What’s in a name? In the case of Edson, it’s a legacy of unlocking pathways for student entrepreneurs at ASU where lofty ideas became reality, where what could be became limitless. The Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative, launched in 2005, paved the way for students to access funding, mentorship, resources, and support, which catalyzed a vibrant entrepreneurial community. Now, as the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute, we are able to serve the greater community by providing opportunities and resources in perpetuity. Part of that community is the Venture Devils+ program designed to offer the highest potential Venture Devil entrepreneurs an advanced/supplemental program and a pathway for achieving true market success.
For a glimpse inside the entrepreneurial journey, we reached out to a few of our outstanding Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative recipient founders / Venture Devils+ cohort members who shared how they turned an initial idea into launching a venture.
Q: What is your venture name and what pain point are you trying to solve?
StormStick Decon: led by founder Jason Miller, he created a tool that allows for firefighters to effectively remove the cancer-causing toxins from their equipment after exposure.
Strax Gear: led by founders Sam Boatman, Sean Dicke and Nicholas Raccosta, these three developed a versatile, industrial strength gear storage system using sustainable materials.
Navi Concierge Nurses: led by Jasmine Bhatti, Shawn Harrell and Ayan Said, this trio created the first marketplace of trusted nurses, where ordinary people can directly hire a uniquely matched nurse to be by their side to provide education, advocacy, care coordination, and general support for optimal health outcomes.
Q: Tell us about your entrepreneurial journey. How did you get started? Where are you now?
StormStick Decon (as shared by Jason Miller): While watching the devastating ripple effect of friends and co-workers diagnosed with and dying of occupational cancer, and feeling responsible for the livelihood of members that I supervise in the fire service, I set out to find a solution that would push back against the exposure and risk that firefighters encounter.
Studies have shown that when firefighters leave a fire hazard area, their equipment is saturated in deadly and cancer-causing toxins. As they remove the gear, the toxins get absorbed into their skin and breathed into their lungs which leads to increased rates of cancer. I committed to address this problem at the first and most intense point of exposure.
Once I had a buildable idea, I began constructing the tool. I physically built at least 15 iterations of the tool before finally landing on a design that could work. As we tested the system, many new challenges were overcome like fail points under pressure, size of connectors, spray patterns and angles of liquid dispersion.
The shared spaces through ASU’s Venture Devils helped tremendously with the solution and iterative process. After systematically solving each issue, we now had a tool ready for field testing. We used this in real-world applications over the next 6 months, adjusting based on information gathered during that process. We now had a tool that was proven to accomplish what we needed through iteration and field use.
Finally, we needed to commercialize the tool so that it would be sellable and scalable. We found ways to minimize unnecessary fittings, had custom pieces made, finished metal parts with durable finishes and engraved a logo into the pieces. With the system now complete, the business needed to be established, website and social media platforms obtained, financial structure built, and inventory created. Then, we developed a to-market strategy with much help from ASU Venture Devil mentors.
With a tested product ready for market, business infrastructure in place and a to-market plan, we are now moving to launch the company and hopeful we will be able to get this tool in the hands of as many firefighters as possible and begin pushing back against the deadly effects of toxic exposure.
Q: How did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur? What inspired you?
Strax Gear (as shared by Sean Dicke) The vision for Strax Gear started while I was doing an internship for a ski manufacturer in Tahoe. I started noticing how much waste was being created from left over materials. After tinkering with different scraps in a pile near the CNC machine, I started thinking of ways I could utilize it and crea te a product and business model challenging the way traditional business has been done since the industrial revolution.
From there I shared this vision with friends that were passionate about preserving the outdoors and slowly began to assemble a small team that helped create a scalable and sustainable business. After countless long nights working out logistics, product design and market research we launched our MVP with the help of Venture Devils and discovered the demand in the market for sustainable & multi-functional products to create our flagship product the Infinity Rack.
Q: How has the Venture Devils program helped you realize your entrepreneurial potential?
Navi Concierge Nurses (as shared by Jasmine Bhatti) Being a part of Venture Devils has been a priceless experience for us. First, we had access to a weekly mentor who was very experienced and offered valuable insight week by week.
Our mentor was also a minority female, which was incredibly empowering to us as we are a female and minority lead team. She could relate to us easily and opened up candidly about potential challenges we may have along the way. We are incredibly grateful for her support, particularly as she helped us submit a winning pitch that resulted in a significant amount of seed funding. This seed money has been transformational in laying the foundation of our legal documents, agreements, marketing, and hiring. It has also opened the door for us to continue gaining insight and mentorship during the summer with the Venture Devils+ program.
In this program, we were paired with two experts in finance and marketing. Being that we are healthcare experts, this is a whole new realm to learn about, and working under the guidance of Stephanie and Marty was incredible. Just looking at where we were at the start of the summer, up until now, is almost surreal. The growth that we are seeing within ourselves is astounding, but I attribute this to the Venture Devils mentors. What I appreciate most is that they work to keep us on the right path, but truly encourage us to lead the transformations as we go along.
Q: What advice would you share with someone who has just started their entrepreneurial journey?
StormStick Decon: I would say that this journey is a marathon, not a sprint. To me, the entrepreneurial process is all about bumping into walls (challenges) and finding or creating ways in, over, through or around those walls (solutions).
It is so fun if you don’t think of it as a means to an end, but instead an ongoing process of learning, growing, and building (not always in that order). If you stay the course, you will find success at different points along the journey, and the longer you stay on the path, the more potential you will realize.
Even the most successful and seasoned entrepreneurs I meet acknowledge they are still learning and growing. So, take a long view, take a deep breath, point yourself in the direction you want to go and start moving.
Ready to hear more about their entrepreneurial journeys? Join us as we share more from our inspiring venture founders at our upcoming Venture Devils+ showcase:
Date: Wednesday, September 9, 2020
Time: 5:30-7:00 p.m.
Please register via Eventbrite today: https://venturedevilsplusshowcase.eventbrite.com
For quick access to the event (via Zoom): https://asu.zoom.us/j/95092012878
*Please note, when you join the webinar, Zoom will require you to enter in some identifying information.