Posted by Christina Jedra April 1, 2013 02:53 PM
Photo: Courtesy of Rebecca RescateIt’s not often that an entrepreneur strikes gold twice in a lifetime. In this case, the gold was an appearance on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” a show that features business owners competing for investments from successful entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneur Rebecca Rescate, a 2002 Northeastern University graduate, was the first contestant in four seasons to appear twice on the show.
Rescate’s route from student to inventor of CitiKitty, a cat toilet-training kit, was more a matter of necessity than choice, she said. She couldn’t picture herself working for someone else. Although she learned business skills in her first post-graduate job at a New York City software company, she was “bored to tears,” she said.
“I can't imagine working a job where someone else decides how much I make,” she said.
Rescate set out on her own path, in large part because she discovered her passion for business while at Northeastern, where she said her professors taught by using examples of their own work and speaking “with real-world experience.” That made it easier to apply classroom knowledge to the business world, she said.
In addition, she gained experience through Northeastern’s co-op program, which has students working in jobs in their fields.
“You kind of forge your own path” finding co-ops, said Rescate. “I think it forces you to take a more active role in your education and what you're going to do for your profession.”
She quickly realized her passion for consumer goods while on her first co-op, at what she described as a “funky furniture store” in Virginia, at the corporate headquarters. Her next co-op made her realize she could not stand business-to-business dealings and cumbersome commerce transactions. She was drawn to becoming an entrepreneur — a decision that was supported by her husband, who also had a knack for thinking up new ideas.
Rescate first appeared on the “Shark Tank” show in 2011 with a business plan for CitiKitty, a “problem-solving product” priced under $50. To date, CitiKitty has nearly $5 million in sales.
Then, in February, Rescate pitched another idea to the investor “sharks.” Along with her partner, Chris Hindley, she landed a deal to have investor Robert Herjavec buy 15 percent of Hoodie Pillow, a pillow with an extra piece of fabric that covers the top of the head to block out light.
Hindley said he was lucky to “plug into a system (Rescate) has already established.” The two were friends first, and then he pitched his idea to her, drawn by her business model. He said Rescate has been an inspiration, encouraging him to turn his ideas into action.
"There [are] amazing ideas, and pretty good ideas," Hindley said. "They're all just ideas — nothing is a viable business until you execute it.”
Rescate’s advice to entrepreneurial Northeastern students is simple: “Pay attention to Accounting 101,” an introductory class that she said may not seem interesting in college, but that will prove necessary later in life.
For now, she plans to help other entrepreneurs execute their ideas — if she believes they are viable.
“I actually want to be sitting in the [shark’s] chair” someday, she said.
This article was reported and written under the supervision of Northeastern University journalism instructor Lisa Chedekel, as part of a collaboration between The Boston Globe and Northeastern.