Marilyn Collins and Michelle Logan share a story: They both had double mastectomies and struggled to recover, due to the lack of sleep after surgery. If lack of sleep is consistent and unrelenting as time goes on, then it may cause sleep disorder issues which might mean that a sleep study will be needed to determine how bad it is and what can be done for treatment.
“Undergoing surgery is incredibly demanding on your body. What you need most to get back on your feet is sleep-sweet, solid sleep,” explains Collins. “But if you are a stomach or side sleeper like Michelle and I, you simply can’t get comfortable. With stitches, drains, and bandages, every turn in bed hurts.”
Based on their own experiences, the idea for the TaTaTopper was born. Laying on top of your bed, the 4-inch-thick topper has an adjustable cutout area for a woman’s breast so she can lie on her stomach or side without anything touching the sensitive areas. The Richmond-based entrepreneurs soon realized that their product would also offer comfort to nursing moms and women with other breast-related issues that prevented them from sleeping on their stomachs and sides. Of course, having the right mattress underneath the topper is also super-important to ensuring a comfortable night’s sleep, so people may also wish to use resources like this post about the best mattress in Australia over on Sleep Education to help them choose a new one for their bed, should they wish to replace their current one. Once they have their perfect mattress, this is where the TaTaTopper then comes in.
“One of the hardest parts is to explain the product to men. They all have a mother, sister, wife, or girlfriend, but unless you have experienced the exhaustion from sleep deprivation after surgery, it is hard to understand what relief and comfort the TaTaTopper brings,” says Logan. “We told doctors and nurses about the topper, but so far women who have used it have been our biggest advocates. The toppers are usually purchased as a gift for a friend’s baby shower or for someone recovering from surgery. We know there is little you can do to help someone who is sick – comfort and rest is our gift.”
The TaTaTopper is produced, packaged, and distributed in Virginia. That wasn’t an easy decision because, as a startup, they had to minimize their costs. But they wanted the toppers to be made locally. Collins explains: “We never thought of ourselves as entrepreneurs. In the fall of 2014 we participated in StartUP Next – a program run by Lighthouse Labs – and learned a lot about what it means to set up a business. Most importantly, though, we met experienced mentors who advised us along the way. The support for us has been great. While trying to generate revenue, we also had a keen eye on creating social value and making the product affordable for those who need it. Balancing two bottom lines – economic and social – can be a challenge so early in the game.”
But that didn’t stop Collins and Logan. In late November 2014 they launched an Indiegogo campaign and raised $20,000 within three weeks. They moved on to startup competitions such as Richmond’s Innovation in Entrepreneurship competition and Rise of the Rest with Steve Case. Most recently, the team behind TaTaTopper successfully pitched their venture in front of Amazon Launchpad in Atlanta, Georgia. The partnership with Amazon Launchpad, which champions cutting-edge products from startups, will help boost TaTaTopper’s visibility and drive its expansion to a national level.
Meanwhile, the founders are staying busy: “We have redesigned our packaging and are already planning a new line of products for pregnant women,” says Collins. “This last year has been an incredible journey and we feel that with all the local support we have received, e are ready to grow our business and take it to the next level.”