After winning The Hatching in March, Safety Sit rode that high and their amazing product, to present an exceptional business plan at the Greenlight Business Plan Competition (here’s our Twitterific recap of the event). Their product won them the Undergrad 1st place award and the overall 3rd place award for a grand total of $7,000.
Founded by two life-long friends that always imagined starting a business together, their product, a medical device used to support patients during physical therapy, is a much sought after solution in the medical community. The team is working hard to deliver that product to market as soon as possible.
Franz Narowski: A business student at MSU who has been involved with entrepreneurship his whole life and has worked on some successful startups.
Mark Harburg: A product design engineer student at GVSU currently working with Steelcase as a product design engineer. He’s loved innovation and entrepreneurship from an early age.
The Problem Being Solved:
Safety Sit, through their product, wants to increase the quality of healthcare while reducing the cost. Specifically, they aim to increase the efficiency of healthcare staff by introducing a medical device that removes the need for a second person to support a disabled patient during therapy. “It maximizes the use of valuable medical staff’s time while assisting in the patient’s recovery process,” says Franz.
There is very little competition for what Safety Sit is trying to do. According to Franz, that shows great opportunity, but also invites the possibility of competitors to start popping up during early successes.
Where the Idea Came From:
Safety Sit was formed when Spectrum Health came to the product design and manufacturing engineers at GVSU with some problems their staff were experiencing. One such problem was supporting disabled patients in a sitting position. Mark and two others were assigned the problem, a deadline, and the resources to design and build a functional prototype that solved the problem. After a semester of work on the project, it was presented back to Spectrum who provided positive feedback. Mark approached Franz with the idea and they agreed to see if it could go somewhere. “It has been gaining validation and momentum ever since,” says Franz.
“We are targeting healthcare professionals that work with disabled patients, and in particular those that regularly need additional staff to support patients.”
FDA standards and specifications have been complicating the building process for Franz and the team. “We want to address the needs of the most number of people but cannot address every need perfectly,” he says. They are most concerned with creating value for both the hospital and the therapists. “We are working with professional engineers to get our product to a design that can solve the problem and provide the most value for the users.”
It’s been a surprise for the team to learn how close medical vendors are with the hospitals they sell to. “It is not a normal buyer/seller relationship,” says Franz, since much of the decision making of the hospitals depends on their relationship, history, and trust of the vendors in question.
Their $1,000 win in the Hatching in March gave them the momentum to win $7,000 more in GreenLight a few days later. While the money is nice, Franz and the team also value the validation of the idea from the judges and attendees of the competitions.
In one year, the team hopes to have a structured, funded company that is moving with continued momentum. In three years, they hope to have officially started manufacturing and be cashflow positive. In five years,they would like to be working on growth, market penetration, and looking into other products that can solve widespread health care problems to add to their line.
Franz wants entrepreneurs to remember that when looking into and starting a business venture, there will be bad news. “There will be dry spells, and times where you are working a lot and feel like you are not getting anywhere meaningful. Push through those times.” He adds that the successful companies have pivoted or gone through several stages of pushing through the possibility of failure, and the doubts of success.
Additionally, don’t fear failure, and don’t do it alone. “There are countless avenues/resources to help with starting a business. Take every opportunity available.”