Archive for the ‘ Grant Recipients’ Category

May Amber Grant Awarded to Synaptek

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

Last week, we announced five May Amber Grant finalists. Today, we’re delighted to share the recipient and the qualifier for our $25,000 year-end Amber Grant.

Congratulations to Kate Van Pelt, Co-Founder of Synaptek. In our interview below, Kate reveals how and why she’s entering the concussion care space, shares excellent advice for female entrepreneurs and more.

WN: What led you to create Synaptek?

KVP: Synaptek is a culmination of my personal experience playing ice hockey and studying concussions for my PhD. I grew up playing ice hockey and saw first-hand the negative impact of concussions during those years, which motivated me to become a scientist studying concussions.

During my PhD, I studied why certain people were more at risk for a concussion and what factors influence someone’s recovery after a concussion. During this study I was fortunate to work with many colleges and U.S. military service academies. I was surprised to see how much clinicians struggled with concussion data management. In a time when most healthcare is being digitized, much of concussion-related care is still completed with pen and paper. This is a problem because concussion management is complicated, requiring multiple tests per athlete per year. Without a digital system, all this concussion data becomes a large burden for clinicians to manage and interpret.

Therefore, I came up with the idea for Synaptek, a concussion data management system. Synaptek will address the issues clinicians have with concussion testing and data management by digitizing the currently recommended concussion tests. By putting the concussion tests onto a tablet system we solve three problems: 1) We can ensure proper administration of tests, 2) Clinicians will directly enter data into an electronic system, 3) Data will be accessible to clinicians anywhere and anytime they need access. We believe this core feature of Synaptek will reduce clinician burden, saving them time and money. Most importantly, we believe Synaptek with further improve athlete safety. However, my vision for Synaptek is not just to digitize the status quo. We will leverage my scientific and statistical background to drive new innovations related to concussion care and recovery. We will use the data collected via Synaptek to better understand concussions and how we can improve an athlete’s recovery. Synaptek will drive innovation and hopefully guide the future of concussion care and management.

Luckily, Synaptek is not just my vision. My co-founders are my husband, Doug Van Pelt and our friend James McCollum. Doug and James have been invaluable assets to the Synaptek team. Doug brings his expertise in exercise science and also has his PhD. We will be working together to apply for SBIR grants and other funding mechanisms. Additionally, he will help develop Synaptek’s system to track recovery after a concussion. James is an award winning product manager who has extensive experience with user experience within healthcare, athletic, and government industries. James has thrown himself into developing our Synaptek prototypes and our marketing strategy. We are excited to be working together to get Synaptek into the hands of clinicians.

WN: Are there certain partnerships you’re pursuing? More broadly, how are you marketing Synaptek?

KVP: We are currently working with local athletic trainers, organizations, and physicians to test out Synaptek prototypes. Recently, we demonstrated Synaptek to members of the Kentucky Athletic Trainers’ Society. The athletic trainers and physicians at this meeting discussed with us their difficulties with concussion management. These discussions highlight the problems we want Synaptek to solve. We are still seeking out any clinicians that deal with concussion management to hear and learn from their experiences. This process will ensure we build Synaptek as a tool that addresses the needs of our clinicians. While Synaptek is research-based, it is clinician-driven.

This process has resonated with the clinicians we have met. They appreciate the time and thought we are putting into building Synaptek. The time we take to discuss Synaptek with clinicians will be a part of our marketing strategy because we feel that this process is one aspect that makes us unique.

WN: How are you monetizing the platform?

KVP: Synaptek will charge institutions like colleges, high schools, or professional team for Synaptek. Synaptek will be a subscription-based service, which will ensure that Synaptek can be scaled for athletic programs of all sizes.

WN: What are your plans for the grant funds?

KVP: First, we are grateful and honored to the Amber Award recipient for May 2019. We are inspired by the work of current and previous Amber grant winners and are excited to share Synaptek with the WomensNet community.

The monthly and annual Amber grant awards would help Synaptek meet our upcoming milestones. The monthly $2,000 grant is going to support beta testing of Synaptek with a local university and possibly local high schools. More specifically, these funds will enable us to purchase server space to host the data we collect, purchase software for the development of the Synaptek platform, and hire developer time to build a beta version of Synaptek for testing. Additionally, a portion will be used for networking with potential customers, investors, and advisors.

