Necessity is often the mother of invention, but in the context of Chattanooga, Tenn. mother Felicia Jackson’s inspiration for CPR Wrap, “necessity” would be an understatement.
“My son, when he was seven years old, had a choking incident,” says Jackson, the inventor of a revolutionary new disposable CPR assistive device and the founder of its eponymous company, CPR Wrap. “He was completely obstructed and couldn’t breathe. At the time I was CPR certified every year, but I was unable to render him aid. My mind went blank.”
A CPR-certified professional with 20 years of experience in the medical field, Jackson is an expert in physical therapy, home health, and outpatient care. But when panic sets in during a high-stakes situation where every second counts, sometimes expertise isn’t enough.
Thankfully, tragedy was averted. “My husband stepped in and he was able to save our son. But that really scared me, because I thought, ‘I’m a medical professional. If this is happening to me, that means it’s happening pretty much everywhere.’”
By some estimates, CPR can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival, but even trained professionals are often reluctant to attempt the procedure during an emergency. In the wake of her son’s close call, Jackson asked herself: How can an invaluable procedure like CPR be rendered easier and more straightforward for the general public and the medical community alike? How could she empower more people to perform CPR and save lives?
Then, she dreamed it up—literally.
“I was in shock, and upset with myself, after the incident,” she says. “And I had a dream where I saw the product. I saw it being used in an emergency situation. I woke up, because I’m a serial inventor. This one, I couldn’t stop thinking about. I knew I had to bring it to the world.”
What Jackson saw in her dream became the inspiration for CPR Wrap, a device that simplifies the process so that lay responders (those who do not know CPR) can respond to emergency situations that require the technique. It’s a tool that combines a one-way mouth valve with a visual hand placement map to guide chest compressions. Its instructions are aligned with official American Heart Association guidelines, and it can be stored (and easily used) anywhere.
It was a vision that would eventually come to fruition, but with no formal business experience, a family to care for, and a natural aversion to marketing (“Growing up, I hated selling things,” she recalls), Jackson knew the road ahead would be tough.
Fortunately, she had a great idea and she was in the right place: based in Chattanooga, Jackson could take advantage of programs hosted by business education organizations like SCORE, as well as an immersive accelerator program run by CO.LAB – Chattanooga, a local startup incubator.
“They take your concept, and they say ‘Go sell it,’” Jackson says, describing the accelerator program. “Remember, this is not my thing, I’m not a salesperson. But you learn real quick to stop saying what you’re not.”
She learned the ropes of pitching a business, and as it turns out, she was a natural all along. “I spoke to people about it, and they got it,” she explains. “While I was in the CO.LAB program, I sold 3,000 units before I had product.”
Soon after, the young company received an invitation to join the Chattanooga Chamber INCubator, the largest business incubator in Tennessee. Jackson began working on CPR Wrap full time, and still does today.
Now that business is booming, the company has gone international. Jackson finds that audiences in South Africa, Dubai, and Germany are just as interested as American consumers in having CPR Wrap on hand—and in some cases even more so.
“Internationally, when it comes to safety and protocol, they prepare—they’re not reactive,” she says. “For many of us here in America, it’s only when something happens to us that we think we need something like CPR Wrap.”
As our lively and jovial conversation ended, Jackson left us with a few parting words of advice, and a sentiment as pertinent to those on the verge of starting a business as to those contemplating a purchase of CPR Wrap: “Don’t wait.”