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July 25, 2023
John Rizvi, Esq.

Discussing the SHOWER SHIRT® with Lisa Crites – 877-728-7763 – Inventor Interview

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Thank you everybody for spending part of your Friday afternoon with us. It is a huge honor to introduce Lisa crites to you guys she's an award winning inventor of the shower shirt, and which is the first and only patented water resistant garment to protect breast surgery patients whilst while showering. I say award winning, I have like a paragraph of awards, Lisa that you've that you've gotten, and some of them are unbelievable. The London Science Museum is asked to host the shower shirt. Got the patient Innovation Award, you've got so many awards for this. And the old statement that necessity is the mother of invention. rings true for you. Because you didn't set out that your story's just inspiring you that you didn't set out to become an inventor and bring a new product to the market. It all started with a personal I guess, tragedy of yours that you're you're facing and that you tried to find something to help yourself. So tell us a little bit about your story. And let's let's get into that. It started I believe, about 10 years ago or maybe longer? 2009? Correct?

Correct. I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age. Two weeks before my 42nd birthday. I was 41 years old. Quite a shock. I had no family history of breast cancer. I was pretty healthy overall. But I was diagnosed Now luckily it was a lower grade breast cancer. It wasn't super aggressive. But I chose to quickly do a bilateral mastectomy. My theory non clinical is if this body is producing breast cancer wants it may produce it more than once. So I I went into bilateral mastectomy quickly my doctor said you can't shower they said after surgery you're going to have these drains. They're sutured into the armpit they go down to the to the knees. And you can't you can't shower while the drains are in place. I said how long? Two to three weeks. Of course, I said why? He said there's bacteria pathogens and tap water. And essentially you don't want to increase the chances of a waterborne illness. So I thought okay, not a not a big deal. I started doing a lot of research online for any kind of water resistant garment and nothing existed. Luckily, a timing is everything. I had been a health and medical reporter for many years in the Orlando TV market. I had entered I had interviewed many, many surgeons, clinicians, breast cancer patients, I immediately reached out so why is I can't find a product to protect me obviously also communicating with my own surgeons, and they quickly and just directly so there's no product out there to protect you. You've got to get in the shower with a trash bag or don't shower at all. It was almost just like easy fact to them. That No, there's not a product at all. And I kept thinking why, at the time women had been going through mastectomy surgery for 75 years in this country. Why wasn't there a product? So I quickly got in the shower multiple times with a trash bag said this doesn't work. This is insulting for that matter? And what can I do to make a difference for future breast cancer patients? So absolutely, it was a it was a necessity. The whole drive was based on the Saturday.

So it's funny they it reminds me of for years, walkers for safer for someone that's elderly, you would you'd see them with like tennis balls cut and put onto the legs of those walkers. And it's just, you know, patients that are taking things into their own hands, because the manufacturers of these products a lot of times are not they're not handicap, they're not disabled, they're not facing the same obstacles that the inventors facing. So they might take this Walker go around the room a couple of times and realize, you know, it works, it's done. But somebody that needs to use it, and takes whatever, I don't know what 1000 1200 steps within a day. They're the ones that realize, gosh, some extra cushioning or sliding is needed. And then when they couldn't find a product, they come up with it. So obviously the people designing a lot of the products for mastectomy and surgery patients are not are not patients themselves. So they don't, you know, it's easy to say, well, you know what, just don't shower for two or three weeks, but it's a lot harder to do. And it's easy to tell somebody else don't shower for two to three weeks because of the pathogens in the water.

Absolutely. I often say if you can shower you feel better psychologically, physically, emotionally and that's something that's gravely needed. After not just a brisk cancer diagnosis and amputation of the breast. I want to add on to what you just said. You said, yes, the medical device designers, they may be pushing the walkers around the inventors what they want to do to make it better. But it really all goes back to the patients. And when you're a patient and you're struggling, it's amazing what comes to your mind. It's almost like, well, this is needed. It's not about big business. And it's not about medical device. Designers. It's about basic need. Interesting. Also, one of the wards we won was a patient Innovation Award from the University of Portugal School of Business and Economics. And I only bring that up not because of the word but the many other people that I met, who had created and designed products because they were in fact patients. So it is about the patient needs, but realize what the patient needs is not always what makes a lot of money in business. So there's sometimes a lack of synergy there.