The annual $25,000 grant would enable us to further develop the digital Synaptek platform and obtain our first customers. In addition to further software development fees and networking, the $25,000 award will fund travel to the 2020 National Athletic Trainer’s convention. Attending the 2020 National Athletic Trainer’s convention will allow us to have a vendor booth at the largest athletic trainers conference. This exposure will demonstrate to a massive set of potential customers the Synaptek platform and how Synaptek will address their concussion care needs.

WN: What advice would you give an aspiring female entrepreneur?

KVP: My biggest piece of advice would be to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Being an entrepreneur forces you to wear a lot of hats and learn a lot of new skills. These roles and duties can be out of your comfort zone but you are absolutely capable to taking on these challenges and succeeding. Pushing yourself to be okay with doing things that make you uncomfortable will open more doors and possibilities you could ever imagine. To help you push open these doors, build a community of fellow entrepreneurs and mentors that you can learn from, lean on, and support. Knowing you are not the only one experiencing a problem can empower you to tackle whatever challenge is in front of you.

I had to learn to be comfortable with testing out my idea for Synaptek. For a while I was afraid to let anyone know about my idea because I was worried they would think it wasn’t viable. However, I learned and realized I had to think more like the scientist I am. I had to be okay with making a hypothesis about my company, testing this hypothesis, and evaluating whether I was on the right track. I quickly saw how valuable this process was. My perspective quickly changed, and fear turned into passion. Instead of being afraid of criticism, I welcomed it. Because understanding someone’s criticism is just a tool to make Synaptek even better.


April Amber Grant Awarded to Atlanta Music Education

Thursday, May 9th, 2019

Last Friday, we announced five April Amber Grant finalists. Today, we’re excited to share the recipient and the qualifier for our $25,000 year-end Amber Grant.

Congratulations to Elexa Bancroft, Founder of Atlanta Music Education. In our interview below, Elexa tells the history of AME, shares what sets her business apart from others and dishes on advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs.

WN: Share the story of how Atlanta Music Education came about.

EB: I founded Atlanta Music Education almost 10 years ago after working as an educator in my city and constantly thinking to myself “wait, I think I can do this better.” I found myself working for companies and programs as a teacher that were all about profit at the end of the day — and not about the children.
I started the business by simply teaching music lessons in my own style in the back closet at the local music bookstore. Over the last nine or so years, I have now grown my idea to a full-fledged children’s music school with over 100 enrolled private music students and five co-teachers offering group lessons, summer camps and private lessons in all sorts of instruments.

WN: What does Atlanta Music Education instill in its students, and how would you describe your teaching philosophy?

