August 15, 2012 - If 236 years of American history has demonstrated anything, it's that nothing can stop an entrepreneur with an idea and a dream – not even government red tape and fees.
Case in point, Kerri (Linto) Smith needed to raise $4,660 to pay off the government, so she could sell her brand new maternity pillow, called the Belly Rest, via the internet.
Not only did she raise the capital, she far-exceeded her goal by collecting $6,060 through the popular fund-raising website www.indiegogo.com/bellyrest.
"It's been amazing, especially the people that have no idea who I am, but came out and supported me," said Smith, a 1995 graduate of Oxford High School. "A lot of people didn't even ask for anything in return, they just donated because they thought the red tape was ridiculous and they wanted to help."
The Belly Rest is a small maternity pillow that Smith invented in order to help pregnant women sleep better by making them more comfortable while laying in bed.
She wants to sell it over the internet, but in order to do so, 15 states, plus the City of Detroit, require her product to have a pillow tag – technically called a law label – describing the fabric and filling.
In order to have this tag, Smith must pay the 15 state governments – and one city – a grand total of $3,660 in registration fees. They range from $5 per year for Oklahoma to $720 annually for North Carolina.
These registration fees will necessitate Smith to spend an additional $1,000 to hire a company to help her keep track of the registration renewals and forms. Some fees must be paid annually, while others must be renewed every two or three years.
Rather than give up on her idea due to these unexpected costs, Smith and some friends created a humorous and catchy rap video entitled "Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law" to help tell her story and solicit donations. Smith co-wrote the rap with friend Julie Kosoglow.
It worked like a charm.
Smith's story caught the eye of the Leader, which published an article on July 25.
"I know there were a lot of people in Oxford that supported me and posted it on Facebook," she said. "I really, really appreciate their support. Everybody from Oxford that my parents know were super-excited and supportive. They sent me messages and congratulated me."
Within a couple weeks, her story gained some national media attention.
An article about her plight was posted on TheBlaze.com, a news, information and opinion website owned by conservative/libertarian commentator Glenn Beck.
Smith's story was also briefly mentioned on Beck's nationally-syndicated radio show.
Smith was originally scheduled to appear on the national news/opinion television program Fox & Friends on Saturday, Aug. 11, however, she got "bumped" as most of that show focused on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's selection of U.S. Congressman Paul Ryan as his running mate.
"It was all VP talk," she said. "They'd like me to come back next Saturday, but it's not for sure yet. I really, really want to."
Smith noted there's an interesting story behind the contribution that helped her meet and beat her goal.
"Two faculty (members from the economics department) at Florida State University saw the article on The Blaze and got some of their colleagues together to make a lump sum contribution," she explained.
Their $1,000 donation entitled them to have Smith write a "thank you rap."
"They asked me to write a rap about red tape and government regulations and how I overcame (them)," she said. "They plan to use it, and my campaign (rap) video, as a teaching tool in their classes. I'm looking forward to writing my next rap."
Smith plans to invest the excess $1,400 she raised in her new product.
"That's going to materials and manufacturing," she said.
She hopes to make the pillows available to on-line consumers within two months.
For more information, please visit www.bellyrest.com.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.