NaChe’ Thompson aims to do for baby bottles what George Washington Carver did for peanuts. On a mission to join an elite cohort of inventors, this Mama Einstein is not afraid to invest in her own ideas. NaChe’ created a baby bottle adapter to eliminate the weight and burden of carrying around heavy formula cans. While the path to entrepreneurship is a rewarding one, like any other journey, it does not come without sacrifices. We spoke to NaChe’ about her uphill climb to MBA status, funding her invention and patented parenthood.
Mommynoire: Talk to us a little bit about your invention. When was the moment you came up with the idea?
NaChe’: The inspiration for all my inventions comes from my own necessity. I have two sons, ages four and one. When I was a new mom, I was really overwhelmed. There was so much stuff to carry in the diaper bag and only so many bottles could fit in there. Each time I’d run errands, my son would gobble up all the bottles I’d made for him, long before my errands were done. He’d basically just scream until I went home to get more formula, or until I bought a whole new can of formula and clean water to make him a bottle on the go. I’ll never forget how much anxiety those times gave me. In the midst of his hungry screaming, I’d wonder why there wasn’t an easier way to do this. I knew plenty of people had to have this same problem, and I wondered why Nokï didn’t already exist. That first year while my son was still on formula, I started to invent the solution myself.
How do you think this invention will help ease the lives of all parents?
Nokï is a common sense invention. It’s amazing how many mothers, fathers, and other caretakers of children carry a giant tub of formula around in their diaper bag for emergencies. Nokï is smaller, so at the very least, it will reduce the amount of stuff inside everyone’s diaper bags. Also, making bottles in public can be really messy. No mess with Nokï, since it opens as you screw it on to the 8 oz. water bottle.
How have you balanced being a mother, inventor and MBA Mama?
I can’t lie and say it’s easy at all. Sometimes I make mistakes, sometimes I don’t spend as much happy quality time with my kids as I should, but it all falls on me. I’m a single mom, and if I don’t go through with this, my kids don’t eat. I read Shonda Rhimes say something to the effect of ‘balance is an illusion.’ I’m paraphrasing, but it’s the truth. To be excelling at one thing is to be slightly doing something else a little less than perfectly.
Have you confronted any obstacles to getting your idea patented?
I attribute the obstacles I’ve faced getting my idea patented solely to my finances. I was originally a teacher. I taught for four years before I quit to work on Nokï full time. My teacher’s salary was so low that it made it difficult to care for two kids. I’d have holes in my clothes, so my kids could have nice clothes. I’d eat oatmeal at night, so they could have real dinner. There was no money for patents. I ended up giving away a percentage of my company to a friend in exchange for the money to file my first patent.
What barriers do you think exist for mothers as business owners? What do you think they can do to overcome them?
Mothers are the most badass creatures on the planet. There are hardships for mothers who own businesses, like finding the time to work on the business and spend quality time with kids, and working from home at times while your kids are wrestling each other in the background, but there is no impenetrable barrier for a mother. Mothers can do absolutely anything, if they don’t give up.
What is the advice you would give to women who are balancing work, school, entrepreneurship and motherhood?
Double espresso. I’m half kidding, but you’re going to have to sacrifice some sleep to get everything done. My advice to everyone is that anything can be accomplished by the person who refuses to give up, so don’t quit. There are times when I think, “Why the hell did I quit my job? I had GOOD benefits!” But I don’t give up. You always hear that you should sleep when your kids are sleep. Don’t. Stay up and work. It will pay off.
Why do you think higher education is important for black women/mothers?
I have two degrees and one in progress. I got my Bachelors in African American Studies from the University of California Riverside, my Masters degree in Education and teaching credential from Claremont Graduate University, and I’m currently in school earning my MBA. You can certainly start a business without a college degree, but my education has opened doors for me that would’ve otherwise been closed. If I didn’t have those degrees, I wouldn’t have been able to afford to take care of my kids on my own. Education empowers. Black women have natural power, as do all women, but education makes that power overflow.
What gave you the courage to invest in your own ideas?
Necessity. I was miserable at my job. It was taking all my energy. On top of that I was raising my two children alone, running my nonprofit, and trying to start Nokï as a business. It was killing me. Something had to give, and so I took a leap of faith. I didn’t know how I would pay the bills for a while, but I just knew that if I kept pushing, Nokï would succeed. I still believe that. If you don’t believe in yourself, absolutely no one else will.
Once, I told one of my former students that I invented something, and I wanted to start a business. She laughed in my face. A deep laugh from her gut. I almost cried. I almost let her laugh convince me that what I was about to do was ridiculous. Then I thought about my children and the life they had at the time versus the life I could give them running a successful business. I let my kids be my motivation.
Check out more information on her invention at thenoki.com
To support NaChe’’s mission visit her Indiegogo Campaign site: igg.me/at/thenoki
Like her on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/thenoki