EB: When I grew up taking music lessons, sometimes I would dread the day I had to go to class. I didn’t find my piano lessons fun and felt a ton of pressure. My main goal in my school is for students to constantly be looking forward to Mr. Pedro or Mr. Gabriel or whoever their teacher is to come over to their house for music time. And I think we accomplished that. Our philosophy surrounds a strong music theory foundation but with fun games, modules, songs the students love from the radio and lots of performance opportunities.
My program encourages more performance opportunities than any in our area. We put together two formal recitals, a winter and spring, (four shows per recital day) annually included in tuition. We also have many other opportunities like studio outings to see local theatre, opera and movie musicals to attend with the teachers.
One performance opportunity we are well known for is Kids open mic nights. This event I open up to any kid in the entire Atlanta area who wants an encouraging safe space to perform anything from classical to pop music.
I remember a few years ago at our first Kids open mic, we had only six students perform. But it always grew each few months and this year at our Spring Kids open mic, we had over 60 kids attend and perform!
We run this program for not only our own students but for the community at no charge. We enjoy coming up with fun themes like St. Patrick’s Day or Halloween and supplying costume boxes and photo booths for the children to enjoy in between the sets of songs. We also do three group songs for children who don’t feel like they are ready to perform a solo. This gives them a chance to come up on the stage and grab an egg shaker and be a part of the show.
My music school also has almost a dozen vocal students participating in a nonprofit (Performing Arts Conservatory of Atlanta) voice competition each April. In addition to sending students to this annual fundraiser and competition, all of our teachers volunteer as judges to help vocal students in other schools and studios get feedback for their performances.
One performance that happened last month that I am especially proud of is my inaugural Young Atlanta Music Club classical student performers concert. The Atlanta Music Club was hosting an annual concert called Young Performers; teachers in the area can nominate three students to perform a memorized classical piece for no charge at a beautiful recital hall. This year, we were excited to participate for the third time. However, when we submitted our students’ information, we received an email that they decided to no longer accept performers that were not at an advanced level.
I tried to explain the importance of having beginners and intermediate students perform their very short pieces and then be able to watch the older students’ more challenging songs as encouragement. But we were still turned away.
I decided to call the venue hosting the Atlanta Music Club and explain the situation. I proposed an idea to begin a new club called the “Young” Atlanta Music Club, where any child — no matter what level of performance they are at or their age — is accepted to perform at a free concert. The managers of the venue were incredibly generous and allowed me to have the inaugural performances two hours before the Atlanta music clubs concert. The concert was a hit with 14 kids performing, and I took all of the families out to an ice cream social afterwards.
I strive for my business to be the leading example of creating opportunities for children in music education. You can learn more on Facebook and Instagram.
WN: How do you acquire customers/students?
EB: I think the large and swift growth with our studio is attributed to the genuine love that myself and my co-teachers put into our weekly lessons and events. Parents can really tell we have an honest passion for music and for education. What makes us stand apart from the dozens of other similar music schools or after-school activity options is that students have a plethora of opportunities to shine in our program.
Our social media presence, along with word of mouth referral, are big factors. I work hard daily to post events, pictures and videos of our students and their accomplishments. We also have a full staff of actively performing musicians and that’s exciting to share with our online community, too.
Teaching private music lessons is a unique experience. We stay with these kids and families for years. We grow up with them, bond and connect, share meals, share milestones and attend their school concerts. It’s a relationship that puts a stamp on your heart forever and we are so grateful that so many families invite us into their homes each week.

WN: What are your plans for the grant funds?

EB: We are completely floored and honored to be the April 2019 Amber grant award winners. With this grant, we’re going to be investing in a sound system and a weighted keyboard for all of our events (instead of renting them). We’re excited to launch more locations and more opportunities for kids in our community to be able to showcase their talent and find a fun space to use as a creative outlet after-school.

With the annual grant of $25,000, I wish to launch a scholarship program to be able to give students with financial hardship the opportunity to study music.

My big project is to commission a female composer to write a short musical about a fun historical event from our city of Atlanta. We would premiere this show at some of the iconic halls and theaters in our city to highlight our talented kids and teachers. I want our students and all young people in the world to see that females can be bosses; they can be leaders in the creative and performing arts.

WN: What advice would you give an aspiring female entrepreneur?

EB: Don’t give up. There are going to obstacles, building losses, nay sayers and turnover. But keep going.
Find your “tribe” and lean on them during difficult times. Seek advice from your fellow entrepreneurs. People offering similar services are your allies, not your competition. Create a sisterhood of business owners and lift each other up in marketing, programming and even just post-work personal fun. Stay involved in your community. Find ways your business can better the lives of those around you. Use all your local news outlets, Facebook groups and newsletters to share your company’s exciting milestones and offers to get them involved in your passion and growth. And lastly, when someone says no, just find another way to do it — and do it with a smile. 🙂

March Amber Grant Awarded to TheraV

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

Last week, we announced five March Amber Grant finalists. Today, we’re thrilled to share the recipient and the qualifier for our $25,000 year-end Amber Grant.

Congratulations to Amira Idris Radovic, Founder of TheraV. In our interview, Amira discusses her unique product, shares her biggest obstacle, and much more.

WN: Share what issue your product addresses and how you’re providing a solution.

AI: Over 2.1 million people in the United States are living with limb loss, and 80% of amputees suffer from a condition known as phantom limb pain. Phantom limb pain is ongoing nerve pain in a missing limb after it has been amputated because the brain cannot recognize that the limb is no longer there.

