Connie INUKAI: Grandmapreneur & Inventor of Tip ‘n Split

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  • Tell us something about yourself, 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 age 68, I retired from teaching and became an inventor.

At the time, I knew very little about business but after retirement, figured that was the path I would follow.

During Covid 19, 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 “Tip ‘n Split,” “Write Your Selfie,” and “Grandmapreneur.”

What is it like to have different careers at different stages of your life?  It’s fun–especially because it’s all new to me. I was a college professor for over 40 years, and my retirement years are different, full, and exciting. I’ve spoken to numerous groups of BabyBoomers about what to do in your retirement years.

I am continuing to do what I love.

  • Tell us about the products you invented with a brief explanation:

 Tip ‘n Split is 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.

It consists of a magnifier, a light, and a calculating device to figure out a tip and split the bill in seconds.

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. My legacy book is based on pictures and captions, and thus you can easily write it. It’s especially easy to read. Few people want to read a 1,000-page memoir.

  • How/Why did you start inventing. What set you off?

As I got older, my vision got poorer. When I went out to dinner with friends, we would pass around reading glasses to read the small print on the menu and bill. We would also search for a candle if the restaurant was dark. 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.

I knew nothing about inventing, but I learned.

  • How did you get from idea to finished product?

Nothing like this product existed anywhere. I first worked with my former husband, Tom Inukai, a brilliant engineer and mathematician. He figured out all the algorithms to make Tip ‘n Split work effortlessly. It took many, many attempts to get manufacturers to make it work properly, but with persistence we succeeded. My first big break was winning the Gold Medal for “Best New Gadget” at INPEX, trade show for inventors.

I have funded my product by myself, so I do a lot of Googling and YouTubes to learn how to market my product.

  • Let us know of useful resources that helped you i.e. Books, websites, software etc

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. Some of the best resources for inventors today are the books written by Stephen Key about inventing and licensing.  My favorite is “One Simple Idea.”

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.

  • Where are you with your products? 

Tip ‘n Split was and still is successful, appearing on QVC, The Today Show, The View, CBS News, NBC News, and Fox News. I also wrote a book to help other inventors get publicity, “How I Got My Product on QVC, The Today Show, The View, and More…In Retirement.” (You can get a free copy of my book by subscribing to my website (Click HERE).

I started my new product during the pandemic 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.

  • Websites:

Tip ‘n Split: Click HERE 

Write Your Selfie: Click HERE 

Grandmapreneurinventor: Click HERE 

--End of Interview--
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