Mark: Welcome to Family First: The Wild World of Marketing to Parents. My name is Mark Giovino, CEO and founder at the Allionce Group.
I’d like to welcome Tiffany Krumins to this episode of Family First. There are so many ways to describe or reflect on Tiffany’s journey. I’ll do my best to offer a few. Entrepreneur, inventor an inspiration. Shark Tank alum, including appearing on the first ever episode. A podcast host motivational speaker. Appearances on Dr. Oz and The Today Show among others. In case this all seems easy for her, she’s also a mother of four, including a new little one. Tiffany thanks so much for joining me!
Tiffany: Thank you for having me. We were just saying off the air that we are living up to the name of your show because my one year old is here with me running around while I record, so you might hear me winded or chasing after him or one of his toys.
Tiffany: Yeah. What if he says his first word on the show? Right.
Tiffany: Yes, so I have been married for almost 19 years this month. My husband is from Latvia, which is an eastern European country, and we have four kids, so one of them is one, four, eight and 14. So they’re kind of spread out. And we’ll talk probably about this later, but because I had a cancer diagnosis between the first two and that kind of set the precedence of when we had them and it worked out quite well for us.
Tiffany: You know, I used to apologize. Years ago when I first got started in this, I was already very insecure about myself as a business person. I suffered with a lot of imposter syndrome because I did go on that pilot episode. Because I was just kind of thrust into the spotlight and had all of this attention on my product. I’ve come to a place in my life where I’m okay with what my family is, and that it does truly, in fact come first for me. And I’m very fortunate to be in a position where I can do that. I know that there’s people who can’t, if they’re in a certain role with certain hours or bosses that don’t allow that, it can be difficult. But as an entrepreneur, I love the fact that I can really set the rules myself and not have to apologize for it.
Tiffany: It was Ava, yes. On the pilot episode, a lot of people, if they didn’t see the episode, they think that that invention was for my children. I actually did not have kids when I invented that product. I worked as a caregiver for children with special needs, and they had an extremely hard time with medication.
Specifically one little boy named Gibby, who is still like family to me. And I went home one night and I had kind of a light bulb moment of, you know, I knew what worked for him with his other anxieties. And so I thought, why can’t we combine an animal, a friendly animal face with medicine time? So he’s not quite so scared.
And so I literally made the first prototype out of sponges fabric and the insides of a of a recordable greeting. And I took it to work the next day to try to help him. This was not, oh, this will be a product on Shark Tank. Didn’t even exist at the time, and so I took it to work and it changed his life.
It went from literally his parents and I having to restrain him just for simple medications like Tylenol to me, just saying, Hey, this is, I think I called it Emmy at the time, Emmy Elephant. She’s gonna give you your medicine. He was like, okay. Because he associated that dropper with. A fearful experience, but not this little talking elephant with my voice on it.
And so it wasn’t until a few months later that I told my friend about the success with that. And it was kind of this funny thing between myself and his family where she sent me a casting notice that said, do you have the next million dollar idea, but you don’t know how to fund it or, you know, bring it to market.
And I was like, I wonder if I do, you know, does this work so well for him? I know it would work so well for all, so many children I’ve worked with, not just children with special needs, but typical children. And so I submitted and was on the pilot episode.
Tiffany: Yes. Literally in this case, right? And that I just followed my heart. I think that’s something I’ve held onto over the last 14 years, is that that moment of truly loving him and going above and beyond for him, look what it did to my life. It’s just such a testament to where when you love on someone with everything you have and you give your all like that, sometimes it comes back a thousand fold when you least expect it to.
Tiffany: I mean, okay, so I guess I have two answers for that. In a grand scheme of God’s plan type of thing, yes I do. I think that was blessed because of how it started. But from a product development marketing standpoint, I can say that I think it’s more challenging for people that have those niche ideas that are fixing a problem and oftentimes they don’t survive.
