From Bullied Kid to Millionaire
by Lisa Bradshaw
The most relevant factor of success as an entrepreneur and inventor has little or nothing to do with luck and the big break can be a roller coaster of continued trial and error, ups and downs, and successes and failures. Add to it being a grossly bullied student with no self worth and a low IQ, and it’s a wonder Nancy Tedeschi accomplished anything at all. The most relevant factor of success is one’s willingness to endure the challenges and regroup, coming back stronger, more experienced, and more capable of adjusting to the times, the economy, the landscape of any particular industry, and, in Tedeschi’s case, to fight back against the labels that were placed on her since childhood. Tedeschi, a bullied and buck toothed child, is now a millionaire who fought her way to the top with a brilliant idea that came from a light bulb moment that changed the way screws will be made for decades to come.
NT: I was a horribly bullied as a child for having buck teeth, had low self esteem, an IQ of only 92, and even my teachers told my parents that I was stupid and that there was something wrong with me. I barely graduated from high school and was only allowed into community college years later if I agreed to take remedial courses. While working on my education with tutors and my mental health with a good therapist, I discovered there was nothing at all wrong with me. I was stifled as a student and could have been lost as an adult after being emotionally bullied in a brutal classroom setting. Instead, I received a 4.0 in college, set my sights on a stimulating career, and was retested with an IQ of 146—far from stupid.
LB: So there was nothing wrong with you at all.
NT: Absolutely nothing. I was stifled from the bullying.
LB: So how did you transition from a college student to a business woman?
NT: My transition into business came after a brief career in television production for NFL Films when I began working for a mortgage company in 1990. My first year I did 300 million dollars in mortgage sales. I received countless awards for my performance, all so my bosses could take me to a reserved Comfort Inn conference room and fire me in private—they could no longer afford to pay me. I thought my life was over. I was devastated by how quickly my success could turn to failure even though I was doing my job so well. That was the last time I ever worked for someone else. What I thought was one of the lowest points in my life became the greatest lesson because I was determined to work for myself.
LB: That way, you would succeed or fail on your own merit.
LB: So what was your next move?
NT: I purchased my own title company in 1993, knowing nothing about the title insurance industry but was well trained by the original owner over six months time. Again, I succeeded and did millions of dollars in sales. I was riding high in the mortgage industry, making millions and living the lifestyle that came with it, including expensive cars, lavish travel, and a mansion I called home. As the economy drastically turned, particularly in the real estate industry, I was once again faced with my own sense of failure, losing my home and millions of dollars. I had to start over and wasn’t sure how to do it.
LB: Did what you had been through before help propel you to the next professional phase?
NT: Yes, because I could at least recognize it as an opportunity for change and knew I had more to do. But the next professional phase of my life was least expected. I went from a real estate mogul to an inventor, which definitely does not have a smoothly paved road to success.
LB: Don’t many inventions of individual inventors happen by accident?
NT: That’s true. But an invention becoming a salable product on store shelves throughout the country is no accident at all. It is, by far, the most grueling professional experience I have endured. My idea was simple: a solution to fix a time consuming problem when repairing eye glasses. The determination to bring it to the global market is the difference between my product making it and the thousands of people whose ideas never leave the kitchen table napkin that they were sketched on.
LB: SnapIt Screw™, a stainless screw that comes with an extension that snaps off, is less than an inch long, can be twisted by hand and works from the top or bottom of the eye glasses, is the golden idea you had to see through, no matter the obstacles.
NT: My invention is so simple that I still can’t believe out of all the billions of people who have ever lived, no one thought to do this.
LB: Ideas come and go. How many times do we think of a great idea, then see it on a store shelf a few years later and wish we’d followed through and had done what it took to own the idea and the product?
NT: The problem is that the process of innovation in this country makes it nearly impossible to compete with the big companies that have millions of dollars invested in monopolizing store shelves and stream lining the process with ongoing relationships in the industry.
LB: How did you even know where to begin?
NT: It was important for me to gain an understanding of the market that my product idea would penetrate. In my case, setting up meetings with manufacturers who make eyeglass screws was the obvious place to start. I knew I had an idea that would make repairing eye glasses quicker and easier, and time is money in any business. This simple screw could save time and make money.
LB: I guess the real challenge was figuring out how to actually make money from your idea that was now a viable product.
NT: Licensing a product can be a lucrative and simpler approach when considering how to get a product to consumers with the least risk while still yielding returns on the investment, but I chose not to license SnapIt Screw™ and, instead, embarked on the long and often arduous process of bringing the screw to the optical industry and consumers.
