Felicia Jackson, CEO of CPRWrap and a product of Chattanooga's entrepreneurial ecosystem, is back from Austin, Texas, after participating in one of the most prestigious business accelerator programs in the country, and she is laying the groundwork for an international expansion of her lifesaving product.
Jackson and her employees traveled to Austin in January to take part in the Techstars Austin accelerator program for three months. Only 1% of the hundreds of people who apply are accepted, Jackson said, and three Chattanooga companies — CPRWrap, Woorly and Pass It Down — were picked along with other top startup firms from Los Angeles, Toronto, Houston, Austin and Fayetteville, Arkansas.
While Jackson doesn't run a technology company, like Woorly or Pass It Down, the 47-year-old said she has several projects coming soon, with one being a tech-enabled component for CPRWrap.
Since her start three years ago, Jackson has raised $300,000, but she is currently trying to raise $750,000 more in a round of seed funding. Her most recent — and first investment to result from the Techstars program — was from RetailMeNot, but she declined to disclose the amount while the funding round is still open.
"I was introduced to CEOs whose companies had just been acquired for multi-million or billions of dollars, and they come in and tell you everything — not just the good, but the bad, too," Jackson said. "With Techstars, they not only helped construct the company I had going in, but they helped the CEO, too."
"I am my company, my company is me," she added.
Nearly 383,000 out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrests occur every year with 88% of them happening at home, and yet, 70% of Americans don't know CPR or their training has significantly lapsed, according to the American Heart Association.
Within the first five minutes of having a cardiac arrest, there's a 50/50 chance of surviving, according to the Southeast Tennessee chapter of the American Red Cross. CPR stands for cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
Jackson knows that even people who know the emergency lifesaving procedure can freeze from fear when it comes time to save their loved ones, because that is what happened to her when her now 18-year-old son was just 2 and choking on a piece of candy in the car. The former physical therapist at CHI Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga had all the training to save her son, but her husband had to jump in and get the candy out of his mouth.
Fast forward 16 years, and Jackson is bracing for an expansion of the CPR device she invented to help others avoid what she experienced with her son. Jackson's product is a plastic overlay with CPR instructions to aid anyone caught in a similar situation. The wrap, which comes in a small, portable pouch, includes a mouth barrier with a one-way valve and embossed hand placements and proper CPR instructions.
The life-saving wrap comes in sizes for all ages, and Jackson has sold over 6,000 since starting the company nearly three years ago. Jackson has earned about $60,000 in revenue up to this point and said revenue has doubled every year so far.
"This year, I have tasked my staff to close out with $500,000 (in sales)," she said. "We have over $6 million (in potential sales) in our pipeline right now," she said. "It's doable."
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has also approved a patent for the CPRWrap recently, and Jackson is working on a prototype now for a CPRWrap for dogs and other animals.
Jackson recently hired a salesperson, bringing her small staff to three employees total. Her office is currently located in the Hamilton County INCubator in the North Shore.
Jackson is a product of several entrepreneurial programs in Chattanooga, including LAUNCH Chattanooga and CO.STARTERS by the Company Lab. She said the Chattanooga community has been supportive of her participation in the Austin program and plans to expand.
While Jackson said she wants her company to always have a presence in Chattanooga, she said she will go wherever her investors want her to go.
"This is my first time really talking to (Venture Capitalist) firms," she said. "They are used to getting really high returns and quick growth, but I'm not a tech company, Uber or Facebook, so this is going to take a little time," she said. "They see that it has the possibility of being something global, though."
Currently, local CPRWrap clients include big companies and organizations such as Tennessee Valley Authority, Hamilton County Schools and CHI Memorial Hospital. CPRWrap can also be found online at Walmart.com and Amazon.com for $14.99 each.
Jackson's success with the Techstars program and here in Chattanooga has also attracted the attention of the popular show Shark Tank. Jackson is currently going through the application process to be on the show that matches entrepreneurs with investors to help grow their idea and company.
A report from digitalundivided states that since 2009, black women–led startups have raised $289 million in venture/angel funding, represnting just .0006% of the $424.7 billion in total tech venture funding raised in that time period.
Jackson said just 38 women have raised $1 million or more, and Jackson thinks she can exceed her $750,000 goal.
"I'm hoping to be the 39th," she said.
Contact staff writer Allison Shirk Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org, @AllisonSCollins or 423-757-6651.