I think Shark Tank is the reason mine did and was successful. A great example is a nurse friend of mine. I know a pediatric nurse who changed and worked with children’s feeding tubes every single day, and she’d have to lift their clothes up, they’d get caught on the feeding tubes, they’d pull things out, they would get things infected. She created a product called Tube Zs, and it’s basically a onesie, a body suit that opens up for the feeding tube. And so it’s got a PO inside it that gets bodily fluids and all sorts of stuff. And it’s just a tiny niche market of kids. Not that there’s not millions of kids with feeding tubes, but that’s still a very small market compared to the grand scheme of the the Snuggies of the world or you know, those types of products.
I guess it can be twofold. It can be more fulfilling and wonderful for the inventor, but it can be very challenging from a business standpoint.
Tiffany: So yeah, it does not matter what season or episode you were on, it takes a lot of prep, a lot of practicing your pitch, making sure you have your pitch down and your numbers down. What was to worked to my advantage is that I was on the pilot episode, so I had no idea what they were gonna ask.
I had no idea what to expect. I went in very naive and I literally just spoke from my heart and shared my little five clay homemade prototypes. It’s changed a lot now, so Barbara and I did due diligence at the time that was very quick. Obviously all the legalities happened, but it was very quick because I was one of her first inventions, first products that she invested in.
She was a real estate mogul before that, and so she was kind of just getting into products on that first episode before it had a name or anything. Now the process can go, I mean, there’s entrepreneurs that go on and pitch, and a year later they’re still in due diligence. because you’re talking about sharks that have hundreds of investments, not just in, you know, Shark Tank companies, but other companies. So yeah, I think’s quite different for people.
Tiffany: And a lot of people assume that that is the show. It upsets me because I’ve been a part of the show since day one and I’ve seen the impact it can have on people’s lives, and people will oftentimes assume that the show has taken advantage or they’ve lied or whatever.
When they do that handshake on tv, that is as real as it gets. They know what they know in that. Now, if they go afterwards and they say, you know, show us your numbers. Give us your taxes from last year and they find out that things are much different than what the person pitched, then of course it falls through in due diligence and it doesn’t happen. So there could be a whole list of reasons why something doesn’t come to fruition after.
Tiffany: I don’t watch as often cuz I obviously have four kids that have multiple businesses run. But Sure. I love the show. I mean, I just saw Mindy of casting a few days ago at that event. She was there. I made a joke to two gentlemen that were pitching to us. I said, oh, I would love to see you guys on Shark Tank. And I said, where’s Mindy when you need her? And she shouted out from the crowd, I’m right here, Tiffany.
So she was at the show and I had no idea, she’s the head of casting for the show and has been for all of these years. So I love them. I love what they’ve done for so many small businesses and entrepreneurs like myself. So I just try to support ’em every chance I get.
Tiffany: Yeah, for my first product, and it’s happening with this one now with my newest brand, but for my first product, it was stuff like, I would be in the thick of my own cancer battle at the time, and I would get an email from a mom that said my little one just had a liver transplant, which for me hits very close to home. That was something that happened in my own family and this medication or Ava was the only way that we were able to get her to take her, you know, 15 medications a day because they have to take it, anti-rejection meds and all of these different things. And so those were kind of my motivation at that time.
It was like, okay, even if I’m helping one 10th of the kids cuz the rest are okay with medicine. The fact that I’m helping the ones that need it the most and are really struggling, that was all the motivation I needed. Same with my new product. I’ve received incredible reviews from people and they’re having the same response that I had, so it makes me very happy to get those.
Tiffany: Yes, I have actually. So my first product, the biggest challenge was that niche market I told you about, combined with the much smaller margins on that product. So the product sold for anywhere from 10 to $12. If I made it for, let’s say two $53, but I sold it to a retailer for five, you do the math, there is not much to squeeze out of it for marketing and for all of the other many things your company needs. And so they, and for it to be such a niche market, it just, it was extremely challenging.
