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How to Start a New Life and a New Business : Sentinelco

2020 March 12
by Annie Wallace

How to Start a New Life and a New Business : SentinelcoSometimes we need a real push to start something new and awesome.

I, for one, started my own business when I got fired from my day job because I was pregnant, so I can so much relate to this story!

It is fascinating and so inspiring!

Q. When and why did you decide to start your online venture? What inspired you?

After my daughter was born I felt an urgency to create a good life. For her. Her dad and I had a young, tumultuous relationship. Always back and forth fighting, breaking up. I wanted stability. I wanted to be happy. I needed to leave Shane.

Instead, I got an arm tattoo, dyed my hair black and stayed. I thought college might be the answer. I attended LSU and took a job at a dental office in Baton Rouge, LA to learn the ropes. I was working towards being a dental hygienist. They make good money. Nice hours. Stable.

There was a lady that worked with me at the dental office. Her name was Janelle. She & her husband were doing something different. They had started their own online business making teeth flippers for young girls that participate in beauty/glitz pageants. Janelle’s husband was a dental lab technician and I harassed Janelle daily with questions about her side hustle- her online business.

I was fascinated with the idea that you can work from home and make money. Oh! I was also playing roller derby at the time (hence the need for black hair and tattoos). It wasn’t until I walked into derby practice with a custom designed mouthguard I had made for myself that things started to fall together.

The players loved my mouthguard. They wanted to buy some custom designed mouthguards from me!

I bought a mouthguard machine, a die-cutting machine, ordered the material online and set up shop in my laundry room. Oh the good ol’ days. That was the beginning and its been a roller coaster ride since.

Q. Please share your biggest struggles at the start. How did you overcome them

I had no money. I had used student loans to buy my equipment. The roller derby players couldn’t pay much for the custom designed mouthguards and the designs took me forever to put on. As my daddy would say “I didn’t have a pot to piss in.”

On top of that, I learned that Shane was cheating on me again and it was time to leave him for good. He had racked up 3 DUI’s at this point and I knew I was done this time. For good. This decision of course meant dropping out of LSU, taking my daughter and moving back home with my mom in Florida. Starting over. Again.

Back in Florida, I continued to struggle. I got a job at a new dental office and worked on the mouthguard business at night. I had turned a portion of my moms garage into the lab. For two years I focused hard on custom designed athletic mouthguards.

I had a couple of martial arts gyms in Florida interested in my products but the work involved to create the custom designs outweighed what people were willing to pay for the guards. Also, sometimes the designs just didn’t turn out. Once I would seal the clear plastic over the decals bubbles would appear and deep frustration would ensue.

My other mouthguard product that I sold was a soft night guard for teeth grinding. I noticed this was an easier sell. Customers were willing to spend the money on the night guard for teeth grinding because it solved two issues:

  1. Offered a solution to their teeth grinding problem.
  2. It was affordable. The custom night guard in the dental office is $400-$800. Mine was priced at $100.

It was also easier to make, less time consuming and customers loved that I offered a thinner, more comfortable version than the dental office.

I decided to refocus and rebrand the company.

Q. What ONE most important lesson did you learn when starting your business?

When you go to work on your business you’re really going to work on yourself. For my business to change, I needed to change. I needed to conquer things about myself that were holding me back. This meant being brutally honest with myself and addressing my shortcomings.

I needed to be more disciplined, learn more about the industry, never cut corners and practice patience.

Most of all, I needed to RAISE MY OWN STANDARDS.

There have been many other lessons I’ve had to learn. Like how to spot people who are wanting to take advantage of you and how to protect yourself as best you can from those people, how to get past your own ego, why customer experience is absolutely crucial to success, and more. But being willing to go to work on yourself is #1. The business is a direct reflection of its owner.

Q. What would you have done differently if you were to start now?

I would have secured a URL with the high volume industry related keyword “night guard” in it. So, instead of I should have taken Google would most likely rank the site higher on this factor alone.

I would have much higher standards from the beginning. My product photography, logo, copywriting, digital design was all laughable in the beginning. I didn’t even know why it was important to make sure the images are high res. You know how Facebook will show you posts from years ago? Sometimes Facebook gives me a flashback post from 7 years ago and I just can’t believe I posted that! Embarrassing but a part of the process. I’m still working on this and we still have a long way to go!

I was a magnet for sleazy salesmen that took advantage of my ignorance. I racked up credit card debt paying for false promises. My bullshit meter is a lot better now.

Q. How can our readers connect to you online?

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