One of the great things we get from being Maverick members is inspiration. It is easy to get caught up in the daily trials of our own businesses, but when we hear about what other entrepreneurs are doing, we experience that big-picture thrill of a great idea brought skillfully to reality—and we are reminded why we love what we do. In this last year, that inspiration came not just from my fellow Mavericks, but from another unlikely source: my girlfriend’s 11-year-old daughter, Lana.
Lana was a strong, healthy gymnast with no personal or family history of medical problems—until last August, when she came down with a mysterious cough. The cough progressed to acute, persistent asthma, uncontrollable by even the most aggressive of treatments. Once a tireless athlete, by mid-September she was so weak she needed a wheelchair to get to the community pool. Later that month, she had to be rushed to the emergency room and hospitalized to keep her stable; the first of five hospitalization in the ensuing year.
Lana braved every test imaginable, none of which yielded a diagnosis, and the top pediatric pulmonologists at a world-class teaching hospital declared her their “difficult case.” With no diagnosis, all they could do was attack her symptoms with a 4-hour-per-day regimen of chest physiotherapy, breathing treatments, and medications. Because even the common cold was a mortal enemy in her condition, Lana had to be kept in isolation, missing an entire year of school and cut off from her friends.
Lana took her quarantine in stride, and instead of dwelling on what she couldn’t do, she started thinking about what she could. Aside from penning the first 23,000 words of a shockingly well-written novel, one of the ways she entertained herself was by drawing little cartoon animals for the friends and teachers she so dearly missed. Her drawings, which displayed a unique and consistent style all her own, became the talk of the school. That gave her a thought… Wouldn’t it be fun to see her designs on t-shirts? And then: she could create a website where her friends could order the designs. Lying in a hospital bed with her mother, she dreamed up the name “Wubbies” for her characters, and as soon as she got home, she snapped up the domain name “MyWubbies.com.”
Within days (days!), she had learned Adobe Illustrator, so she could digitize her hand-drawn designs; and mastered the basics of Dreamweaver so she could create her own website—and “MyWubbies.com” was born. After extensive experimentation and research, she settled on CafePress and Printfection to produce the products, and navigated her way through the set-up process on both sites. Within weeks, she was ready to go live.
I watched as Lana reveled in the joy of launching a new business. She hungrily monitored each new order. She squealed with delight when her own order (a “Wubbies” t-shirt and mouse pad) arrived in the mail. Every new development was a thrill: the first time someone wore her design to school, the first order from someone she didn’t know, the first picture on Facebook of someone wearing Wubbies gear. This happy feedback fueled her ambition, and she has continued to think of new ideas and to add to her catalogue of designs.
Lana’s first venture into entrepreneurship has been an inspiration, and a reminder to approach my own business with the same sense of child-like excitement—to enjoy the creative process, to persist in adversity, and to thrill in each success.
Lana’s next goal is to start a charity to donate Wubbies blankets to children’s hospitals, because of what it meant to her when she found a unique, soft, colorful blanket on her hospital bed, thanks to a thoughtful donation. This made the stay a lot nicer—and she wants all children admitted to the hospital to have this same comfort.
I’d be remiss if didn’t give you the opportunity to be a part of Lana’s story.
If you have ideas that would help her promote her MyWubbies.com site or start her non-profit organization, I would be happy to pass them on. I’d love to see these grow beyond fun projects to enduring businesses that give her an ongoing source of joy and pride.
Regardless, remember to stay in touch with the child-like spirit within that loves what we do… and that does business for the sheer fun of it.
— Chad Morris, M1000 Member #40