A trio of degrees and a career as an anesthesia provider seemed to have put Jacqueline Darna on one path.
But complications following the birth of her second child led to an invention that has made the 2007 University of South Florida graduate one of the Tampa Bay area's up-and-coming businesswomen.
While the colorful wristbands look like a regular fashion accessory, they actually help provide relief from nausea in both humans and pets - and more products that tackle other health issues are on the way.
The story began when Darna gave birth to her daughter via an emergency cesarean section.
"I threw up for three days straight - unfortunately, no medication, nothing worked," said Darna. "They wanted to put me into a medically induced coma."
Darna recalled a slide she saw while in anesthesia school, one that talked about acupressure: an alternative medicine technique that uses pressure to points on the body to help address pain and other problems. In Darna's case, it was the P6 point on her wrist.
But there was one more thing that took the idea to another level.
"Upon (applying pressure), my stepmom walked in with a peppermint plant. She said, 'I know you're desperate. I heard this on Google, hey, it might work,'" explained Darna.
Darna smelled the leaves and, combined with the acupressure, found the relief she had been seeking. The only problem was finding a way to make that feeling permanent.
"I taped the leaves to the actual acupressure point, taped them together and said, 'Huh. This would be a great wristband, as long as I could make it waterproof in stylish," she said.
With that, NoMo Bands was born. The company's website touts the science involved.
"The aromatherapy helps to get the fastest way to the brain through the nose. Secondarily, the essential oil (peppermint) helps to permeate through to your skin to help you forget that you're sick," said Darna.
Then the acupressure helps increase the amount of anti-nausea hormones in the body.
"All of these anti-nausea hormones coat your brain, telling it do not get sick even before you get on a plane, a train or a boat," she added.
Darna built the business in less than four years, winning a number of pitch competitions along the way, including "The Big Pitch," hosted by Kevin Harrington of the TV show "Shark Tank."
While Darna has a bachelors degree from USF in biomedical sciences with a minor in biomedical physics (along with a pair of masters degrees from Nova Southeastern), she credits her USF bachelors in religious studies with giving her the skills she needed the most to make the transition from medicine to business, such as public speaking.
In addition, USF taught her other important lessons.
"The ability to network - it just was basically that osmosis, being here in such a vibrant area, especially for the health sciences," said Darna. "Tampa's that great city of innovation, we cultivate that ecosystem."
The tools she's picked up have more than helped. NoMo Bands are available in more than 10,000 stores in the U.S., including CVS and Bed Bath and Beyond, with retail giants Target and Walmart soon to join the list. In addition, 27 hospital systems in the U.S., along with hospitals in a dozen more countries also use the product.
"They use it primarily for anesthesia and surgery, labor and delivery, and then, to give a better quality of life for cancer patients," said Darna.
The company has also unveiled NoMo Nausea for Dogs, a product Darna credits to her son.
The company has also unveiled NoMo Nausea for Dogs. It’s a product Darna credits, in part, to her then five-year-old son, who spoke up at the end of a meeting his mom was having with some of her employees.
“I say, ‘Anybody have something that we need to address?’ So he raises his hand really, really high and he says, ‘Mommy, you have a band for me and (his sister) Mia when we get carsick, but what about Bachie?’” said Darna, referring to their dog, Bachelor. “‘He pukes on my shoes every time we go on a family road trip!’”
So the product they came up with isn’t that different, as dogs respond to the oil and acupressure like humans do.
“The good news is (dogs) don’t have to raise their paw in order to smell it because they have a better sense of smell, and their acupressure point is actually still considered the P6 point, it’s just a different location,” said Darna.
As for what’s next for the company of seven back-office employees and 14 sales representatives, they’ll be adding new products to NoMo Nausea, NoMo Nausea for Dogs and NoMo Migraines.
That’s thanks to Darna winning the WBENC PepsiCo Choice Competition, a Shark Tank-type contest for women-owned businesses held in Detroit, MI, in June.
“With their prize money ($15,000), I was able to convince my board to create NoMo Sleepless Nights, a sleep product that helps to put people off to sleep faster and keep them asleep longer,” said Darna.
It's just one more creation for an up-and-coming entrepreneur who says she pinches herself when she thinks of the success she's experienced so far.
"It's really not work because I love doing it," said Darna. "I feel so blessed every morning when I get to open the windows in a brand new city or a brand new country and say, 'Wow, a little wristband can bring me all this way. It's really incredible.'"