Again, Shark Tank was the reason it got seen by so many people, thankfully. So that helped. But what happened with this new company is I didn’t go out to pursue this new company. It found me through my own knowledge of probiotics and my own experience from ideation treatments and, it. After learning about the margins on this product, after seeing the market on this product that I went, okay, you know, this is something I’m not only passionate about, I know is fantastic and I can do better, and I can do here in my home state, but it also has those two things that my first brand was missing.
Tiffany: Absolutely. So I went on Shark Tank with Ava. I came home, started to basically develop Ava the Elephant. Three months after the show I was diagnosed with cancer. I started taking for three years, I took a radiation that was so strong, I would, it was ingested, so I had to eat it, and it was so strong I’d have to go and be isolated from anything living for seven days at a time. So, as you can imagine, that, you know, destroyed my digestion.
And I started looking for ways to improve my digestion, help my stomach, and help my, help me feel better. And so I learned about pre and probiotics. Cancer kind of taught me that to be a little more, to dig more and learn more. And so I did that with them and I found a specific strain that worked extremely well for me and basically healed my gut.
And it was Bacillus Subtilis, which is our strain. But what I didn’t love, even after years of taking my now competitor’s product was the delivery method. So I had a a powder, basically the one I found that worked the best was this chalky powder that I’d mix into milk. I’d mix it up real quick and then I’d chug it down and hope to get all of it. And I’d forget to take it some mornings cause I was in a hurry. And I just didn’t love it. I didn’t like chewy or any of that stuff. So, knowing what I knew about product development, I thought, you know, I wanna look into making my own version of this. And so I found a factory here in Georgia which made me very happy to make something in the States, more or less in my own state.
And we started development about two and a half years ago, launched a year ago. And our packaging is eco-friendly made here in Georgia as well. And it’s just something I’m extremely proud of. And so, I mean, I, again, now this time on my down. I’ll receive an email from a fellow cancer survivor that says, you know, your product has helped me tremendously. Thank you. But mainly it’s just everybody that needs better gut health is taking it daily and feeling better, so that makes me extremely happy.
Tiffany: Between my first and second.
Tiffany: I learned that from my Mom. I get that from my Mom. She was a fighter until her very last breath. She had autoimmune liver disease that ended up taking her life a few years ago, and she was literally in her hospital bed finishing up her fourth medical degree that she started at 50 years old.
So within 13 years she had four degrees and was trying to finish that last one when we lost her. So, I get that strength from her and learn that from her. And I think I have it in my DNA like you said, to keep going, but I don’t wanna make it sound like I was in the thick of my cancer diagnosis and went right into this new brand. There was definitely a time there where I ran Ava for seven years, and when Ava was acquired, I took a pause. I mean, I wasn’t thinking about any business. It was time to breathe again. I wanted to get back to working with individuals with special needs and I did that.
And then like I said, I started wondering, could I do a better version of this? I was taking this product every day. And then what I really saw with this new brand is this passion I have to help people with disabilities could be, could come through this company. I would be able to hire individuals cause I have these better margins and I have a bigger potential for a bigger company that I could eventually have a team full of young adults with disabilities. And now I do, I have an employee on my team with autism and I hope to have many, many more.
Tiffany: You know, but you see that, that thing you just mentioned, that’s what cancer gave me. That it makes me wanna cry just talking about it. But that is the beautiful gift cancer gave me all 12 years ago. It reminded me that all of this can go. How it doesn’t matter how exciting it is to go film Shark Tank or if you sell millions worth of a product, doesn’t matter. These babies, my family, all of that is what really what I’m gonna remember at the end of my life, whenever that is. And so, yeah, I want ’em there. I wanna take ’em on these, I want ’em to be, you know, 20 something years old, 30 years old, and say, I remember I went here with you. So, yeah, that was just a, that’s just a perspective thing. People who have survived cancer have, and I’m very grateful for that.
