Last month, our CEO, Kent Lapp, was a guest on the EntreLeadership Podcast. Wanting to do something really fun and special on the podcast, Kent decided to hold a contest with the prize being a 12x16 Woodtex Workshop! With 85 entries submitted and tons of inspiring stories about people embracing the EntreLeadership mentality in their lives and businesses, it wasn’t easy narrowing the entries down to just one.
After careful consideration, Kent chose Karen Moore from Stenardsville, Virginia as the contest winner.
Karen didn’t initially set out to be an entrepreneur. As a stay at home mom for over 20 years, Karen always felt a sort of restlessness, knowing that she would one day do something “BIG”. Not sure at the time what that “BIG” thing was, Karen patiently waited for God’s plan to reveal itself. Although her Biology degree, research experience, and her experience working in the office of a construction company may have contributed to her business success, it wasn’t until she set out to solve a new problem in her life, that her entrepreneurial spirit really began to shine.
After being diagnosed with sleep apnea in 2004, Karen started using a CPAP machine–a special machine, worn at night, to help keep oxygen flowing. She quickly found that there were no products available to make the CPAP mask more comfortable… so she used her sewing skills to make one for herself.
Read Karen's inspiring start-up story that she submitted as her contest entry:
This story began many years before the business began. I actually did not know I would start a business. I was a stay-at-home mom of 2 wonderful kids. I loved being a full-time mom, but I felt inside of me a stirring of something that I did not quite understand. I told my husband "I feel like there are a bunch of horses trying to run forward and I am holding them back" I felt it meant that when my kids were grown, there was a plan for my future that was going to be BIG. I had no idea what it would be, but I knew it was going to be BIG!!
[In] 2004 I was struggling with some brain fog. I almost pulled a fish in a cup out of a wall display not realizing that it would collapse the entire display at a pet store. What was wrong with my brain that I did not stop myself? That was the last straw. I was used to thinking pretty clearly, and I knew something was wrong. I went to the doctor. A sleep study later, I was diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea. The treatment Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) would improve my brain, he said. I would wear a mask on my face to blow air into my nose whenever I slept, wherever I slept for the rest of my life! WOW, that was heavy for a foggy brained person dealing with menopause such as I was.
Add to this, the mask was uncomfortable, and left marks on my face every morning. Even though I am not a vain person, I did not necessarily want people wondering about these lines on my face. Because I have sewn as long as I can remember, I designed and sewed a pad for the straps of the mask headgear. It solved my problem. Fast forward 8 months, I am now successfully using my mask every night and my brain has returned.
I thought, "I wonder if there are other people who struggle with the comfort and have marks left from the sleep apnea masks on their faces". I bet I could help a few people with that. I figured I would help about 100 people maybe. I made up 25 very unattractive, but functional pairs of pads and took them to our very small town one afternoon and just talked with people about sleep apnea. I sold 5 pair that afternoon without trying. Hmmm. I looked online to see what was already on the market, and lo and behold, there was not a thing being made to make the mask more comfortable. Was I the first person to think of this and act on it? That doesn't happen to people like me. I felt as if God Himself touched me on the shoulder and said "This IS your BIG thing". I was flabbergasted!
"I figured I would help about 100 people maybe."
This was IT! I was going to start a business to help people with their sleep apnea treatment. Never mind that I had no idea about business, or managing production, or making a website, or filing a patent, or hiring help or managing a team. I KNEW in an instance that this is what I was suppose to do. It matched so many of my passions and my talents. The timing could not have been more perfect.
With my husband's blessing, I took $1000 from our checking account and bought some GOOD fabric for the product. I started all by myself, and sewed each one I sold. I sold on Ebay to start with. I tried calling the sleep doctors and the equipment providers, but they did not see the need. I knew the patients needed this as I had, but I had to learn how to get the word out. I found a forum online that was developed for supporting people who have sleep apnea. I offered some free samples to some of the members in return for honest feedback to help me improve the product. They liked my product. I was never in it to make a lot of money. I wanted to help people sleep better. One thing let to another and another and another.
"I was never in it to make a lot of money. I wanted to help people sleep better."
Now, 12 years and 26,000 website orders later, we are ready to move from our humble beginnings over our garage to a new location. We also now have 5 employees and 4 sewing ladies that sew most of what we sell. We are helping people sleep with their masks more comfortably all over the world, and I still love what I do. I have grown so much as a business person and as a leader. My brain is back, thank God! We have purchased the new location and are making it ready for the move later this spring. We will need to store our rolls of fabric (we now buy fabric in bulk) and our racks with our cut pieces for production. [PAD A CHEECK, LLC] makes and sells over 60 different products. If you would like to see some of our products, please feel free to check our website padacheek.com.
What makes Karen's story inspiring is that she didn't stop at simply solving her own problem. She wanted to solve the problem for others as well. The timing was right, an opportunity was knocking, and Karen took a leap of faith that this bright idea of hers was the “BIG” thing she was meant to do. To Karen, success is in following God’s plan, working with her husband every day, and she gets to help people sleep better. Karen explains it best: "That is a win, win, win for me."
We received entry after entry of similar stories. Stories full of encouragement, hope, grit, and grind. They are stories of fighters and go-getters! Although we could only choose one winner, we are are enormosly grateful for the inspiring stories that were shared with us. Stay tuned to the Woodtex Facebook page for updates on the delivery of Karen's structure!
UPDATE: Karen got the chance to share her story with Ken Coleman on the EntreLeadership Podcast which aired on 4/11/16: Click here to listen to this incredible entrepreneurial story!