UC Answers: How do I turn my idea into a business?

The innovation ecosystem at UC empowers Bearcats to create their own opportunities

Where one journey ends is where the next begins, especially for those graduating from college. And although graduation is cause for celebration, uncertainty about the future is among the top stressors for graduates as they enter the job market. 

As the birthplace of cooperative education and the top school for co-op among public institutions, the University of Cincinnati’s focus on career preparedness is world-renowned. UC students with co-op experience graduate with a degree in one hand and an attractive resume in the other, with many co-op experiences resulting in job offers prior to graduation. 

But not every Bearcat’s dream job is at a large, well-established company; in fact, that dream job may not yet even exist for some. That’s why UC’s innovation ecosystem at the 1819 Innovation Hub is a critical resource for entrepreneurial Bearcats. 

Home of UC’s Office of Innovation, the 1819 Innovation Hub is a place to unleash ideas, free from typical institutional and bureaucratic barriers that hinder innovation. Its Venture Lab startup accelerator connects UC students, faculty, staff, and alumni to talent and funding to help launch new companies. That’s where Band Connect founder Abby McInturf, a graduate of UC’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, realized that her boss at her first job after college had been staring back at her every time she looked in a mirror. 

How did the opportunity to participate in Venture Lab come to your attention, and what was it about Venture Lab that appealed to you? 

McInturf: As a recent graduate, I had no idea what steps to take to turn my idea into a fully functional product for the marketplace. The Venture Lab provided just that: resources and connections to take the next steps toward commercialization. Additionally, every team that goes through the program participates in Graduation Day, giving you early exposure not only to experts in the UC community, but the broader Cincinnati startup community as well.

Did you have entrepreneurial aspirations before the Venture Lab experience? How did the experience change your future plans?

McInturf: I have always been interested in the more entrepreneurial career route, but I had no idea that I would be able to start a company directly out of college. The Venture Lab provided me the foundational tools and gave me the courage to change that mentality. Had I not gone through the Venture Lab program, I most likely would be living somewhere outside of Cincinnati, where entry-level industrial design roles are more prevalent.

What was your business idea going into the Venture Lab program, and how did it change during the process?

McInturf: When the idea was conceived in a DAAP studio class, I was focused on a concussion prevention tool for women’s soccer athletes. Through the customer discovery and value proposition exercises provided by the Venture Labs and the advice of the program’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, the business pivoted into the physical therapy market. 

Today, Band Connect is a remote physical therapy management platform for musculoskeletal rehabilitation. Our solution focuses on a simple, portable, inexpensive product offering that allows the patient and the clinician to simulate their in-clinic experience in the patient’s home environment.

How did you benefit from being a part of the program? 

McInturf: I benefited in many ways by being a part of the program, but I believe the most rewarding result has been the connections that have been built within the ecosystem. During my time in the program I met Rohit Nayak, a Venture Lab Entrepreneur-in-Residence, who is now my business partner. Band Connect would not exist today without his guidance and expertise. 

The funding we have received from the Venture Labs has enabled us to validate the identified entry market, build and refine a functional model and develop a manufacturing plan. We are currently progressing toward an outcomes-based trial focused on a few post-acute and chronic medical conditions with two regional health providers that is set to begin in the early fall timeframe.

What would you say to UC students who have business ideas but aren't sure where to go to realize their visions?

McInturf: Thinking about starting a business in college or as a recent graduate is incredibly intimidating. If you are a student who has an idea, I recommend reaching out to the Venture Labs and other entities within the Cincinnati Startup ecosystem to bounce your ideas off of people who have been in your shoes before. Don’t let your age be a deterring factor. My experience has taught me that it isn’t necessarily your specific skill set, but instead being able to build the right team around you while learning as you go.

Featured image: Band Connect founder Abby McInturf. Photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative + Brand

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