Tiffany: There are a lot of people that think too, and I’ve had to get past that, that you’re using it for publicity or you’re using it in some way. And I’m like, how am I using it? It was part of my story and my struggle and it, and it has helped so many people to share it, so I’m okay with them thinking that that’s what they think. I, I do it for likes or clicks or whatever. That’s up to them. But yeah, there’s some people that feel scared to share because of that. But like you said, I’ve shared mental health challenges of, you know, I fought a major depression a few years ago that almost took my life, and I have to share that with people because when I do, I’ve shared it on LinkedIn before, I have had multiple men specifically, and we’re talking appropriate messages. I’m like some of them on LinkedIn , but reach out with very serious messages for me about, I have been facing this, I haven’t even talked to my wife about it. It’s been horrific and you sharing has made me want to talk to her and they’ve checked back in and like crazy stuff has happened because I’ve shared that. So how could I not just be transparent about that? I don’t care. For me it’s like therapy
Tiffany: What’s really ironic about that is my mother was very, very private. So when she was waiting on her liver transplant, she was even funny about us sharing at the time we shared a GoFundMe because it’s very expensive when you do get your transplant to basically keep your body from rejecting it. And so we had shared one of the friends and family and she was like just didn’t wanna share any part of her journey with anybody, and I’m the exact opposite. So I definitely get that from my dad, who is my business partner in this company. We’re both open books. We tell everything to everybody everything. I think I just get that personality trait from him.
Tiffany: I see the shift, but sadly the reaction I see from some people is, I’ve just posted about this the other day. Somebody I knew on LinkedIn was sharing his horrific battle with stage four brain cancer. And there were actual comments on there from people talking about, you know, people sharing their quote unquote SOB story and, and things like that. So I think it, it’s better in some ways because people are more open and it’s way worse than others because you have these keyboard warriors who will get on and say just horrific things to people they should never say, and it’s very obvious.
Those people have never battled that kind of battle, or they would never say such a thing, you know? So I guess it could go both ways. I’m just gonna keep doing it my way for now.
Tiffany: One funny story that I always think of is the way, or it happens all the time, it’s not really one story, but my kids have grown up around this so they know all these terms. My older two know so much about product development that they’ll literally walk in a store and my team will pick up something and talk about the margins on it.
Oh, that, why is this $14 is probably the only cost, you know this to make and da, da da. So I love seeing what they’re soaking up about different things. But then you get like my four year old who has no clue what I do, does not care. I just like seeing their response to me being a business owner, both good, bad, and ugly. Like the the stressful moments too, because they know I work really hard for them. So unlike someone who’s working a nine to five where you don’t really get to experience that, they don’t get to see what you do. My kids have watched every step of it, especially now because they’re halfway homeschooled.
So they go to school two days a week and they’re home to others, and so they’re a big part of what I do. They go to trade shows. They help pack samples. , they do all of this because I, I always tell ’em, we are building a company, not just me, we are as a family, n
Tiffany: Well, it’s a hybrid, so it’s, it’s a fantastic hybrid system where they go into exceptional students on Tuesday and Wednesday. They learn all of their lessons there as far as you know, what the lesson actually is, and then they, uh, come home and they have, yeah, homeschool work on some of those other days. But I love it because it can. You know, it conflicts with my schedule. I can take ’em to the aquarium for a real day of learn, you know, I can on the road learning. And so it’s, it’s kind of the best of both worlds for me and my schedule.
Tiffany: We get in nature as much as we can. So we live in a beautiful community here in North Georgia called Big Canoe and it’s an 8,000 acre neighborhood basically with very few homes, but it’s 8,000 acres. So as you can imagine, it’s like a national park basically. And we have bears in our yard and eagles in our lake, and it’s just gorgeous.
We can hike down to waterfalls so that’s what we do every single chance we, and when we’re done with work, my husband and I, we get outside with our kids and that’s been their life, their whole, whole life. We go paddleboard or we hike or go swim. That’s pretty much what what makes all of us the happiest is being outside and and we’re finally at a point now where the weather’s turning a little bit.
Tiffany: Andre says, bye. Did you hear him? He’s like, bye. Really good interview, Andre.
Tiffany: I did too. Appreciate it. Thank you.