LB: What made you go against the least complicated option?
NT: I’m not sure why I chose the path of most resistance, but I am pretty sure it had something to do with getting fired in that Comfort Inn conference room and deciding to never work for someone else again. If I licensed my product, someone else would be calling the shots and deciding for me how my product would be sold and where. Bringing my product to retail shelves myself, even though it was a nearly impossible process that I knew nothing about, left me in control of my own efforts, whether I succeeded or failed at it.
LB: What about your approach was most difficult?
NT: My greatest frustration when getting my product on store shelves was that there was no process in place for inventors who had made it that far. I have a remarkable product that can make life easier for millions of people who wear eyeglasses and need to repair them, but the success of my product had nothing to do with my hard work, tenacity, or willingness to do the work to get it in front of consumers.
LB: Archimedes (287-212 B.C.) invented the first screw which was originally used for irrigation in the Nile delta and for pumping out ships. SnapIt Screw™ is revolutionizing an idea that has been around for centuries.
NT: It makes me wonder what other ideas are out there waiting to be developed that may never see the light of day.
LB: Is that why you are so passionate about helping others through the process of innovation?
NT: Yes because nothing I did or didn’t do made a difference in the process because there is no process. There is nothing in place that makes it anything but nearly impossible for the great minds of this country, who have ideas that can change the way we live everyday, to succeed in innovation. While other countries are lightyears ahead of us, the United States inventor gets frustrated, runs out of money, or stops short during the patent process. Most inventors never get to the step of figuring out how to sell their invention in product form to retailers.
LB: How successful is SnapIt Screw™ today?
NT: Today my product is sold in major retail stores throughout the world. To date, my company, Eyeego, LLC, has sold over five million screws and 400,000 eye glass repair kits, which include the screw, to the consumer retail market.
LB: I’d say that it’s extremely successful.
NT: By all definitions, my product is a success. Through trial and errors, I cracked the code to being a successful inventor but I still know there is work to be done in the innovation industry, so I am trying to help pave the way for future inventors in this country.
LB: Do you think Thomas Edison would stand a chance inventing his light bulb and getting it sold in retail stores today?
NT: If Thomas Edison were trying to invent the lightbulb in today’s world, we might all still be living in darkness.
LB: What can say to encourage other inventors?
NT: I’m a successful business woman who started out as a stifled, bullied, and broken kid. I have had to fight the big guys in this industry to get anything done. Now my invention is making money on major retail shelves everyday. If I can accomplish that in the innovation process of today, then I know I can also have a hand in changing the way it gets done.
LB: You talk a lot about being bullied and how you had to overcome the odds of being a kid who felt worthless to become the success you are today. Beyond your passion for invention is your passion for bringing awareness to bullying with the DON’T WAIT® to Stop Bullying campaign.
LB: How to Unmake A Bully is a Public Service Announcement (PSA) Campaign that is geared toward creating real change by involving students in the process of production.
NT: Exactly. We go into schools and teach fourth graders how to write, direct, produce, film and act in a PSA, which is based on their own story idea according to their experiences with bullying in their schools. The product is the PSA but the result is the message the students learn through the process of producing it.
LB: I recently read that half the time a bully will retreat within 10 seconds if just one person tells the bully to stop.
NT: Yes, that’s true. The theme of the PSAs is getting the kids to stand together to end the bullying behavior. It’s overwhelming to think about changing school policy, fixing the home of a child who is bullying, or healing what is hurting in a child who is bullying. But peer influence and making bullying unacceptable can have an enormous impact on the playground, school bus, cafeteria, and even on Facebook and other social media outlets.
LB: Bullying takes place beyond school grounds with social media in place.
NT: It definitely does. But what would happen if there was a post on Facebook with a bullying tone and a few people stood up by deleting it from their feed, making a positive comment, or deleting the bullying “friend” from their Facebook page all together? Cyber bullying can’t be very satisfying if there isn’t anyone reading the negative comments being posted.
LB: Take away the audience and the show ends.
NT: Yes, the show ends!
LB: In addition to being an inventor by all definitions, you are also a philanthropist. You are committed to giving money to this cause and creating a safe space for kids to grow and prosper.
NT: Most days, I feel burdened by this silly screw I invented, but then I have to remind myself that this silly screw is affording me the ability to bring real change to an epidemic in this country that is killing the spirit of children. Without healthy children, how can we ever expect to benefit from the ideas of healthy adults paving the way of our future? The bullying has to stop and it starts with the children.