Do It Yesterday: A Physician’s Guide to Entrepreneurship

Dr. Jennifer Thomas-Goering with a VivaJennz bag

By her own admittance, Dr. Jennifer Thomas-Goering has a short attention span, which she says is why she chose anesthesiology.

“What’s great about anesthesia is you actually have total control over the patient,” Dr. Thomas-Goering says. “In a way I’ve always likened it to a video game: where the blood sugar goes down, we have medicine to bring it back up. If it’s too high, we bring it back down and it’s very rewarding because you see instant results.”

It was this drive for instant results that kept her driving forward when she discovered there might be a market for something she’d created as a solution to a personal problem.

She wanted her sons to stop drinking artificial dyes, and drink their organic juice instead. Her eldest has autism, and she found that his tantrums were worse when he had had sugary, dyed drinks. But she didn’t want to throw juice boxes into her purse that only had enough for three sips before they were empty.

So she invented a solution.

The invention was VivaJennz, a purse with a secret compartment for beverages. The purse was made by hand. After making one for herself, she made a couple for her close friends.

She got her first jump start when a friend was at the pool, using the purse to pour out a drink, and other women started asking where she got it. Some women asked if Dr. Thomas-Goering would make them one, too. But the lucky break came when one woman said her brother-in-law owned a store that would maybe sell them.

“It was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I just realized there was a market for such a thing.’ And I decided i wasn’t going to be one of those people that just sat around and thought of a good idea and then looked back and someone else created it,” Dr. Thomas-Goering remembers. “I said, ‘Why not me? I can do this, I’m a smart person, I can figure this out.”

She decided to take the leap of faith in starting a business and turned to the internet to find a manufacturing business overseas that could mass produce her purses at the quality and cost she was looking for. Then she took another leap in deciding to attend a casting call for Shark Tank. While she was too early in the process to get on the show, her ears were open when other entrepreneurs were giving her advice on what steps to take next.

They told her to get her goods into America’s Mart, a trade show with booths from different companies selling different products. She put in an application, got a booth, took some time off work to go sell at the show over a weekend, and got 80 stores to carry her product. Within 6 months — all while maintaining her important responsibilities as an anesthesiologist, mother, and wife — her business was already taking off.

Dr. Thomas-Goering’s sons with VivaJennz bags

“[The quick success] boils down to being an anesthesiologist because what am I used to? Instant results, that drive that expectation of, ‘Oh, I can do this, and I’m going to do it, and I’m not going to wait, I’m going to do it right now because it should have been done yesterday.’”

With Dr. Thomas-Goering’s friends and family helping her out, she knows part of her success is from the “village” that’s keeping her business running smoothly with quality checks and other assistance. What started as something for her son turned into a gift for her friends which turned into a full business.

“It’s been really fun, but just like anything, it does turn into a job when it gets so big. It’s taught me a lot of not being afraid to fail and that the internet has everything out there, you just have to take the time and find it,” Dr. Thomas-Goering says.

Another thing being an entrepreneur has taught her — or reminded her — is that there is more than just being a physician.

“I think sometimes as physicians, we spend so much of our time trying and studying to be a doctor taking board exams to get where we are that we have the tendency to lose sight that there’s actually other stuff out there,” she says. “We are all smart and educated and obviously hard-working, so sometimes you just have to have that leap of faith and just go and do it.”

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