Growing as an Aggie Innovator
Reflections on our LaunchPad Fellowship
Most of the time, small things are overlooked and go unnoticed.
People assume that it is just one small item. How much harm can it really do?
When our group came together in a biodesign class, we wanted to bring attention to small things everyone uses—such as bandages, which millions of people use and that can add up to have a negative impact on the environment. Our product, Biobandage, is a 100% plastic-free, kombucha-based bandage designed to help heal wounds faster than traditional adhesive bandages. Biobandage uses kombucha’s byproduct, bacterial cellulose.
Last fall, we were fortunate to be selected for a coveted Blackstone LaunchPad Fellowship. Our experiences in the program further solidified the importance of the small details and our mission.
We have learned to embrace what we do not know and work toward bettering ourselves by putting in the time and effort to learn. We learned to take on what we can handle while also trying out new opportunities and challenges to build our company.
Set realistic goals
We came into the fellowship with the goal of selling our first product within the next six months—we were clearly determined. However, we came to realize that we should give ourselves a series of more realistic goals to motivate ourselves to keep working towards the large, overarching goal of taking our product to market. We gave ourselves deadlines and kept track of these smaller goals, like conducting interviews and meeting with mentors. Our campus LaunchPad director helped us understand that small goals are still goals and are worth acknowledging. Similar to our bandages, they may be small but they all make a difference. These small goals that we set for ourselves contributed to our larger goals; they made everything seem so in reach.
Know and understand your audience
One of the most important lessons you can learn from becoming an entrepreneur is understanding your audience. These are the people identified as most likely to buy your product. Customer research and interviews are critical to success and can determine whether or not your product will be viable. If you are providing a service or product for them, it has to accomplish what you say it will. Our team has conducted countless interviews and we constantly research our market. We want to make sure that we are creating a product that really benefits our customers rather than assuming we know what they need. Over the past couple of years, we have met numerous parents, teachers and bandage enthusiasts with different backgrounds and have heard the most interesting stories. These are the people you want to help, and we'll use their stories to show investors that what we are doing will make a difference.
Research your network
Mentors taught us how important it is to know who your audience is and understand what they are looking for. Some of our mentors focused on the environment aspect of our company while others wanted to know more about the financials. By finding out who you are going to be talking to, you can research the individual to learn about their background, current occupation/focus, areas of interest in terms of businesses and so forth. With this information, you can work to focus your pitch and questions to be geared towards the person you are speaking to. This allows them to have greater interest in your pitch and possible ways to help you in the area you focused on discussing.
Take up helpful opportunities
We've learned how important it is to accept opportunities and to participate fully. Biobandage has taken part in UC Davis Plasma, the Little Bang! Poster Competition and the Biodesign Challenge, as well as the Launchpad Fellowship, and from each competition and program, we have gained valuable insights and learned more about running a business, pitching, networking and customer discovery. With each, we've built up and gained more experience. However, we've also learned that it's crucial to know when to say ‘no’. Not every opportunity will be the right match for you. You need to accept and join what you can handle and be able to put your best efforts towards rather than overwhelming yourself with too much.
Ask for help
We have all been there. We all come to a point where we are stuck and do not know where to go next or what steps to take. The fellowship and various other accelerator programs taught us that it is okay not to know everything—you are not expected to. We are all students and everyone we have met has been very understanding and willing to help. Do not feel shy or nervous asking a question or for help because even mentors and founders of major companies were us at one point. There is never a “stupid” question, it is always best to be curious and have more information than needed.
Throughout our experiences over the last few years, we have learned to embrace what we do not know and work toward bettering ourselves by putting in the time and effort to learn. We learned to take on what we can handle while also trying out new opportunities and challenges to build our company. These various opportunities have allowed us to create something that can impact a larger problem. We are grateful to everyone who has helped us in our journey.
The Biobandage Team
Elisa Morillo: Biology/Biological Sciences Major
Nadiah Mohammed: Graphic Design Major
Sabah Khan: B.S, Biology/Biological Sciences '21
Nealah Lee: B.S. Design '20 | Minor in Nutrition Science & Technology Management
Biobandage is creating a 100% plastic-free, kombucha-based bandage that will help heal wounds faster than traditional adhesive bandages.