By Jennifer Leonard
Connie Inukai, 72, from North Potomac, Md., is an unlikely first-time entrepreneur and QVC success story. She wasn’t bitten by the business bug until her 60s, but the mom of three and grandmother of five saw a need for her Baby-Boomer generation and didn’t hesitate to fill it.
In 2013, while sitting in a restaurant with friends, Inukai realized she was having trouble reading the menu. The lighting was too dim and the print too small. When she glanced over at her fellow Boomers, she realized she wasn’t alone. “Nobody could see the menu! They were passing around one pair of reading glasses,” she says. “And whenever I was with my family, I found myself asking my kids to tell me what looked good.”
Deciding enough was enough, Inukai came up with an easy fix: the Tip ‘n Split, a handheld LED magnifier with a calculator to tally the tip and help split the check. “People my age don’t use many apps, but anyone can use this,” she says. “It saves them from embarrassment.” She then asked her ex-husband, an engineer and mathematician, to create the correct algorithms to help her product run smoothly.
Armed with a sales pitch and prototype, Inukai attended a trade show for entrepreneurs and ran into representatives from QVC. “I thought it would be a perfect place for my idea,” she says, “Because their audience is a little more mature, exactly who my product is for.” She was right. QVC was hooked and recruited her as a potential vendor on the spot.
About a year later, on August 5, 2015, Connie found herself in West Chester, Pa., at QVC Studio Park, watching host Dan Hughes dazzle viewers with her Tip ‘n Split. The segment was just five minutes, with Connie herself making an appearance for the final 60 seconds. “I was so nervous, but they were very comforting,” she says. “It was this most exciting thing I’ve ever done.” In that short time, 800 units were sold at $21.95 for more than $17,500 in profits. Her product was later included on QVC’s website, selling out in 2019.
“QVC gave me my big break, and I loved every minute of it,” says Inukai, who continues to pursue her entrepreneurial passion as a mentor for SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives. She’s also the author of the recent book, “How I Got My Product on QVC, The Today Show, The View, and More…in Retirement.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer Leonard is a writer at VISTA Today, specializing in retail and consumer marketing. A West Goshen resident, Jennifer has 20 years of experience as a full-time editor and writer for magazines including Woman’s World, Cosmopolitan and Seventeen. Jennifer is available at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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