In 2009, Jennifer Holland was a full-time stay-at-home mum with a young son and a second baby well on the way.
Fast forward seven years, she’s developed a medical device that will soon be available in 140 countries in a distribution deal estimated to be worth $15 million. As if that’s not enough to keep her busy, Holland is also now a mum of four.
The idea for Throat Scope came to the former financial accountant when she was 38 weeks pregnant with her second child. Her 15-month-old son seemed to have developed a sore throat, so she took him to the GP for a checkup.
“The doctor got out his tongue depressor in one hand and his hand-held torch in the other, and he asked me to restrain my child while he pried open his mouth with the wooden tongue depressor,” she recalls.
That “unpleasant” experience got Holland wondering whether there was a way to combine the two implements, thus making it easier for doctors to inspect patients’ throats.
In her research, she found only eight existing patents for tongue depressors from the past decade, all of which had a fiber-optic cable running through the device to provide light. Holland figured there had to be a more affordable way to create an all-in-one product.
“I tried all different things and what worked was just a piece of polycarbonate plastic attached to one of those LED torches. We taped that together and that was our very first prototype,” she says.
Now, the device features a disposable blade illuminated with an LED light, which is attached to a re-usable handle.
Holland’s appearance on the TV show Shark Tank in 2015 was one of the major steps that accelerated the development of the Throat Scope.
Although her idea received a positive reception from the panel, Holland found the pitching experience hugely nerve-wracking — but luckily, she received a little pep-talk from her six-year-old son backstage.
“My son squeezed my hand and I just remember him saying to me, ‘Mum, you look after four of us every day, you’ll be fine.’ And everything disappeared as soon as he said that,” she says.
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Her daughter also helped out, telling Holland she should wear her hair in a side-braid on Shark Tank, just like Elsa from Frozen. Naturally.