Yeah, right. And I guess the that's why for years patients were now you didn't resort initially to a trash bag on on your own that was actually recommended to you by either was it a nurse or a doctor that that suggested that

it was a former breast cancer patient? That's like, oh, yeah, Lisa, there's nothing no, nothing out there. Just tried to get in a trash bag. And and so I thought, okay, and it's almost funny. Now we get in the trash bag. It wasn't easy. And I would hang that trash bag back on the shower, probably not the most sterile thing to do. And I would get back in that same trash bag the next day, but it was also amazing after trying to shower in a trash bag as a difficult it was, I would feel so much better after I got out of the shower. And so that was part of yes, this is not easy. This is ridiculous. But guess what showering is so important. So again, for the physical, psychological, emotional aspect. That's why I need to create something for future breast cancer patients.

So did you have any? What were the biggest obstacles? I think in that you faced in developing this. Did you have naysayers like people who are in the industry perhaps? Who told oh, yes,

yes, yes. You know, all of your viewers need to quickly understand you're going to have the naysayers and have the business naysayers, just the pragmatic naysayers, even family sometimes aren't the most aren't the biggest cheerleaders. For me developing the product was not that difficult. I went to a beauty supply store. And as women men are like we grow up in the, in the salon chairs, getting our hair cut, especially women, cotton collared, probably no more southern men. And I realized that the the, the haircutting, the salon Kate was was heavy, it was viable, and it was waterproof. So I went to Sally Beauty Supply plug there. And I got a cape and my brother who was an who was an engineer. He designs a lot of different hospitals. And I thought I think in design hospitals, you can design a shirt for me. And he created the schematic on that. And then I sent that to my aunt who is an amazing seamstress. And she created the first prototype for the shower shirt, from my brother's design and from a Sally Beauty Supply, hair cape, a cutting cape. And through that I was able to get through friends of friends to a manufacturers liaison and we sent that to the manufacturer. Long story short, we went through seven prototypes over that year and a half before we brought the product to market. I did go to again because I had a lot of I was also by the time I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was not working in health and medical news anymore as a journalist. I was a media strategist. So I would often go to President CEO of the hospital system, I would go to a couple of different doctors and say Look at this. This is my prototype. Of course. Some were positive. Definitely the surgeons were very positive about Yes, continue. This is good. One doctor said to me, Lisa, they're not going to swim in the shirt. They're just going to shower in the shirt. So I became very particular but we went through seven prototypes in one year, which was also helpful for me because I ended up with a lot of complications. I ended up with seven surgeries to hospital acquired infections and four months of hyperbaric oxygen treatments while I was going through breast cancer recovery, so to be honest, every time I would have a surgery My doctor would say, now remember, you can't get those drains wet, I would say, but remember, I have another prototype coming in from my manufacturer. So I will test it, to see how well it works. So I was, I was a lot of my, my own research team, I did also, as prototypes would come in, I have these good friends with a local plastic surgeon. And he gave some of those prototypes to breast cancer patients who are also going through recovery to test the prototype. So I was I didn't have to have a big research and development group on that I kind of have my own personal research and development for trying to perfect the product.

Well, so And it's funny, a lot of some of our viewers might hear seven prototypes, and you know, and kind of get overwhelmed and intimidated, but the prototypes don't necessarily have to start as expensive professionally designed prototypes, like how did you get your first prototype actually was a cake from a beauty salon.

It was a cake from a beauty salon that my aunt took and, and made the shower shirt based on my brother's architectural schematic. So I think it cost me $10. But again, I had family. I think in a case like that, you do not have to go to a high end manufacturer to get something done. To be honest, I'm working with a couple of friends very close friends who want to create kind of a, a COVID birthday candle for the cake. In the past, we all blow the candles out, you know, of course our germs go on the cake. And they're they're producing something comparable to protect the CAE. And they're doing it with a 3d printer. And it's costing the minimal minimal money. So no, for the viewers. Again, you can you can just meant you can manufacture it yourself by like putting things together. And also remember, and I'm happy to help out anyone that wants to reach out with questions. Once you get to the quote, proper manufacturer, when you finalize your prototype, oftentimes the manufacturer will also say, hey, look, do you mind if I change this a little bit accordingly, our manufacturer did that on some of the the sleeve sizes. And so your prototype, prototype does not have to be perfect, has to be workable, has to be usable and understandable. But it does not have to be perfect.

Okay, I know in my practice, I often see inventors, they'll come in with cardboard or wood, foam cups, playdough whatever, like just and you're absolutely right. The key is just just to explain and get the idea across. Because the manufacturers are not looking for you as the you know, the manufacturing experts looking to you for tell us the best way to make it. They just want to understand how the product works and what it does.

