Using The Buddy System To Build A Business

Leroy Johnson invented a visual tool to help his patients complete a necessary but often very difficult task.  But it wasn’t until years later, when he showed his invention to Denise Jones, that his idea became a product available to those who need it.  Today they are business partners.  This is their story of Re-Invention. 

The Re-Invention of Denise Jones and Leroy Johnson 

Leroy and I started a business because neither of us felt secure about our financial futures.  We both wondered “What we were going to do when we got old?” as neither of us wanted to leave our care in the hands of the government or our families.  Being Baby Boomers, we knew we only had a few years to do whatever we needed to do to secure our own financial futures.  We felt this was our last chance. 

Leroy has been a caregiver and teacher of independent living skills for Developmentally Disabled people for 15 years.  He knows the difficulties and stresses a caregiver goes through, especially in effectively communicating with the patient or loved one.   Visual tools are often extremely helpful so Leroy invented a Visual Teaching Tool Poster to help clients with early to middle stages of dementia stay independent a little longer.  The Buddy Shower System is a waterproof, laminated poster that sticks to the shower wall.  It shows a series of pictures to remind the patient or loved one where and how to wash their bodies for effective cleansing while they are in the shower.  

Soon after we met, he showed me his invention and asked me what I thought.  I was so impressed with his idea that I knew we had found the answer to our “What are we going to do when we get old?” questions. We would run this business together.  But first we would need to build it.   

We started our business, Johnson and Jones, LLC, in June of 2009.  We each work out of our homes, one in New Jersey, the other in New Mexico.  With telephone, computer, email, fax machine, copy machines and the internet, we can easily manage our business and communicate effectively. 

We developed our business the hard way and we made mistakes.  Since we were both still working, we sought help to get our product into the marketplace. We investigated companies through sources like the Better Business Bureau and found one that appeared to be reputable. They did a great job for us with market research and a patent search for our product.  We came to consider this “the lure”. 

We gave them an additional $10,000 to develop our product but after months had gone by, very little had been done.  Needless to say, we were not pleased with them.  They assigned a counselor to our project but we weren’t able to speak to anyone else at the company.  We felt we were being taken advantage of so just three months shy of a year with them we opted out of our contract and filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.  They let us go without problem. I think they were glad to get rid of us because I was very vocal about our displeasure. 

We knew that the market potential for The Buddy Shower System was huge because the numbers of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and autism were increasing at epidemic rates.  We decided to market The Buddy Shower System ourselves. 

At first we looked for investors.  Several people were interested but we wanted silent partners and they didn’t want to be silent. Our money was running out so we decided to do the work ourselves.  I took advantage of free business classes that I found and was surprised to learn how much I could do for myself. 

I jumped into the pocket of my teachers who gave me lots of free advice outside of the classroom.  I spent many, many hours researching on the internet.  I called the Federal Government and asked MANY questions about setting up a LLC business.  We registered our business in New Mexico and they guided us through the necessary Certificate of Sales process.  We joined SCORE, an organization filled with retired volunteers who have already succeeded in business and who are there to guide others.

We decided to sell our product on a website that we designed ourselves.  Our bank helped us get a Merchant’s Account and the Gateway.  We also did our own email campaign.  We found Vistaprint to be a very inexpensive resource for new business owners as they also make it very affordable to do many other things like business cards, brochures, etc.   

There were many people around us who offered help; however, they were all talk.  There were many naysayers and not many cheerleaders although most thought that The Buddy Shower System was a great idea.  It wasn’t long before we realized that we were on our own.  Although it was difficult at times, we always reminded ourselves that this was our answer to the “What are we going to do when we get old?” question so we boosted each other’s confidence.   

We knew we had a good product that was designed for a growing population of people and that kept us going.  The Buddy Shower System isn’t the “Big Answer” for people with dementia, but it is an easier, less stressful, visual way for the caregiver to communicate basic shower instruction to their patient or loved one, and for the patient or loved one to see what to do while they are showering.  

Although we were taken advantage of and lost a lot of money, we do not regret anything.  We consider the money we lost as tuition for “the school of hard knocks”.  In spite of our losses, we are glad that we are doing it ourselves.  We know every aspect of our business and believe that all business owners should.    

We know that caregivers have a difficult job.  No matter the patient’s state of mind, they need to be clean and that can be very tough to accomplish.  The Buddy Shower System can help.  We’re working on other Buddy Visual Teaching Tools too.  Please visit http://www.buddyshowersystem.com for more information and availability or send us an e-mail at thebuddyshowersystem@yahoo.com.     

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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