WESLEY CHAPEL — Even in dire economic times, there are stories of success.
Take Tricia Wood and Melissa Cone, who now run a home-based business called Kangaroo Pump Pockets, a specialty undergarment manufacturer for people with
Type 1 diabetes.
The women, former schoolteachers living near each other in Wesley Chapel, often expressed frustration at their low pay. Cone went back to school and became a licensed real estate broker. Wood became her assistant.
"Then the whole real estate market fell apart, and we were like, now what," Wood said.
At the same time Wood had been coming to terms with her daughter's diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. Abby, then 6, was outfitted with an insulin pump, which is physically attached to the body via a tube, and administers insulin continuously on an as-needed basis.
The only options for wearing the pump were a fanny pack, or individually sewn pockets inside each garment.
Wood starting sewing her own pockets inside Abby's clothes, which were greatly admired each time she'd take Abby to her endocrinologist.
"Everyone in the office was telling me, 'We've never seen anything like these; you need to start making them and selling them to the public,' " Wood said.
The only problem, Wood said, was that neither she, nor Cone, had any familiarity whatsoever with the clothing business.
"If we had had any experience, we probably never would have undertaken this," Wood joked.
First, the two did research to see who might be willing to manufacture the items. Although they came up empty-handed, they did learn about the MAGIC Clothing Convention held in Las Vegas each year for the apparel industry. So with no connections and just the examples of Abby's own undergarments that Wood had created, the two boarded a plane for Vegas.
"We really had no business being there," Wood said. "But we met people who knew people who introduced us to people who then introduced us to the manufacturers."
Quality assurance was key to a good product that would house the pump carefully, they decided.
And they wanted the products designed and sewn in the United States. They wanted easy access to the manufacturing plant with no language barriers. They also wanted all products created only with U.S.-made materials.
After much searching, they found a California manufacturer. In March of 2007 they began producing tank tops, undershirts, boxer briefs, bras, and toddler tanks, all with fully lined pockets for the pump, and all under the KPP design label.
Wood said products are between $20 and $30, with quantity discounts available, and a 30-day guarantee.
Purchases can be made over the Internet or in person when Wood and Cone attend diabetes conventions.
Last year at this time, KPP shipped three orders. This past April, the company fulfilled 100 orders, and has shipped overseas numerous times, as far away as Australia and the United Kingdom.
Wood says there are plans to add new products, and a possible deal to link up with a pump manufacturer, but she was tight-lipped about the specifics.
"We've got a lot in the works right now, but we've got a lot of people watching what we're doing because so far we're the only ones doing it."
Contact reporter Sheryl Kay at
email@example.com or call (813) 230-8788.