Absolutely. And it's kind of interesting. You see the the image behind us the shower shirt. That was one of the original images I usually say you have the shirt, the woman in the shower with the shirt and they're like, Oh, is that you? And I'm like I'm cheap talent point is we created that years ago. So people would understand what the shower shirt is. Otherwise, sometimes people look at the picture and go Why is the girl in the shirt with the shower, or in the shower with a shirt, which brings up something else in terms of invention. I read a book called The unstoppable. It was by Katherine Cusick. And she talks about the big guys, the Domino's the Disney's The so on and so forth. And one thing she said that was just profound to me and I repeat it and I see it. It's harder to bring a product to market that's never existed, versus a product that exists and you want to change it better it and reapply for a patent and you've changed it 15% As you know, you're a you're a patent attorney. But that was something for me. It wasn't just about bringing the product to market it was also educating about the product. Because again, you look at an image and go Why is she in the shower with a shirt? Yes, if you put the ribbon by it, then you think okay, breast cancer chest, but that's one of the that's big been one of our biggest biggest hurdles is to educate what the product is for and a lot of inventors fall into that. They realize there's a need for a product. Maybe that's existed hasn't existed or that change, right educate, educate, educate is key.

So it's funny when you say a lot, it's not even just individual inventors reaching for an example that I think is going to bring the point home, like posted when 3pm develop these removable sticky notes. People never had this before, they didn't know, you'd go to the office supply store like, well, what would I do with these? What would I use them for? So because everyone is used to the, you know, tape and a piece of paper. And so they had to educate and sometimes in their case, educating their consumers means giving them away for free. So they, and this is something that, you know, obviously, you can't do that with the shower here. But with a low cost product to science, find that very often is they'll give the initial batches out to get feedback. And then people use them once and when they run out. They're like, Oh, you know what? I'm never gonna go back to a piece of tape and paper again. Exactly. So that's, it's an important point. And as far as, oh, go ahead.

Yeah, that is an absolute perfect example, absolute. And now when you run out of post it notes, you can't use tape. You're like, I can't write anything. I don't have any posted notes. And as a perfect example, it's interesting with a shower shirt, if you've gone through breast cancer, or oftentimes, friend, family, grandmother, sister has gone through it. You know, there's a need for a showering apparatus. But if you've never gone through it, you have no idea. And so I get calls, this is a great gift, I get get calls from friends all the time. My friend said she can't shower and you're the only thing I can find online. And at first, I think yeah, we're still the only product of its kind on the market loo. Secondly, it's like Yeah, unfortunately, it's it's information you never really wanted to know. And let's hope you never need it. But it's there if you need it. We hope. Now my husband kind of looks at me odd sometimes. I hope at one point time, 1015 years from now, it will be a household name kind of like a band aid. But then again, that's kind of sad too. But breast cancer numbers are increasing. I also want to say something about the shower shirt. As a surgeon told me this again, though, I was a health and medical reporter I was non clinical. When I was in his office with my prototype. He said, Lisa, this is amazing. He says, you know, 300,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer. Every year, of course, I knew that I was a breast cancer patient. He said, But you know, there's more than 1 million hemo dialysis patients in this country, dialysis patients on end stage who are in stage renal disease on dialysis treatment, well, they have hemo dialysis catheters in their neck, that also can't get wet. And that's why on our brochure, we list so many chest surgery patients rotator cuff patients that can use the product. So the inception is breast cancer and that that was my cathartic project and my love. But I'm also thrilled to say that it's helped a lot of patient populations. And that's something I did not know when I went into this, because I was thinking only about the breast cancer side,

right? Because the the, you know, the, again, the necessity for you was tied to breast cancer. And Jenny's our assistant, she has a video, you have you have a couple like videos, we couldn't decide which one would be the best one. Oh, I could play Jenny, if you want to play that. Now. That's, I believe that's also that same image I've seen in there. So it's nice to see that that that brain consistency going as well.

Yeah, terrific. I noticed and it's hard as a patent attorney, you know, patent numbers are like, like catnip for us. I can't see a video or any kind of brochure or anything with a patent number on it and not immediately get interested. So, you know, sometimes a lot of people don't know how important it is to put your patent number on all marketing. I mean, not only does it help it, of course, differ deters infringers it puts people on notice there's a lot of legal reasons to do it. But also it gives potential buyers. They understand that it's not as if they can shop your product around and get it somewhere else because it's patented. So if they want that product, there's only one source to get that. So I'm glad to see that Pat number on there. Tell us Do you want to talk about the patent process at all? I'm sure it was never, I've never heard anybody say like, oh, it was so fun. It's always a bit of a battle with going back and forth with the examiners.

