the door, dashing down to the hotel lobby, running errands, overnight group functions, staying overnight at your mother-in-law’s. . . One simple suit to be practical, presentable, sophisticated.  And YES! you can even sleep in it.

Breast Chek Kit

The Breast Chek Kit is one of the most important gifts you can give.  The Breast Chek Kit is a 4 piece self breast examination kit consisting of the "Patented" Breast Chek Shirt a unique reusable knit spandex & nylon shirt with a superb fit for any breast size from an A cup to KK cup and above. A fabric maker, an annual calendar and instruction card are also included.

Bra Barrette
The Bra Barrette is a practical, comfortable, beautiful solution to stop straps from slipping off shoulders.  No woman (especially a busy mom!) has time to deal with her straps slipping off her shoulder all day.