The pain can be so severe that it leads to loss of sleep, an inability to function, and a decrease in quality of life. On average, it can cost over $3,000 annually per person to manage phantom limb pain. The most common method to treat this requires consuming a combination of medications, including opioids, antidepressant, and anticonvulsants, which have severe side effects. Other methods include repeatedly hitting the limb, mirror therapy, and surgery, which are ineffective, inconvenient, and invasive.

Unfortunately, phantom limb pain affects over 8 million documented people globally. With the limited resources available to the amputee community, the financial struggles of limb loss, and the stigma tied to pain in a limb that is no longer there, many amputees suffer in silence. To address these issues, we developed our first product, TheraV ELIX, a patent-pending drug-free wearable device that uses customized vibration therapy technology to stimulate the nerve endings of the residual (remaining) limb, disrupting the pain signals that are sent to the brain. The TheraV ELIX provides a drug-free pain management alternative for amputation pain suffers.

WN: How are you reaching your target market?

AI: To raise awareness about our solution to amputation pain, we work with prosthetic clinics by giving sample devices to clinics to trial with their customers. We also present the TheraV ELIX at amputee support groups across the country, in-person or through a video conference call.

When financially feasible, we attend the Amputee Coalition of America National Conference to showcase the TheraV ELIX and have attendees interact with our device. This usually leads to a customer referral or purchase of the TheraV ELIX. In addition, we use our social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and our website) to share our journey, share our customer testimonials, and connect with everyday people living with limb loss. With these channels, we have been able to raise awareness of TheraV in the limb loss community.

In the future, we plan to purchase advertising space in magazines that are provided to the amputee community, and attend more conferences where we can meet amputees, family members, prosthetists, clinicians, and supporters of the limb loss community. We have found this to be the most effective way to reach a larger number of people in the amputee community.

WN: What feedback have you received form those who’ve used your product?

AI: Since launching TheraV ELIX in the summer of 2018, we have helped over 100 amputees overcome phantom limb pain, with 83% reporting a reduction in the intensity and frequency of their phantom limb pain. We have also been able to serve 53 Veteran amputees through crowdfunded public donations of TheraV ELIX devices. Since launching, we continue to collect feedback from our customers on how our device is performing and how we can improve. Here are a few testimonials from current users of the TheraV ELIX:

“I put it on at level 2 or 3, and it (ELIX) gets the nerve pain to subside and I’m able to go to sleep.” – Josh H., Veteran

“I cannot believe how well this thing (ELIX) works! I didn’t want to take gabapentin, so I put the device on and after a few seconds the pain went away!” – Hanbert F., Veteran

“You forget about the phantom limb pain.” – Harry S., Veteran

“My body relaxed more. My leg relaxed more. I was just able to sleep more comfortably.”- Gabriel M., Veteran

WN: What’s the biggest obstacle you’ve faced while running TheraV?

AI: My biggest challenge is building a talented and visionary team that can help me scale the business. TheraV recently became a team of three, with me, Amira Idris Radovic, as the CEO, Chris Wells as our hardware engineer, and Horitius Jen Lee as our director of outreach, who is also an amputee and a Veteran.

Finding and keeping talented people like Chris and Horitius has been challenging due to our lack of funding. We have had talented people reach out to us about working with TheraV, only to get disappointed when we mention a lack of funding to pay them (which is understandable). However, this means we must rely on bootstrapping as a funding method, while our current team takes on other jobs to supplement their income. This prevents TheraV from rapidly growing and expanding.

We are currently seeking an investor that understands our mission, our market, and is willing to actively work with us to scale TheraV.

WN: Share some advice you’d give to an aspiring female entrepreneur.

AI: I would advise aspiring female entrepreneurs to not be afraid to take a step forward and explore the business idea they have, even if it means failing. I believe it is better to try, fail, and pivot or perish an idea, rather than regret never taking a chance on yourself.

Aspiring female entrepreneurs must keep in mind that the dictionary definition of entrepreneurship is “the activity of setting up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit”. It is also worth noting that the risk is not only financial but can also be emotional, mental, and physical. To make this risk-taking process easier, I would advise female entrepreneurs to purse business ideas and opportunities they are deeply passionate about. This is because I see passion as the fire that fuels entrepreneurs and hardens their will to pursue their business ideas.