I would say my process was a little less painful than then I can't say most. And please tell me if I'm wrong. I've read articles on 100% 99 to 100% of all initial patent applications are denied. Is that correct? From your expert resource? Yeah,

that is that is correct. So I always tell inventors, that it's not, you know, it's forewarned is forearmed. So I know in advance like, Listen, don't give up when you get that rejection from the patent office, because expect that rejection, and we're going to help you overcome it. So did you did you know about this? Wonder,

I did. And I have a for the viewers, I have a wonderful inspiration, inspirational boost on that. Yes, we were denied our first time around. And we had a group that. And again, remember I was going through a lot of trade, I was going through treatment at the time I wasn't working, I was on disability essentially. So I slept and I had time on my hands to work on prototypes and the patent. And I told them, I wanted to do as much as I could. I was a good writer, so on and so forth. But again, I'm not a patent attorney. So we were denied. And I was sent probably 30 pages of all the reasons why I was denied because of this product, this product, this product, this product. And I want to first say, when you're doing research before you ever even start the application. Just because there's not a product on the market doesn't mean a patent doesn't exist. Here, just because there's not a product that you can't find on the market that you want to create doesn't mean there's not a patent out there that was never pulled on the market. So with that there was probably 3035 examples of which would be infringement for what we wanted to do. So I took it upon myself, and I did every bit of research. And I wrote for days and days, all the reasons why my product was different. It was not only designed differently, but for method of use, it was different and spent a lot of blood, sweat and tears on that. And we submitted the application, probably within three weeks of getting denied. And within a week and a half my patent attorney calls me he's from Texas, by the way. And he speaks very slow. And he's like, Lisa, this is your lucky day. And I'm like what, what you're expensive, speak up, good, talk faster. And anyway, again, from Texas lives in DC now. And he says you got your Pat. I still it's it's legal. It's my intellectual property. But it's still somewhat emotional to me, because I know of people that fought for years and years and years and years, couldn't get their patent didn't know whether to give up. So for me, that's my inspirational note to all the viewers that are trying for their intellectual property. Again, you have to do so much research and so much reading before you even start the process. And then once you start the process, you still have to be so knowledgeable of what's out there and what you may or may not be competing with. So for us, it's probably a little less painful than a lot of people who got their patent. But from going from no. to five, six weeks later, we had a yes. And of course he was laughing. My patent attorney said yeah, he says now you just have to market your AWS off to see if it's marketable. You got your Pat. And so I'm sure you've told people that and may may or may not have said AWS but yeah, for us, because of the knowledge and because of my work and willing to really take it on. So I'm glad to say we got our patent in I believe February 2011.

Okay, well then congratulations. That was a huge accomplishment. One of the things you bring up is interesting, the the marketing part, and we do have a question from Brian, in our viewers on how do you get like the interest of potential manufacturers producers, you have an advantage as a I don't know if I would even say former because are you still doing health and media journalism or that was

