Ambition: Throat Scope founder Jennifer Holland in Newcastle. Picture: Marina Neil
You are the first Australian female to win a silver gong at the US-based Edison awards – honouring excellence in product development – for Throat Scope. What does the win mean to you?
It was an honour to win an Edison Award in New York. The award attracts some of the biggest companies in the world, like 3M and Phillips. To be recognised at this level was an amazing achievement for us.
You invented Throat Scope in 2009 after taking your child to the doctor’s and he was in pain during a mouth examination. How has the potential for the use of your product grown since then?
I designed Throat Scope to replace the penlight and wooden tongue depressor. Doctors, dentists, paediatricians, speech pathologists and paramedics now use Throat Scope. Throat Scope makes it possible to check for sore throats, sore teeth, and mouth ulcers at home. We also want to shine light on the importance of monthly self Oral Health Checks. We’re on a mission to educate the world on the early signs of Oral Cancer. Self-examination will save lives.
Your first brush with success was going on Channel 10’s Shark Tank program and landing a financial backer in tech start up multimillionaire Steve Baxter. Is he still invested in your company?
Steve has played a large part in the Throat Scope journey. His advice is invaluable. He is still an investor in Throat Scope.
Since your appearance on Shark Tank, what have been the biggest coups for your company?
In 17 months, we’ve secured 12 distributors across 146 countries. Team Medical Supplies is one of our largest deals to date, marketing and distributing Throat Scope in Australia. We’ve set up a new warehouse in Ohio in the USA, so we can ship direct to the US. We have three new US distributors and that number is growing.
How has the focus of your business changed since its inception and are there any new markets you envisage for Throat Scope?
Throat Scope provides medical professionals with an Easy, Fast and Accurate view of the mouth, throat, teeth, gums and soft tissue. Now we want to educate everyone about the benefits of at-home, monthly oral health self-checks. If a mole changes colour or shape we know to see a doctor. The early signs of oral cancer are also simple to detect but nobody knows what to look for. Throat Scope is partnering worldwide with Oral Cancer Foundations to educate everyone on the early signs.
What does an average day entail for you?
Most nights I have one or two calls to the US. I start my morning about 4:30am to get some work in before the children wake and also to coincide with US hours. I jump on the treadmill to run for 20 minutes and read emails. When the children wake, I’m in mum mode, getting breakfast, making lunches, dressing them, last minute homework, bags packed and then school drop off for three of my four children. With my fourth child in tow I head into the office for the day and leave about 2:55pm to do school pick up. I’m with the children in the afternoon, taxiing everyone to after school sports and dance. Then its homework, dinner, bath, books, bed and back to work for another couple of hours. My life is crazy but somehow it works. I love Sunday; I switch off and spend quality time with my family.
What are your current business goals?
The goal for Throat Scope and Holland Healthcare is to invent and develop revolutionary medical devices for the healthcare and home market. In 5 years our business will be on par with some of the leading global medical device companies.
What other medical devices are you working on?
We’ll soon be launching the Throat Scope App for parents and healthcare professionals. We’re also working on two new medical devices due out in 2018.
What drives you?
My motivation and drive come from my children. I want them to understand the importance of hard work, persistence and above all I want them to believe in themselves and have the confidence and courage to follow their dreams.
What is the biggest challenge to your business?
Challenges are part of growing, building and learning in business. A challenge for us now is the US company set up; finding the right staff, setting up the warehouse and office to run efficiently, and the intercompany transactions between home and the US.
What is the best part?
Definitely donating Throat Scope to doctors overseas who complete aid work in third world countries. I hope to one day go over and experience this first hand.
You have four young children and a hubby who is away a lot for work. What are your survival tools?
Becoming a mother during my start-up journey gave me all the skills, patience and perseverance I needed to succeed as an entrepreneur. Let’s face it; negotiating with a sick toddler at 3:00am is tough. If you survive that you can do anything.