February Amber Grant Awarded to LimeLoop

Monday, March 11th, 2019

Last Monday, we announced five February Amber Grant finalists. Today, we’re excited to share the recipient and the qualifier for our $25,000 year-end Amber Grant.

Congratulations to the all-women team at LimeLoop. Co-Founder Chantal Emmanuel discusses LimeLoop’s mission, quantifies the company’s environmental impact and shares much more in our interview.

WN: Share the genesis of LimeLoop and the world-wide issue you’re tackling.

CE: LimeLoop was founded a little over a year ago, but the idea came about many years before when our CEO, Ashley, was looking for a sustainable way to ship her own packages. At the time, she couldn’t find any. She asked her sister to sew a fabric pouch which unknowingly became the first prototype of a LimeLoop shipper.

Today, using recycled billboard vinyl, we’ve designed lightweight, durable, and returnable shippers to reduce our reliance on single-use cardboard and polybags, and get us one step closer to making e-commerce a zero-waste, circular economy.

WN: What advantages do you have over competitors in the space?

CE: Besides the huge environmental gains (for every 10,000 shipments, you’ll save about 70 trees, 90k gallons of waters, and 200 gallons of oil, compared to conventional packaging; not to mention the process of returning our shippers to fulfillment centers save 80% on emissions compared to overseas recycle processing) by pairing our shippers with the data platform, we’re offering great logistical benefits as well. Remember, shipping logistics were designed for a 50 year old retail economy.

Limeloop is able to alleviate the pressures of figuring out the logistics of the brands’ sustainability packaging process, so that the retailers can focus on all the other things needed to keep their business running. While e-commerce seems so ubiquitous with the way that we live our lives these days, it’s important to remember that it’s still pretty much in its infancy. It’s only 15% of the way that we shop these days. So these problems that we’re seeing as far as keeping up with the demand and the environmental impact are just the tip of the iceberg.

WN: How does the cost of shipping via LimeLoop compare with traditional methods?

CE: Our shippers are rented by the brands at a per shipper per month basis, so the specific saving will be based on the brand’s partnership with their current packaging company.

That being said, considering brands are generally able to get two round trips out of a shipper each month while also gaining access to our digital platform, we’re seeing that the cost is generally comparable, if not less.

WN: Have you had conversations with major players USPS, UPS and FedEx?

CE: We’re actively seeking partnerships with the major couriers. We would be happy to support them in their efforts to be more sustainable and we know that in working together we can continue to improve the overall experience for both our brands and their end consumers.

WN: What advice would you give to an aspiring female entrepreneur?

CE: The quicker you can shed any fear or nervousness you have around seeking guidance, gathering advice, and asking for help from those both in and out of your network, the better you and your company will be. Just remember to pay it forward when the time comes.

January Amber Grant Awarded to The New Norm

Monday, February 11th, 2019

Last Monday, we announced the January Amber Grant finalists. Today, we’re delighted to share the recipient and the qualifier for our $10,000 year-end Amber Grant.

Congratulations to Lauren Choi, Founder and CEO of  The New Norm. We caught up with Lauren to help shed light on her mission and her future goals.

WN: What problem does The New Norm highlight and how do you plan to solve it?

LC: It came to my attention that America is facing a recycling crisis and most people are not aware of this issue. Many recycled goods are no longer accepted by China and end up in landfills. This is terribly unfortunate.

Over the summer, I started doing research and tried DIY Youtube videos showing me how to make thread from plastic water bottles. When I went back to school, I decided to form a team of students from different backgrounds, skill-sets and majors. In three weeks, our team grew from 1 to 20 members. I could just feel the excitement. This was a problem people were interested in addressing and I felt their support.

We have 2 technical teams designing and making a machine that will melt, homogenize, and extrude plastic into a filament that can be woven into fabric. We also have a public policy team researching Baltimore’s recycling policies. We decided to call our business The New Norm, because we hope to show everyone that fabric can and should be produced this way.

