When Rosanne Clementi couldn't find the niche product she wanted, she built it on her own. Translating that to a successful business is the hard part.
In 2014, after she won a Kindle in a raffle, Rosanne Clementi found herself suddenly addicted to tablets. But there was one problem: It was difficult for her to hold due to arthritis in both her thumbs. “I fidgeted a lot and couldn't get comfortable,” Clementi says. “I wanted to put handles on this device.”
That's when the 63-year-old decided to dive into product development and use her retirement money to create a product that adds handles to any tablet device. She calls it the Pad Go Round.
Entering entrepreneurship: The Pad Go Round isn't Clementi's first entrepreneurial venture. She started an environmental consulting firm in 1995 with a business partner. After they parted ways, she reopened her own firm in 2009, which still pays the bills today.
Development dive: Clementi created prototypes via a 3-D printer. But when she realized that after carrying around for a while the handles would become brittle and break, she decided to manufacture the real product. She partnered with a local firm that helped refine the design and manufacture in China. “I jumped in the frigid ice cold water,” Clementi says, and ordered the minimum 1,000 units. She now owns 950 in each of the Pad Go Round's two sizes.
Sales drip: Right now sales are trickling in from Amazon, and Clementi receives a few orders on her Shopify website. She's looking forward to a test run through Starcrest, in a catalog specifically targeted to people with limited use of their hands looking for assisted devices.
Push on: Though Clementi admits she hasn't found major success yet, she's going to keep trying. She plans to attend a couple of national conventions this year for occupational therapists and human resources directors. “It's a product people wouldn't know they would want until they actually see it and touch it,” she says.
On her own: Her biggest fear is not getting enough money to keep the doors open. She's already invested more than six figures in the business. “The first three years are toughest,” she says.
Trust your gut: The most expensive option is not always the best option, and Clementi says she learned that the hard way, hiring a big firm to build her website. “You don't need to hire a $20,000 firm,” she says, “when you can hire someone for $5,000.” Though she asked for a Wordpress site, they persuaded her to do something else. “It forced me to stay with them to maintain it,” Clementi says.
Find an audience: Clementi developed the product to be more ergonomic for day-to-day use, but she has found fans in other areas. For example, a boat tour company near the Tampa Convention Center started using the Pad Go Round for easy handoff when registering customers.
That's how they do it: “I read Inc. magazine cover to cover,” Clementi says. She loves reading how different entrepreneurs were able to get to where they are today. Even entrepreneurs in different industries share valuable insight, she says.
Stay strong: “I admire anyone or any business that looks to stay relevant and make improvements and not be static,” Clementi says. “I'm fascinated by what allows them to be successful and what causes them to go out of business.”
Risk taker: One of Clementi's mottos is, “You can't win the lottery unless you buy a ticket.” She believes that as an entrepreneur, you have to be willing to take a risk. “You choose if you want to sit behind a desk for someone else or sit behind the desk that you own,” Clementi says.
AT A GLANCE
Entrepreneur: Rosanne Clementi
Company: Ruddy Turnstone Product Development, Tampa
Other Company: Clementi Environmental Consulting
Year founded: 2014
Revenue: Declined to disclose