By Geneva Slupski
Lisa Nejjar, BSN, RN, is on a mission to help those on the go carry essential items in something more stylish than a fanny pack, so she put her nursing skills to work. Nejjar, a former case management nurse for Cigna, New York City, is the inventor of the Fusion Wrap — a zipper-on waist wrap with specially designed pockets.
Nejjar came up with the idea after moving with her family from Lyndhurst, N.J., to Jacksonville, Fla., in August 2011 and started up running. She quickly noticed many of the popular yoga and workout pants came with either no pockets or impractical ones that were too small — leaving zero or few hands-free options for carrying items such as keys, identification, a credit card, phone or iPod.
Dubbed the “anti-fanny pack,” Nejjar’s product also has found a home in the healthcare arena, with diabetic patients using the Fusion Wrap to hold insulin pumps and asthmatic patients who need to carry inhalers while participating in sports and other activities.
“As a nurse it makes me really happy and fulfilled because a lot of people are coming up with medical uses for the product,” Nejjar said. “It’s just been a great experience.”
Ame Fischer, RN, CLC, wears the Fusion Wrap while running, kayaking and hiking. The wrap also fits easily beneath her surgical scrubs, she said. Fischer wasn’t surprised a nurse came up with the idea.
We think outside the box,” said Fischer, a labor and delivery nurse at Sauk Prairie Healthcare in Prairie du Sac, Wis. and Reedsburg Area Medical Center in Reedsburg, Wis. “We think about what makes our lives easier and adds the littlest amount of steps.”
A mother of three, Nejjar began her journey from nursing to entrepreneurship with the idea of removing the top from a pair of yoga pants and transforming it into a trendier, less bulky, more comfortable version of traditional carrying pouches. She first asked a seamstress friend to help her create a prototype.
“I paid her to make a sample and I put it on,” Nejjar said. “Everyone was like, ‘I want one. Where did you get it?’”
Nejjar left her case manager job in 2013 and cashed in part of her 401K to pay startup costs for the Fusion Wrap. She started with about $5,000 worth of inventory and also paid $9,000 for three patents. Setting up a website cost about $3,000, she said. Among the early challenges she faced was finding sources to produce the Fusion Wrap and get it on the market. Her entire product is made in the U.S. — something that was important to Nejjar as she set out to find a manufacturer.
With no business experience, Nejjar searched on her own for sources for everything from providing the fabric to supplying packaging and logos. Most of her sources came from word of mouth. She found a fulfillment center for selling online orders through her son’s soccer coach.
“You’ve got to network,” Nejjar said. “Once you find your first source, ask them for your next source. The thing with being successful in being an entrepreneur is perseverance, taking risks and networking. I’ve made so much progress just by networking.”
Nejjar said her resourcefulness and problem-solving abilities she developed as a nurse have been helpful in her new career.
“Being a nurse, you have to have critical thinking skills, you have to prioritize,” Nejjar said. “That helps with running a business. You utilize the same skills from being a nurse for being an entrepreneur.”
Geneva Slupski is a freelance writer.[accordions]
[accordion title=”Entrepreneur journey takes nurse 2 years” load=”hide”]Lisa Nejjar, BSN, RN, had her “aha” moment in October 2012 for the then-unnamed Fusion Wrap when she realized the top of yoga pants could be transformed into a waist wrap with pockets for carrying items such as cell phones and keys. The idea moved to mass production within two years. Here’s the timeline:
To pursue idea full time, resigns from nurse case manager job at Cigna.
Incorporates business. Father dies that same month, prompting a slow down on moving forward with the product.
Re-motivated to pursue business plan after seeing a CNN report on Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx, who created her popular line of shape wear.
Invests some 401K funds to purchase materials for production.
Mass production begins in Los Angeles. Nejjar appears on a Jacksonville, Fla., morning show and officially launches her product to the general public.[/accordion]