Sympati-Yo To Go
By Cynthia Robinson
Photography by Mike Force Photography
When Jennifer Moore wanted to find a practical solution for a problem she encountered, she had no idea it would lead to her one and only invention and a full-time job.
“My invention came from my own personal experience. I have low blood sugar, so I always have a high protein snack with me,” Jennifer said. That snack is frequently Greek yogurt, and Jennifer wanted a way to keep her yogurt cold without packing a lunch every day. “I wanted to be able to carry it in my purse or briefcase.” And for the yogurt container to be non-bulky and collapsible. That ruled out hard plastic. She started working on her first prototype.
“I took a container of Greek yogurt and made a pattern. I sewed the first prototype out of a piece of felt,” said Jennifer, who lived in Connecticut at the time. For the second prototype she also used felt but inserted a zipper. Once she achieved her desired design, she had to decide on a material. “Neoprene keeps things hot and cold and is BPA free.” However, this heavy material can’t be sewn on an average home-sewer’s machine. “I broke about 10 needles trying,” she said, laughing.
Jennifer found a Long Island, New York, company to have the prototype made. While she was pleased with the results, the project was placed on the back burner when she, her husband Greg and son Danny moved to St. Simons after years of coming to the Island on vacation. However, Jennifer thought she might be on to something more than just a solution for her problem. What she wanted was feedback.
“I went on a girls’ weekend with some college friends and took a prototype. I asked them to be a focus group. I knew they would be honest with me. One friend went berserk for it.” So, YoToGo™, a now-patented yogurt cooler, was born.
With Greg’s help, she located a factory to produce the containers. “A good friend in Connecticut, Sheri Kellaher, is a graphic designer; she came up with the logo.” Things soon were moving forward, but it didn’t take long to realize she needed help.
“I was working full-time, but with all the moving parts, it was just too much.” That’s when her friend who went “berserk” for her invention, Cyndi Tommasi, came in. “When I asked Cyndi to join me, she said she was praying I would ask. I could not do it without her,” she said, adding Cyndi had experience working for General Mills and had owned a business. “I’m the inventor, but we own the business 50/50.” While Cyndi lives in Pennsylvania, they talk on the phone daily. “We also have fact-to-face meetings several times a year. Cyndi and I went to college together and were sorority sisters. We are on the same page. We are Sympatico.”
Although Jennifer and Cyndi stay particularly busy with online sales, YoToGo™ is also available in small mom-and-pop businesses, as well as a large Northeast supermarket chain, Giant Eagle. “It was kind of bizarre the first time I walked into a Giant Eagle in Pittsburgh and saw it on the shelf,” she said, laughing. “It’s cool to go in a store and see our product. We also just got a purchase order from Wegmans, another Northeast US based grocery chain for back-to-school. Ultimately, we hope to be in as many box stores as possible.”
While some entrepreneurs might site mentors on their journey, Jennifer said she is self-motivated. Her spirit, combined with help of family, friends and fellow business people, helped launch their business and allowed it to grow. “We have so many entrepreneurs on St. Simons and in Brunswick. Everybody tries to support everyone else—networking is crucial. It’s very exciting, but a lot of work. One motivational quote I like: ‘I begin with an idea and then it turns into something,’ by Pablo Picasso. That’s me. The wheels are always turning. Getting the YoToGo™ patent back in October took a lot of work, but was super exciting.”
Jennifer said one reason she feels the business is working well is she and Cyndi have no unrealistic expectations of becoming instant millionaires and know they must overcome obstacles along the way. “You have to work hard; making progress takes a lot. You also must have a burning desire for what you’re doing and never give up if you want your dream to become a reality. The big dream is to partner with a big yogurt company. A bigger, pie-in-the-sky dream is to establish a foundation. A lot of people have helped us along the way out of the goodness of their hearts. We would love to give back and pay it forward.”
In the meantime, they will keep growing the company. “Our mission is to make eating healthy on-the-go as easy as possible. I know we are going in the right direction.”
Origins: Born and raised in Pittsburgh suburb, Mount Lebanon, PA.
Business Experience: Worked for the Yellow Pages and advertising/sales manager at AT&T.
Finding YoToGo™: Website: www.yotogo.net. Locally: Pelican Market and Sea Island Market; also amazon.com and loveandsweat.net.
What’s Next: The ladies plan to introduce a square yogurt container with spoon and ice pack. It can also hold a sandwich!