Francisca Gamero was obsessed with her little daughter’s ears, which would bend and protrude from her head when she slept. At first, she used plasters to hold them in place, but a curious idea began slowly to take shape until it became this product which has now sold over 60,000 units in pharmacies across Spain.
‘One day I was at the paediatrician’s with my daughter when I realised I had forgotten to remove the plasters and I thought “earth swallow me up now”‘, Francisca tells us from Don Benito (Badajoz). However, the specialist assured her that it was a great idea, that she should continue doing it. ‘I had tried some other products, some pegs they sold in the pharmacy, but they were unwieldy and ineffective’.
So, bold as you like, she went in search of an alternative to the classic plaster. Gamero had borne witness to business initiative from home – courtesy of her grandparents – and, aside from working with the family agriculture business, she had already tried other lines. ‘I had created a little supermarket and a textile distribution company’, she notes, debunking the image of the unemployed housewife that some media suggested of her. ‘But I wasn’t satisfied with what I was doing’.
This obsession with her daughter’s ears (‘they were perfect at birth but started to bend when she slept’) and an entrepreneurial bent came together in Disras – the company that makes Otostick (little silicone prosthetics which correct ear position) – which provides employment for nine people in Don Benito.
Gamero began to develop a prototype alternative to the home-made plaster patch with the University of Extremadura. ‘The first silver moulds were made for us by a jeweller’, she recalls, surprised at how far they have come in this time (‘the idea came about in 2007, but we didn’t begin to commercialise Otostick until late 2010’).
Otostick is a small, transparent adhesive prosthesis (‘like a lens’) which can keep the ear correctly positioned, holding it against the head thanks to its ergonomic shape. It is made from hypo-allergenic materials and is possible through collaboration with the University of Alicante. As its creator explains, it can be used by children from the age of three, though adults who are dissatisfied with the bowl of their ear can also use it.
‘Getting to this stage has been quite difficult’, she acknowledges. ‘We had to start from zero’. Create the product, manufacture it, enter the pharmaceutical market, receive permits from the Spanish Medicine Agency so as to be considered a health product… and start to sell these adhesives for prominent ears in pharmacies without investing a single penny in advertising. ‘Word of mouth has made it all possible, and a boost from appearing in a couple of reports on television’.
All this effort has been recognised with the Excellence in Innovation Award for Rural Women, first prize from the Neex (new company in Extremadura) Project and, more recently, as a finalist in the La Caixa and Enisa Entrepreneur XXI awards – alongside 41 other companies (the final results of which will be announced in October). Extremadura Council is a minority partner in the company through its public arm Extremadura Avante S.L.
However, Innovaciones Disras, the company created by Gamero using her daughters’ (Diana and Raquel) initials, aims to grow further. The next step for this enterprising woman is the creation of a product for the ears of one month old babies, supported by a CDTI project (at present, this kind of product is only recommended for three years old and above as these are small parts which could be ingested). In addition, ‘we are performing fieldwork to assess the success rate’.