Connie Inukai, Grandmapreneur, M.A. Columbia University; B.A. The Ohio State University. Connie Inukai had a distinguished career as a technical writing professor at the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University. This was her First Act. Her Second Act was being an entrepreneur and inventor of a device to help people read the small print on the menu/bill and figure out a tip and split the bill in seconds.
She is a well-known author of “How I Got My Product on QVC, The Today Show, The View, and More…in Retirement.”
For her Third Act, she developed a service to help people write their life story in pictures.
Connie encourages Baby Boomers to have an active retirement through business or social entrepreneurship
Can you tell our readers about your background?
I graduated from high school in the late 60s and my most important objective in going to college was landing a career where I wouldn’t live paycheck to paycheck. Growing up, my parents were divorced so money was always a concern. I became a French major in college and also speak Spanish, and some Hebrew and Japanese. I wanted to become an interpreter at the United Nations until I found out that interpreters usually spoke about nine languages fluently. I then decided to become an English as a Second Language teacher because I was fluent in English! I eventually got an M.A. in Linguistics from Columbia University. After teaching ESL for ten years, I began teaching Technical Writing for 40+ years at Columbia University, Hunter College, University of Maryland, and Johns Hopkins University.
At the time, I knew very little about business but after retirement, figured that was the path I would follow.
At age 68, I invented Tip ‘n Split, a handheld device to help people read the small print on menus and bills, especially in dimly lit restaurants. I added a calculating device to figure out a tip and split the bill in seconds.
During Covid, I started a new business, helping people to write their life stories based on pictures and captions. This is a project that people can work on from home.
As an inventor, I knew how to protect my name, so I trademarked the names “Write Your Selfie” and “Grandmapreneur.”
I am continuing to do what I love.
What inspired you to start your business?
I retired from teaching because I wanted to be an inventor. As I got older, it became more difficult to read the small print on the menu and bill, especially in dimly lit restaurants. My friends and I would pass around reading glasses. I also added a tip calculator and bill splitter because after a few drinks, it’s often difficult to think about math. So I invented Tip ‘n Split, a handheld device with magnifier and light that can also figure out a tip and split a bill in seconds.
Tip ‘n Split was and still is successful, appearing on QVC, The Today Show, The View, CBS News, NBC News, and Fox News.
For this interview, however, I will focus on Write Your Selfie. I got inspired because, being in a high-risk age group, I rarely go out of the house, and I wanted to do something creative and meaningful for me and my family.
I wrote my life story and am now helping others to write theirs. www.writeyourselfie.com
Where is your business based?
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
I have been on about 10 podcasts since the beginning of Covid. I think people appreciate that I became an entrepreneur at age 68 and am still going strong at age 73.
What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
My biggest challenge has been technology; I grew up way before computers. I have now hired a trustworthy techie, and I am also learning how to do technology myself.
How do you stay focused?
I usually take a break to do nothing business-related. After that, my full attention goes to my business.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
With Tip ‘n Split, I have a unique product that caters to baby boomers who like to go out to eat, but often can’t read the small print on menus and bills, especially in dimly lit restaurants. My audience also doesn’t like to use apps to figure out a tip and split the bill, especially when dining out with friends.
With Write Your Selfie, I provide expertise and accountability for people who want to write their life story to pass down to children, grandchildren, and future generations. While there are some companies that offer a memoir-writing service, their fee is upwards of $10,000. My legacy book is based on pictures and captions, and is thus easy to write-and especially easy to read. Few people want to read a 1,000-page memoir.
What has been your most effective marketing strategy to grow your business?
Gaining publicity on podcasts, Facebook ads, and social media.
What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
The difference between having a good idea and making money from that idea lies in the execution. Most people have great ideas, but the vast majority will never follow through on them because life gets in the way. They don’t have the time, financial resources, or understand the process.
Here are some tips for new entrepreneurs:
1) Overnight success can take 15 years.
2) It is going to cost more than you think.
3) It is going to take longer than you think.
4) Find a mentor.
5) Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
What’s your favorite app, blog, and book? Why?
I recently read Start with Why? by Simon Sinek. The book had an impact on how I grew my businesses because I re-evaluated and looked from the inside out. Discovering that my “Why” was to help people feel better about themselves made the “How” easier.
I also enjoy reading business magazines and trade publications to stay current with industry trends and expand my knowledge. Life and business will throw all sorts of obstacles, but if we believe in our idea, we will eventually succeed.
What’s your favorite business tool or resource? Why?
I use Fiverr, freelance marketplace services for business, for many of my business needs. Experts on Fiverr are able to create Facebook ads and other promotional services, including social media marketing, digital marketing, tech, and more.
Who is your business role model? Why?
My business role model is a former CFO of the American Red Cross (who wants to remain anonymous). He helped me develop my business model for my new project, Write Your Selfie:
Description of Write Your Selfie: a self-paced six-lesson course to help people write their life story in as little as one month.
1. Develop the concept
January 2020 — May 2020
Expenses $500 for IT support
2. Developing the program
June 2020 — September 2020
3. Building a prototype
October 2020 — December 2020
Expense $1,000 for IT support, social media marketing
Efforts to publicize the service and build my brand
4. Social entrepreneurship efforts as a free service to baby boomers and Seniors in assisted living and retirement communities
January 2021 — May 2021 2020
Expense $$1,000 for IT support, social media marketing, consultations, and travel
5. Business launch of service beginning with Mother’s Day and ending with the holiday season
Revenue $3,000 from 30–35 paying customers
Expenses $5,000 for IT support, social media, consulting support
6. General launch of service
January 2022 — December 2022
Gift for children to give to their parents
7. Continued offering of service
January 2023 — December 2023
74 million baby boomers.
Baby boomers hold $2.6 trillion in buying power. They’re credited as one of the wealthiest generations to date and are still economically powerful despite their old age.
Gift for not only baby boomers, but for their children as well, either for their own story or to work with parents or grandparents.
How do you balance work and life?
Work-life balance is a term used for the idea that you need time for both work and other aspects of life, whether those are family-related or personal interests. The saying goes that ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’
Acknowledge and accept that you cannot do everything all the time. You only have so many resources: time, energy, money, etc.
I always schedule time for myself; I am re-learning to play the violin. Time with my three children and five grandchildren is essential. We talk on the phone and have regular Zoom calls. I am fortunate to have two young grandchildren living with me, so we play checkers and Old Maid. I also have weekly Zoom calls with my five siblings.
What’s your favorite way to decompress?
Take a few hours, a few days, or a few weeks off. Learn a new skill. Volunteer. Do something totally unrelated to your day job. This often inspires me to do things a little differently in my day-to-day, and makes me appreciate what I do more.
I have recently helped four friends edit their business-related books, using my writing skills. I do it for free because it’s easy for me, and I like to help people.
I must say, this has been especially hard during COVID when we are all seemingly working all the time, and are not taking enough time off to avoid burnout.
What do you have planned for the next six months?
My plan for the next six months is to expand my Write Your Selfie business. I made a plan for the next three years. My business coach helped with this. See my plan above.
How can our readers connect with you?