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Israeli teacher gets the stamp of approval

Posted By Sharon Kanon On July 2, 2008 @ 10:20 am In | No Comments

Keren Or Lalo has two key assets needed to succeed in business – ideas and drive. The former teacher has morphed into a budding entrepreneur leveraging her love for math into three “nifty” sets of rubber stamps with the basic shapes needed for assignments in geometry and algebra. Her company, Sealset, based in Modi’in, is also marketing a set for university students.

Keren Or Lalo has two key assets needed to succeed in business – ideas and drive. The former teacher has morphed into a budding entrepreneur leveraging her love for math into three “nifty” sets of rubber stamps with the basic shapes needed for assignments in geometry and algebra. Her company, Sealset, based in Modi’in, is also marketing a set for university students.

“I always loved math,” Lalo tells ISRAEL21c. “I began tutoring at the age of 12.” She also began inventing solutions for simple problems at a very young age. One was a pulley system to bring a tape cassette from the other side of her room; the other, a support pillow for her sister who complained about pains in her back when she nursed a new baby.

After her stint in the Israeli army, Lalo studied math and computers at college. “I liked the math part, but after two years, I decided that I did not want to continue with the computer courses. I wanted to work with people.”

Landing a job as manager of the computer facility in a company that provided alarm systems, Lalo was prompted to go for a degree in economics and business administration at the Open University in Tel Aviv. While studying, she worked in Ort Singalovsky, where the principal spotted her teaching ability, and offered her some math courses to teach.

Making drawings takes time away from learning

“I noticed that my students were annoyed at the time it took to make drawings needed to solve a problem. I, myself, was also frustrated that the task took time away from learning the actual material.” Lalo searched in Israel and on the Internet for an existing product. “I was surprised that I did not find anything in the world,” she says.

Coming up with a market-driven product that is not yet on the market is the dream of every entrepreneur. “It was a Eureka moment when I realized I had to invent a product,” she says. Lalo gives credit to her two little girls – ages four, and six – for the basic design format. “They were playing with rubber stamps, when I went by one day. That’s it, I realized.”

Lalo spent many hours at the computer designing her seals. “The size of each stamp, the number of items, the size of each case – are all very important. Kids don’t like to carry around a big case,” she explains.

Although she looked for a manufacturer in Israel, the fledging entrepreneur decided that production had to be done in the Far East where costs were lower.

“My husband arranged a meeting with one of his clients who he knew did business in the Far East.” Not only did the Lalos get advice and contact information, they also got an enthusiastic hand’s on investor in the startup.

With about $100,000 in seed money, Sealset was established. Through an agent in Hong Kong, Lalo found manufacturers in China. “We deliberately used four different companies so that they would not know what the actual product would be,” said Lalo.

Determined to get a good product, Lalo spent two weeks in the factory, selecting the best plastic for the job, and overseeing actual work. “We did a lot of tests, putting the stamps into an oven for many hours, and into a freezer, and shaking the boxes to be sure they were resistant to damage during shipping. Finding the right ink was also a critical factor. The ink comes from another source. A major feature is that no separate ink pad is necessary. Each stamp has its own ink supply in the rubber. It lasts for 500 to 1,000 uses, enough for a year,” she says.

Lalo feels that she not only got the product she wanted, but also learned everything there is to know about the process of turning a prototype into a good mass-produced product.

Kudos from educators and students

At the launch of the Sealsets at an exhibition of Innovative Educational Products in Tel Aviv in the spring, the company’s booth drew crowds. The stamp sets, which can be ordered from the company or through eBay, have already gained kudos from educators, as well as students.

“Surprising enough, these simple stamps actually caused my students to enjoy geometry and algebra,” said one junior high school coordinator of math. A student at the Open University was equally enthusiastic about being free from the need to sketch: “I can be more attentive to the actual material being taught in class.”

Each Sealset in a handsome black and red-designed box has six pre-inked stamps. Three sets are available: geometry, algebra; and Sealset for university students in economics and statistics.

Lalo has a world patent for her innovation. The company is in the midst of negotiations with distributors in Great Britain, the US, Germany, and Scandinavia. “We also expect large sales to Third World countries,” said Lalo. Besides exploring additional markets, Lalo is also looking for additional investment. Is she thinking of other products? “You bet,” she says.
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