MomPrenuer Interview: Melissa Desrochers Pick-Ease – I remember when the kids were younger, it was such a fight to get them to eat anything. My daughter was really bad at first, she’s getting a lot better but can still see some improvement. My son on the other hand.. still an extremely picky eater. It would (and still does) drive me crazy when he would automatically refuse to eat something because he didn’t like the color or saw one little tiny piece of corn in the dish.
That’s where I wish I would have known about a company called Pick-Ease which was created by Melissa Desrochers.
I am so excited I had a chance to interview Melissa Desrochers, creator of Pick-Ease – a utensil make specifically for picky eaters.
MomPrenuer: Melissa Desrochers
MomPrenuer Interview: Melissa Desrochers Pick-Ease
Please tell us about Pick-Ease.
Pick-Ease is a utensil specially designed for children who are picky eaters says Melissa Desrochers. It is the easy, safe way for children to enjoy eating. All kinds of foods work with Pick-Ease including: sandwiches, vegetables, meats, cheeses, and fruits. Pick-Ease is the best way to get fussy eaters to eat, ending the ongoing problem of arguing with your child to eat a meal. Pick-Ease makes mealtime fun—for everyone. Pick-Ease is available in 12 original characters. No matter what your child’s interest, there is sure to be a Pick-Ease they will love to use for every meal.
What was your inspiration behind Pick-Ease?
In my experience as an early childhood educator and mom of two boys, I’ve learned that children who are picky eaters tend to eat their food when it’s served on a stick. Unfortunately, toothpicks and skewers can be pretty dangerous in the hands of young children so when my boys started going through the picky eater phase, I was determined to find a better solution. After discovering that there wasn’t a “kid friendly” toothpick on the market, I decided to create one!
What was your goal for creating Pick-Ease?
My goal was to give parents a product that they felt comfortable handing to their children. A product that would help make mealtimes fun and enjoyable while still being safe.
How did you go from idea to actual product? Was it a difficult process?
It was an extremely difficult process! The first thing I did was make clay molds of what I imagined Pick-Ease would look like. I used these to show people I met with what I had in mind. After much research, I learned that I needed to meet with a patent attorney to protect my idea. The attorney and I decided that the best thing to do would be to patent and trademark my product.
Second, I met with the Center For Women and Enterprise (CWE). They helped me put together a business plan and also connected me to other helpful resources. When it came to actually manufacturing my product, I hit a lot of dead ends. A lot of companies didn’t want to work with me on such a small project. I eventually spoke with a very helpful man who referred me to Rihani Plastics – a local manufacturer. Mr. Rihani was amazing. During our meet, he called in his toolmaker. We discussed the cost of having a mold made, as well as the production of the first batch of Pick-Ease. These two men were incredibly helpful during this whole process and I am so thankful that I found them.
Once I had my product in hand, I needed to figure out what material would be used for the themed sticker. Mr. Rihani referred me to Barrington Printing – a local printing company. There, I worked very closely with Mr. Chris Colbert. After a few bumps in the road, we finally found a waterproof sticker that would work. Barrington Printing was also my resource for packaging needs.
When the time came to have my website built, my husband (a system administrator for the Navy) and I tried to build the site from GoDaddy. This was a horrible experience for us and stressed me out more than I can say. From the start, I had researched everything on my own and learned what I needed to learn but this, I just couldn’t do – not even with my husband’s help. I headed back to CWE to see if they would be able to help me. They referred me to the RI Small Business Development Center and said they might be able to set me up with an intern who could build the site for me.
At my meeting with Mr. Conopask from RI SBDC, I presented everything I had, how far I’ve come. and what I needed help with. Mr. Conopask was quite impressed. He looked at me and said that I was so far beyond anything that they would be able to help me with. He said that at this point I needed an actual marketing agency on my side. He put me in contact with James Kwon, founder of Figmints. After meeting with Mr. Kwon and discussing my needs, he told me that had been looking for a product to get in on. He and his wife loved the idea of Pick-Ease and he offered to handle the branding, marketing, web development and web maintenance in exchange for a percent of the company. The deal he offered me was something that I could not pass up and what his company would be doing for me took a huge load off my shoulders. I could finally breath again! The Figmints team has been a Godsend and I am so thankful to have them on my side. Now, more than two years later, Pick-Ease has gone from an idea I had to a fully patented and manufactured product! Pretty amazing!
Was there ever any doubt you would succeed? If so, how did you overcome that doubt?
I would definitely be lying if I said that I never had a “what did I get myself into” moment. Luckily, on top of all the unbelievably helpful people I’ve come in contact with, I have an amazing support team at home. My husband has been behind me 100% every step of the way. My mom, sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends… They have all been so supportive. And especially my brother, David. He was the one sitting on my livingroom floor with me, building little clay molds to bake in my toaster oven. He was the one staying up all night to help me design all the little characters that are on the stickers of Pick-Ease. Thank you to everyone who has been there since day one, cheering me on! I wouldn’t be where I am without you all!
How do you manage juggling being a mom and a business owner?
It’s a lot of work. On top of being a mom to a 3 and 4yr old and trying to bring Pick-Ease to market, I also run a home daycare. My days are filled with 5 children, 4yrs old and younger. My boys are up by 6:30am, daycare kids arrive at 7am and don’t leave until 5:30pm. Then there’s dinner and baths… It used to be that I could take a break during nap time but now nap time is for social media, answering emails, and trying to get Pick-Ease out into the world. My boys go to bed at 8:30pm and that’s my time to write blogs and do whatever else needs to be done for Pick-Ease, so there’s no down time at the end of the day. My days are never ending but if this is what has to be done to get where I want to be, then I’m okay with it. Again, my support team is pretty amazing. Fortunately, my husband helps with some of the cleaning, laundry, and dishes and my mom helps out with our boys a lot. We all do what we have to do.
What would you tell other mothers who are looking to start their own business? Any secrets to tell?
Yes, it is really hard and a lot of work to turn an idea into a business, and not knowing what the future holds can be extremely scary but with no risk, there’s no reward. Believe in yourself and take it one day at a time. Ambition is the first step in success. The second is action! Go for it!
Thank you Melissa Desrochers for taking the time to participate in our MomPrenuer Interview!