“I Wish I Knew How Quickly Counterfeit Companies Would Pop Up To Sell My Patented Product” 5 Startup Strategies With Erin Robertson of Ta-Ta Towels

I had the pleasure of interviewing Erin Robertson from Ta-Ta Towels. She went from selling a couple of Ta-Ta Towels in one week to selling over 55,000 in one day when her patented product went viral.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I moved to Los Angeles to live on my own when I was 19 years old. Over the last 14 years, I’ve had some great jobs, and even wrote my own script for a TV show idea. It wasn’t until I came up with the idea for Ta-Ta Towels that I realized making this company a success is my dream.

I remember I getting ready to go out on a first date. As I got out of the shower and started getting ready, I could not stop sweating — not because I was about to go on a first date, but because my tiny A/C unit was broken AND it was the beginning of summer. I had a lot working against me. I tried everything: I tucked wash cloths under my breasts, I tried dumping baby powder all over me, I even put a t-shirt on and tucked it under my boobs. But the washcloths looked ridiculous, the baby powder made me look more like dough, and the t-shirt was making me sweat even more. While I was blow-drying my hair, I just kept thinking: “There HAS to be a better way to keep the beads of sweat from dripping down my stomach.”

I went on my date, and the entire time all I could think about was how to solve this problem. I couldn’t be the only person to have boob-sweat issues while getting ready. There had to be something on the market to fix this. That night, I was lying in my bed thinking about all the different ways I could solve this problem… and then it hit me. I sat up with excitement!! “I’VE GOT IT!!”

Following a lot of trial and error and learning how to sew, I knew I had something real when all of my friends couldn’t stop singing the Ta-Ta Towel’s praises. I used the earnings from the sold TV script to purchase a patent for my idea, and dove into it with full force.

Around that same time, I caught my live-in boyfriend of three years cheating on me. It was a major low for me, and I was left to pay all the bills on my own. I worked as many jobs as I could possibly find, which included driving for Lyft at night into the early mornings, but I still wasn’t making enough to make ends meet. My family was begging me to move back home, and while I did not want to give up my dream to keep Ta-Ta Towels alive, I was faced with the harsh reality that I simply could not keep going with the way things were.

After 14 years in Los Angeles, I was going to tell my (successful) friends that I could no longer afford to live here…that I was going to move back home to live in my parents basement and figure things out from there. I felt ashamed and like a complete failure.

The day before I was going to make this announcement to my friends and family, my Ta-Ta Towels went viral! This was a blessing in its truest form. Because of YOU, I went from selling 20–50 towels a week (out of my tiny one bedroom apartment that I couldn’t even afford anymore), to selling 11,000 towels in just ONE day!

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company

The most interesting thing (for me, anyway) has been the incredible response I’m receiving from women — and men — who purchase a Ta-Ta Towel. When it went viral, all of the stories were about how the garment is the new solution to boob sweat. And, it is. But I’m getting so much feedback from women who are using it while pregnant, postpartum, breastfeeding, women who are elderly, women who are undergoing cancer treatments, women who wear them around the house while they’re cleaning and doing other chores. The interesting part for me is how differently a lot of women are using my product. I love that!

So how exactly does your company help people?

The Ta-Ta Towel is a patented towel solution for women. It is made out of terrycloth fabric on one side and a super soft liner on the other. The garment absorbs moisture from underneath the breasts and behind the neck. It has had incredible feedback from pregnant, postpartum, and nursing moms, who use it to alleviate breast pain and for easy access when it comes to nursing.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

This is a great question! Since I’m newly “successful,” I’m using this October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month for a variety of initiatives to give back. Not only is this a cause that’s near and dear to my heart, but as I mentioned before, the feedback from women undergoing cancer treatments have been truly humbling.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I launched my Start-Up” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

I wish someone had told me that I was going to go viral so I could properly prepare for the major surge in sales. I was a tiny “Etsy” type of made-to-order business and was not ready for the viral effect.

I wish someone would tell me that they can see the future and everything is going to work out and be just fine so I need to relax more and figure out how to destress.

I wish someone would have told me not to put all of my eggs in one basket when it comes to manufacturing.

I wish someone had told me how quickly fake and counterfeit companies and websites would come up and attempt to sell my patented product. It’s upsetting because people are buying poorly-made garments and not even realizing that they bought a knockoff.

I have to say, not being told any of the above has also shown me what a strong businesswoman I really am and how far I really have come. Not having any guidance in these areas has forced me to figure everything out on my own.

I have been blessed with the opportunity to interview and be in touch with some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, or I might be able to introduce you.

I don’t even have to think twice: OPRAH! I just want to hug her and have her tell me everything is going to be okay and to soak in all of her guidance and knowledge as the fierce businesswoman she is.” I used to work for an actress and one day I had to drop her off at Oprah’s house for lunch. I will NEVER forget this day when Ms. Winfrey said “hello” to me from a distance and all I kept thinking in my head as I waved back and squawked out a “hello” back was, “I’ll see you soon Ms. Winfrey,” setting the intention (learned that from Oprah and Deepak) that one day, I would get to meet her face-to-face and hand her a Ta-Ta Towel.

Yitzi: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!