We spent a week during winter break building our first prototype. We held a five-day design sprint where we wired, welded, cut metal, and assembled our machine. Our machine will melt and homogenize plastic like a 3D printer and produce a thin filament. This filament will be cooled to room temperature and spooled out of the machine. We will be working with an experienced weaver who will make fabric from this filament.

All our team members are undergraduate students at Johns Hopkins University, which is located in the heart of Baltimore. Baltimore is a city that can save money by recycling. Out of the 370,000 tons of traditional recyclables Baltimore produces, only 16% of metal, glass, paper, and plastic is recycled. That is a shockingly low number. We want to help Baltimore to develop ways to employ their own residents, help local communities within the city and feel empowered that we are changing our world by creating a cleaner planet that can support future generations. Over time, our method of producing synthetic fabric will change the textile and fashion industry.

WN: How are you getting the word out?

LC: We are using social media; we have created a website and Instagram. We are promoting our mission through Instagram to spread awareness to our peers, families, and the surrounding community. The Instagram is linked to our website, where people can learn more about our origins, ideas, and progress. We’ve already received donations through our website – it’s extremely encouraging to see that others believe in our mission.

WN: How are you leveraging the resources provided by your University? Perhaps you can share some advice with other college-enrolled entrepreneurs. 

LC: The best piece of advice I could give to someone hoping to start a business is to talk to as many people as you can and truly listen to what they have to say. I had this idea over the summer and came back to school with so many questions for my professors. Setting up meetings and sending all those emails is what put me in contact with an alum that works at Under Armour. He listened to my ideas and overwhelmed me with advice on the different paths I could follow. It took me 2 weeks to process everything he said. I came to the conclusion that I needed to start a business in order to pursue my idea.

I am so grateful to live in an age of start-ups. The reason our team is moving so quickly is because each student on the team is excited, has new ideas to share, and has chosen to dedicate their free time towards a project they are passionate about. This is an environment unique to new companies, but particularly to The New Norm. It’s been an incredible experience to be a part of – it inspires me every day.

WN: Discuss some of the major goals/timelines you’re aiming to hit in the coming months/years.

LC: Once Prototype 1 is producing filament, we want to design different nozzles that can extrude filaments of different diameters. Our Materials Technical Team will be running tests and designing adjustable features to add to Prototype 1 so that our filament can be strong and elastic. This is what we need to weave or knit stretchy fabric into clothing. We hope to have fabric by this summer.

Using this grant, we want to build Prototype 2 that can handle various types of plastic. We are going to start collecting recyclables from our school’s campus so we need a machine that is more versatile with different plastics. Over the course of working on this start-up, I have found that many of the on-campus buildings are not actually supported by the school’s waste collection plan. In order to collect recyclables on a larger scale, we are going to distribute bright orange bins in popular areas around the school and in the neighboring apartment buildings. We want our community to know who we are, support our cause, and be accustomed to this method of recycling.

Our goal for the summer is to head towards producing athletic wear. Using our experience with our two prior prototypes, we will make a third prototype that can handle significantly larger amounts of plastic. This will be a culmination of everything we’ve learned. Prototype 3 will be able to extrude strong, elastic filament that can be woven or knitted to make durable fabric for clothing and athletic wear. It will be able to print filament of different diameters, have adjustable heat settings, and be able to handle various types of plastic.

We hope to collaborate and put a spotlight on student designers, Baltimore artists, and members of our team to create a line of unique, fashionable clothing. We hope that people will donate their ideas to our cause to start a ground-up movement. We are currently collaborating with Fiber students at Mica, an art school in Baltimore, to weave and knit our fabric. If we are producing on a larger scale, we would like to either buy our own loom or knitting machine or hire an experienced weaver to produce fabric out of our filament.

Finally, we will work with clothing manufacturers in the US to make different patterns of our designs. The designs will go through rounds of testing until we are satisfied with our product. We hope to have clothing by the end of 2019.

December Amber Grant Awarded to Access Trax

Tuesday, January 8th, 2019

On Thursday, we announced our December Amber Grant Finalists.

Today, we’re excited to reveal the $1,000 recipient and the 1st qualifier for our $10,000 year-end Amber Grant. Congratulations to Kelly Twichel, Co-Founder of Access Trax.

