Duke University: public policy and political science.
How did you become an entrepreneur?
In 2013, I became CEO and majority owner after managing the brand for two years at Carolina Pad. They recognized my passion for the product and offered to sell that portion of their product line to me. My excitement and belief in the products assisted me in raising enough capital to make Fundanoodle an independent brand. I have always had a passion for executing great ideas.
What is Fundanoodle?
Fundanoodle is an educational readiness program designed by occupational therapists and elementary school teachers to develop and improve the motor skills needed for success in and out of the classroom. Currently, there are 20 products available for kids between three and six years old.
Why are Fundanoodle’s product so impactful and beneficial?
Fundanoodle was carefully developed along side experts, focus groups, parents, teachers, and occupational therapists. With the increase of touchscreen technology, children are not developing their fine motor skills and hand strength.
Fundanoodle engages little learners in active, play-based learning that builds hand strength, visual perception, motor skills and more. If these attributes are not developed at an early age, they will struggle with simple tasks such as tying their shoes, opening packaging, and later on they may be limited in their professional capabilities.
Tell us about the name Fundanoodle!
The name incorporates three concepts that form the basis of the program: it’s fun, it teaches fundamental skills and most importantly, kids are using their noodle!
Tell us about the last few years:
After acquiring the company in 2013, I spent the following two years developing and testing a consumer focused business model which resulted in the Fundanoodle Ambassador Pilot Program launch in 2015. During these two years, I worked hard and around the clock. I recruited teachers to get their feedback on the products. As a result of these focus groups, teachers wanted to order the products for their classrooms. Dilworth Elementary School was one of the first big schools to use Fundanoodle.
What is one of Fundanoodle’s greatest attributes?
It is an inclusive product despite where a child is on the spectrum. Early learners to delayed learners to children with autism can use the products.
When you acquired Fundanoodle, how were the products being sold?
The product line was being sold in Target and Toys “R” Us. Working with big box retailers certainly has its challenges. I decided to pull out of stores and make Fundanoodle a direct sales product. Users want to touch, feel, and see how intuitive these products are. One of my biggest mistakes was staying in Toys “R” Us for as long as I did. My next challenge became my distribution model. I had a warehouse full of amazing products, but how was I going to get them into the hands of parents and teachers?
Tell us about the Fundanoodle Ambassador model:
Once you sign up to be an Ambassador, you can “host a playdate.” Then you simply invite your friends and their children between the ages of two and a half and six years over for a special Fundanoodle playdate. As an Ambassador, you lead your guests in activities that engage them with the products. Parents will see the impact of developing hand strength and motor skills. I was Fundanoodle’s first Ambassador.
Has the new model been successful?
In February of last year, I hoped to have two to three people sign up to host a playdate. Over 50 people applied to be an Ambassador, which I then had to narrow down to 15 during my testing phase. I had been working with software developers to run the program on my site. I needed to make sure everything went smoothly before adding additional Ambassadors. Everything is running smoothly and we are ready for more people to sign up! The Ambassador model really works because actual users tell the Fundanoodle story, conveying passion and the real life benefits of the products.
Any advice for other entrepreneurs?
The three P’s: passion, perseverance, and patience! Having your own business requires a lot of hard work, late nights, and perseverance. Success doesn’t happen overnight. You need to give yourself limits- know when to walk away. Ultimately, you have to be passionate about what you do each day.
I also recommend finding a mentor who is willing to talk to you, who will share their knowledge about the industry you are working in. The mentors I have worked with are amazing. People open up more especially when you do not have a competing product.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the town of Mt.Pleasant near Concord, NC.
Where do you currently reside?
We live in the Dilworth neighborhood of Charlotte.
My husband Thomas and I have three girls: one in 7th grade at Piedmont IB, one in 5th grade at Dilworth Elementary, and the youngest is a preschooler at Dilworth Methodist. Fundanoodle has been tested and tested on my three subjects! I like to also involve the girls in my business. They help with warehouse items and orders. They have learned so much from their involvement.
Favorite vacation spot:
Definitely the beach! My mom loved the beach. After she passed away from cancer a couple years ago, we came together to heal. She knew my daughter had a love of turtles. Being the planner she was, she even made plans for when she passed. She purchased 11 biodegradable turtles that would each hold a portion of her ashes. Eleven family members released her ashes into the ocean. It was a beautiful moment that allowed us to heal and say goodbye.
2014 was a big year!
Yes, while working on Fundanoodle, I lost my mom and gutted our home. Needless to say, I can handle a lot! I get that attribute from my mom. I always admired her strength.
How do you recenter?
Walking clears my head and I turn to Faith. Faith moves me through a lot of the more difficult times. I say to myself, “I’m just going to do this. If this is not the right thing, give me a sign.” With Fundanoodle, I looked for one negative sign to make me stop. Instead, I received countless positive signs in the form of feedback from happy parents and teachers.
How can others become a Fundanoodle Ambassador and learn more about the products?
Please visit the Fundanoodle website!