I do media strategy journalism? Yes. I still write a lot of print articles. Often times it's not even my byline I goes, I ghost write for surgeons, physicians and so on and so forth. So I'm still on the periphery of journalism, primarily on the The print side. I do want to add because I was a health and medical reporter for so long in the Orlando media market that helped me I reached out to a lot of editors and former colleagues to say, Hey, I've invented this product, breast cancer awareness is coming up for you if you have any stories, and I have to say, this situation was was I was lucky because a lot of those editors, producers were like, absolutely former health and medical TV reporter, breast cancer survivor becomes inventor for future breast cancer patients. So the story sold. But getting back to the point. That's more media relations, not marketing, but it holds hands, it all goes together, discipline, and then you take those media hits, and then you just monopolize the heck out of them and are across all social media platforms and websites. But in terms of marketing, I think this is very important for me. I had approached one of the hospital gift shops, who was a friend of mine, she was a manager because I was working in the hospital system. I asked the same thing. I've been focused on creating a product focused on getting the pattern, how do I even start marketing and she says, Well, Lisa, for hospital based use, you need to join a GPO, a group purchasing organization called essentially women. They are in mastectomy boutiques, hospital based home medical equipment, durable medical equipment, they promote to all mastectomy related everything clinical. And you'll get in front of a lot of people. And I did and I have to say this is another little inspirational bite, I joined Ew, it's not inexpensive at the time, I think it was $1,000, which that's all relative depending on the budget. And I went to my first conference with essentially women in Phoenix. And I'm not kidding, I was at my table, my little pop up and you know, my little dress form, telling people about my product. And there was a line out the door of of mastectomy boutique owners who were who said, I came to this conference just to meet you. And just to look at this product. Because we have been selling to mastectomy, mastectomy garment, we have been selling mastectomy garments to patients for 2025 years. There's never been a product to protect these patients while showering. So one more time, I was very lucky. And please don't. I'm not trying to fool you. This has not been an easy process many times, I told my husband, I would scream and say I quit. I can't do this anymore. But I can also say that I lucked out with essentially women on having probably 1000 people to immediately look at my product. And be aware that there is now a product for these breast cancer patients to shower in. Of course, that's the good side of medical. The downside of medical is often the whole Medicare, and we fought for many, many years to get Medicare coverage on the shower shirt. Unless you can get Medicare coverage. You can't get insurance to cover it. So we I told my husband finally, I could spend $10,000 A month a lobbyist, and I still wouldn't have the Medicare coverage. So of course that's changed a lot. And we've chosen to stay self pay. It's not that expensive of a product. But ew is wonderful from the medical side for anyone looking to invent medically related products. But you still have to fight with Medicare on the coverage, which is a whole other animal.

Yeah. Wow. And now your product is is available in I believe over 70 bowtique. Mastectomy bowties throughout the United States, all over the world, England, Ireland, Israel, Australia is doing phenomenal. I just want to ask if you had one piece of advice because we're right, running out of time. So this I always end with this question, because if you could go back and advise your former CIO on something that you would do differently. What advice would you give yourself and I think a lot of our viewers can get value from that.

A little bit what we touched on earlier, read read, read, read, research, research, research research. Again, so many people I've seen where they worked so hard to build a prototype, and apply for their patents. Unbeknownst to them, there was already a product that or let's say a patent that existed for that product, right? Even though it did not go on the market. I think use as many contacts as you can and some people don't have don't have the network that I had. But I have to tell you not one person did I ever reach out to don't be afraid to ask questions. Don't be afraid especially right now. Social media, LinkedIn, you know, contact those people. Hi, I see you've done this. I have some questions. Would you talk to me, I can tell you not one person, not one person ever told me no, everybody I ever asked for a little bit of advice, said, absolutely. I may not be able to talk to you for a few days, but I'm happy to help you. And for that reason, I've never told one person know, anybody that's ever asked me for help. I always try to help them. But knowledge is power. And I never expected to invent a product ever. Oftentimes, you know, I would see poor designs on products I already have like my refrigerator right now. But I never expected to ever invent a product. But I felt it was something that I had to do, I felt there was a power above that told me you have to do this. And because of that, I just kind of tried to keep my mind open, read research, learn as much as I can and move forward. But I can also tell you, and you know this as a patent attorney, for any of our viewers, you have to be consistent every day you get up and you fight for that product. For me, it was a cathartic process, because it helped me through my breast cancer recovery. But it's it's a job, if you want to invent a product, create a product, get a patent on it, bring it to market, it's a job. And, and you just have to remember that it's mind over matter. And what's more important, really, really getting the job done and making it happen. It's easy to quit. But don't quit, just continue. If you believe in that product, then I personally believe that will happen.

Yeah, well, I mean, this is incredibly inspiring. And I can you know, there's parts when you're telling your story that it's hard not to even get choked up even here on a live interview. Because you're you're especially when you talk about like 1000 people that are trying to contact you, boutique owners want you know, coming to a trade show coming to an event just to be able to speak with you. And it's it's different than a lot of products because of course, you know, it's a new product on the market you do, you're going to make money from it, it's going to be profitable, but the incredible amount of good that it is doing for patients that are going through what you went through and even beyond that, because as you said, it's not so easy for him on dialysis. It's for all kinds of surgeries, well beyond what sparked the idea. So thank you again for joining. We're out of time, but I do. But once a year, I do a virtual Summit, we're actually into a Life Summit. But until this pandemic is over, it'll be spiritual. And I'd love to have you come back and we can send you details on that. There's so many inventors I think they can learn so much from from your journey. So thank you, Lisa. And enjoy the rest of your Friday. Have a wonderful weekend.

Thank you very much. Thank you for having me, and I will I'm happy to help out anytime you need me.

Perfect. Take care.

Thanks. Take care. Thank you

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