BORN deaf, Jennifer Holland wore hearing aids until, aged three, her hearing inexplicably returned.
‘‘No one knows why it happened, back then the research wasn’t as advanced … but it was like a light switched on,’’ says the Dudley mum of four.
Ms Holland’s parents have health sector backgrounds and she’s always had a fascination with all things medical.
But it was a trip to the doctor’s surgery with her first child in December, 2009, where she had the ‘‘light bulb moment’’ that now looks set to pay big dividends.
Within weeks the financial accountant was designing the first prototype for what would become the now trademarked Throat Scope, an illuminated tongue depressant device that takes the heartache out of oral cavity examinations for doctors and kids and parents.
The road to developing the Throat Scope has been a relatively long one thanks to the demands of Jennifer and husband Andrew’s children, aged 1, 3, 5 and 6.
But the journey went something like this.
In 2010, Jennifer kept tinkering on a prototype, came up with a brand name, trademarked it and put down a provisional patent, then received mentoring from the bio medical board in Queensland, where her family was living at the time.
A year later she won $50,000 in the State government’s ‘‘What’s Your Big Idea Queensland’’ grants scheme, allowing her to spend another year fine-tuning the prototype, among other things.
In 2012 she had almost sealed a deal with a US firm to sell Throat Scope but it collapsed amid financial crisis.
Undeterred and by now accustomed to following nightly nursing sessions with overseas phone calls, Jennifer put an ad in a newspaper to determine other potential uses for the Throat Scope beyond the doctor’s surgery.
‘‘I discovered interest from vets, who needed a different sized blade, or tongue compressor, so that was good,’’ she says.
Her successful audition for Channel 10’s entrepreneur program Shark Tank has now taken her start-up to the next level.
While some of the expert panel of ‘‘sharks’’ didn’t bite at her pitch, tech start-up multi-millionaire Steve Baxter made a $76,000 investment offer for a 30 per cent stake, plus a 5 per cent royalties of sales up to the investment amount.
‘‘It was an amazing experience and off the back of it I’ve had interest from the UK, US and Europe,’’ says Jennifer.
‘‘We’ve also discovered other markets, with the military, aged care, vets and dentists coming forward.’’
Jennifer says Baxter remains continually involved as a mentor and the pair quickly realised to give Throat Scope the best possible chance of success, they needed further support from professionals with strong medical device industry experience.
They’ve partnered with several specialised industry consultants to drive commercialisation and Throat Scope is currently on the hunt for further capital for intellectual property and production purposes.
‘‘This is a great chance for investors to get on board an imminently international successful product in the medical device industry at ground level, ’’ says Jennifer.
With Baxter linking her to a new manufacturer based in Sydney but with production facilities in China, she’s confident she’ll be able to trim costs on the final prototype.
Chinese New Year celebrations last month delayed her production schedule so she now plans to launch mid-year.
‘‘I am hoping 2015 is the Year of the Throat Scope,’’ she says, tongue in cheek.
With her eldest two children at school and her third entering pre-school, she expects to get a lot done on the two days of the week she has ‘‘only’’ one child on her hands.
‘‘Being a mumpretreneur is not for the faint hearted,’’ she says.
‘‘The biggest challenge is constantly changing from mum mode to business mode.
‘‘I remember I sent a business email once signed with a kiss, nothing was ever mentioned but I’m sure the receiving party had a good laugh.’’
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