Their signature product — Beach Trax — is the only foldable, lightweight and temporary pathway designed to provide access over uneven terrain such as sand, gravel, dirt, or grass. In our interview below, Kelly shares how the idea came about, supplies advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs, and more.

Editor’s note: Video was submitted on March 24

WN: Access Trax started as an idea in grad school. Share the story of the company and what problem it’s solving.

Imagine it’s a beautiful Saturday morning and you’re out surfing with your friends. You drop in on a wave and fall off your board, getting swept up in the wave. Suddenly, you know something is very wrong as you hit the sandy ocean bottom. You have suffered a spinal cord injury and can no longer control your legs. Your whole life is now changed, and you will have to overcome many more obstacles than you would have as an able-bodied individual. One of the cruelest barriers is that now you cannot cross the sandy beach in your wheelchair to get closer to the water that you love so much. This can isolate you from spending time with your friends and family – and makes getting back to (adaptive) surfing much more difficult.

That is where Access Trax comes in.

Now, the World Health Organization defines a disability as a product of the interaction between a person and their environment. If we can modify this interaction we can dissolve the disability, and that is exactly what Beach Trax does. It is essentially a portable sidewalk that can easily be deployed and transported for personal or event use. Thirty linear feet of pathway folds and stacks into less than three inches high, weighing only fifty-five pounds! The applications are limitless: events, personal use, resorts, outdoor therapy, ADA compliance, etc. It is not just useful for people who use wheelchairs – the stable pathway is preferred by people with walkers, strollers, carts, canes, or just feet!

The idea stemmed from a class project while in school for Occupational Therapy in 2016. A classmate (now co-inventor and business partner) and I took on the challenge to engineer a product that would help local adaptive surfers cross the sand in their chairs with dignity and independence. Our humble hand-made prototype from Home Depot materials proved itself as 5 adaptive surfers used it to cross the sand at a local competition a few weeks later. That day, my partner Eric and I knew we couldn’t stop after only helping 5 people. We had to turn this into a viable business that could help solve the problem of outdoor inaccessibility for millions.

After earning our Master’s degrees as OT’s, Eric and I officially formed Access Trax in February of 2018. We are proud to produce Beach Trax in the USA and have been growing the business through product sales and event rentals. I consider my customers my friends and family, and I now have family in places like Hawaii, Mexico and Japan. In 2019, I will travel to places like Panama and Costa Rica to volunteer at adaptive surfing events and advocate for outdoor accessibility. I have worked with the most amazing people because of Beach Trax, and I am on a mission to share my product and dream with as many people as I can.

WN: Who’ve you identified as the target market for Beach Trax?

Our initial target market includes families of individuals with physical challenges that are active (or who want to become active) in outdoor recreation. It also includes non-profits and businesses that serve the adaptive surfing and watersports community, since their mission aligns so well with ours. There is a huge world-wide movement in adaptive surfing alone, with surfing being projected to be accepted into the Paralympics in the coming years.

We have just begun our second phase of marketing which includes local government and resorts that are in need of becoming more inclusive and ADA compliant. It is really exciting to get the interest of people in places around the world such as Australia, South Africa, England, and Canada.

WN: Talk about your involvement in the community — and any upcoming events.

We volunteer constantly. I think that is my favorite part of my job: I get to interact with people face-to-face and witness their joy when they experience the outdoors with less barriers. We have volunteered at numerous adaptive surfing events (Stoke for Life, Waves4All, the Hawaii Adaptive Surfing Championships, the World Adaptive Surfing Championships, Life Rolls On) and community events like the Junior Adaptive Sports Camp.

Our next event is in Oceanside at the January 19th Stoke for Life adaptive surfing clinic.

WN: What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?

I would tell anyone who wants to start their own business that it will seem overwhelming, but it IS achievable. Staying organized and finding the right mentors will help you immensely. I think I’ve used the SCORE resource (Service Corps of Retired Entrepreneurs) 20 times in the last year for things like my business canvas model, taxes, partnership questions, and sales and distribution. Also, don’t forget to set aside time for yourself! Finally, have fun sharing and celebrating your little (and big) victories with friends and family.