She wheels and deals
By Karen Tina Harrison
Special to amNewYork
The big career switch:
From phone-company exec to product entrepreneur
Who pulled it off?
Laura Udall, 52, the founder and CEO of Zuca luggage and travel accessories (www.zuca.com)
Whyd you give up your comfy corner office?
I wasnt bored doing public and community relations for AT&T. But I had a eureka moment when my grade-school daughter, Rachel, developed back problems from lugging her 15-pound backpack. That was just wrong. Someone had to invent something better. That someone was me.How did you know what to do?
As luck would have it, my husband Nick is an engineer. We developed various prototypes, and the Zuca Sport rolling bookbag was born. Rachels back problems ceased.
How have things changed for you?
At first, Nick and I did everything and never slept. Now we have a team of 13 and have sold over 100,000 pieces. Nicks the head product guy, and Im in charge or the business end.
How can you succeed in launching a product?
You need what I call the three Ps purpose, passion and persistence. The purpose is a product that improves consumers lives; image and buzz will not sustain you. The passion allows you to work many hours, because a business launch takes over your life. And persistence? You have to give a new business your all.
Hows the dough?
Your salary is nonexistent at first. But you can go from famine to feast if your startup takes off. And running your own company is an amazing experience. You feel so alive, and your staff is a family.
What else is there to know?
My hope was for Zucas to be considered cool. Well, Rachel is now 22 and a jazz singer, and shes gotten all her musician friends to use Zucas. Whats cooler than that?