One of the reasons I started my website is that I wanted a place for women to come together and dream. We women need to know that we don't have to hang on to an old dream that has stopped nurturing us -- that there is always time to start a new dream. This week's story follows a woman whose rough, scratchy heels plagued her throughout most of her life. She finally took matters into her own hands and whipped up a miracle solution, and now she's made millions. —Marlo, MarloThomas.com
By Lori Weiss
When most women whisper that there’s trouble between the sheets, they’re not usually talking about their feet. But for Melinda Clark, her scratchy heels were the reason her husband would wince each time she’d snuggle up to him.
“It was so bad that I tore through two sets of flannel sheets,” Melinda recalled. “It got to be a joke between us, but it was an issue. I had to wear socks to bed!”
It was a problem that had plagued her for years. Melinda was a gymnast in college and rough on her heels, and while she loved living in California, the constant sunshine on her flip-flop covered feet added to the dryness — creating cracks that no amount of moisturizer or Vaseline could fix.
“I couldn’t even put on a pair of nylons. I’d have to slip a plastic bag over my foot, put my stockings on and then slip my hand in to try and get the bag out without ripping them!”
It got to a point where my husband said, “You’ve got the skills. Do something about this!”
“The skills Melinda had were as a chemist, but she hadn’t used them since just after college. Instead, she spent her days caring for her children and running her husband’s chiropractic office. But when she had some spare time, she’d find herself going back to those lessons she’d learned not only in chemistry class, but at her grandmother’s side — and mix up some lotions and soaps for her kids.
“It kind of became an addiction,” she laughed. “I had all kinds of soaps and scrubs, lotions and body butters — so much so, that I started packaging them and selling them at little home parties I’d throw for my friends. I had to get them off my kitchen table!”
But when it came to her scratchy feet, she struggled to find a solution. “It took me three or four months to find something that worked. Most moisturizers and lotions sit on top of the skin and I knew I had to find ingredients that would get to the root of the problem. But within a week of finding the right combination, I knew I was on to something. The results were so amazing, I took before pictures so I’d be able to show the difference!”
On to something would be an understatement. While at the time, Melinda was just trying to create something that would bring her husband back to her side of the bed — the solution she came up with would end up being featured in an infomercial and make her a millionaire.
Article continues below slideshow
“I had so much product that I was trying out,” she explained, “I decided to move the parties from my house to local craft shows. My husband and kids would help me put up a tent and I’d spend the weekend talking to people — and that’s when I realized I wasn’t alone — that lots of women were having the same problem. The other booths had maybe one or two visitors at a time, but mine was packed. I was making a couple thousand dollars every weekend, just with the Cracked Heel Repair.”
“That’s when I realized that I really needed to find a manufacturer, which wasn’t easy. 500 units seems like a lot when you’re doing it at home, but it’s nothing to a manufacturer.”
But Melinda found a company that had started out small too. They saw her passion and decided to take a chance. And Melinda vowed that when she made it big, she was going to take everyone who believed in her at the start, right along with her.
With extra inventory in hand, she made her way to trade shows. Once again, her booth was surrounded. But it was someone who would casually walk by, who would end up opening an enormous door.
“Five or six weeks after the show,” the entrepreneur remembered, “I got a call from the national buyer at Bed Bath & Beyond. He wanted units for 80 stores! I was doing a crazy dance — but thinking, I’m going to have to figure out how to pull this off when I hang up the phone.”
Within 45 days, it was not only the door that was open at Bed Bath and Beyond, but the flood gates. Her product sold so well, that it ended up at the check-out counters at all 800 stores. And then the Home Shopping Network came calling.
“It was like a Chinese fire drill! I was hiring employees, putting in computer systems. I was flying to Tampa every two months, doing three shows in twenty-four hours. We’d sell 15,000 units in a weekend.”
But even that call didn’t compare to the one Melinda received early Christmas Eve morning.
“My husband answered the phone and said it’s someone who says they’re from “As Seen On TV”. I said, 'Yeah, right.' But when I got on the line, it was Raj Shahani, the Vice President of Product Development for Telebrands, the creators of the PedEgg and he said they were interested in my product!”
The company was offering Melinda a licensing agreement. They would film an infomercial for her, take over the manufacturing and she would receive a percentage for every product sold.
“I knew I didn’t have the resources to take this to the next level. And this was the big time. I knew if I could get this kind of exposure, the money would come, so I was more than happy to share it!”
So Melinda called her manufacturer — the one who’d taken a chance on her — and told him he needed to scale up from 80,000 units to a million.
“He thought I was kidding too! I thought he was going to drop the phone when I explained what was happening. You know how they always say on infomercials to allow three to four weeks for delivery? That’s because people like us are saying, ‘Holy crap, how are we going to do this?’”
Telebrands renamed Melinda’s product Heeltastic — allowing her to keep the original name of Cracked Heel Repair and all the revenue she brought in from that brand. It wasn’t long before the foot balm that began in Melinda’s kitchen became a household name.
“The first few royalty checks that came in,” Melinda said, “were for about 20 or 30 thousand dollars. But by the third quarter, I had a nice six figure check in my hand. I took my entire staff out to celebrate and every single one of them got a bonus.”
The six figure checks continued to roll in, and Heeltastic went from a product that was seen on TV to the shelves of not only Bed Bath & Beyond, but CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, Target and 7-11. Since 2009, more than 10 million units have been sold — bringing in revenue of more than 35 million dollars.
But Melinda was not about to rest on her laurels — lovely as they were. She used that success to grow her company, which she named Luxuriant, and to begin partnering with brands like Carol’s Daughter and Estee Lauder. And now at the age of 55, she’s producing more than 60 other products.
“I could have never accomplished this in my 20’s. I didn’t have the mental skill sets to maneuver all of this. But being a Mom taught me more than 4 years of college or any job I’ve ever had. That’s where I got my negotiating skills and my logistics skills. Now instead of running my husband’s office, and coordinating my daughter’s soccer schedule with my son’s baseball practice, I’m moving skincare solutions into the marketplace.”
“There are some things I may not accomplish after 40,” Melinda said with a smile, “like being a swimsuit model or becoming a solid gold dancer. I really did want to become a solid gold dancer. But running a business -- I’ve never felt more prepared to do that.”
Add Marlo On Facebook:
Follow Marlo on Twitter:
Sign up to receive my email newsletter each week - It will keep you up-to-date on upcoming articles, Mondays with Marlo guests, videos, and more!