Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship and alumna entrepreneur featured in WNC Magazine

Bailey Williams, an Appalachian State University alumna and entrepreneur who utilized the Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship during her time as a student, has been featured in a recent article from WNC Magazine. In the article, the author, Kat McReynolds, writes:

While she was a junior at Appalachian State University, Bailey Williams spent days with her hands and wrists duct taped at the joints. What sounds like a college prank was actually part of an “empathy study” for her industrial design class assignment: Create a product for two- to five-year-old children with limited fine motor skills.

The project got off to a slow start, until Williams’ professor provided inspiration with the announcement that one student team would advance to Texas Christian University’s 2014 Values and Ventures Business Plan Competition. That and the firsthand frustration of fumbling with clothes and food (and spilling her entire purse into a restaurant toilet) cemented Williams’ vision.

“I learned that I could design a product for a kid to get through what they’re dealing with,” she says, “but it would be better if I found a way to help them overcome it.”

With that revelation, Williams transitioned from her initial symptom-abating ideas (toothbrushes and forks with finger holes, for example) to a series of rehabilitative gloves. One bore suction cups so users could strengthen their muscles in the bathtub. Another, with magnets dropped into each fingertip, she’d use to pick up paper clips—at least when her hands and fingertips weren’t clicking together.

“That’s when I realized I wouldn’t need a prop for this tool,” she recalls. And with a small tweak of the glove’s thumb, Williams’ hands were snapping into what’s called the pinch or grip motion—a key step to refining dexterity, she later learned.

Not only did Williams’ concept, now called MagnaGrips, win second place and $15,000 in Texas, but Erich Schenkler, managing director at ASU’s Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship, has driven its progress beyond graduation. Under his guidance, the aspiring inventor has written a business plan, obtained a provisional patent (full patent pending), partnered with a manufacturer that’s honing prototypes, and networked with medical professionals, who see further potential for MagnaGrips among stroke and trauma patients.

Additionally, ASU’s exercise science students are studying the glove and its functionality, which “will give the business and design more of a backbone,” Williams reasons. She’ll use the data they generate to approach investors.

Williams currently works as a designer at VF Corporation’s Greensboro-based Jeanswear Innovation Center, though after hours, she and her mother continue to stitch and strategize. Their goal is to finalize adesign by spring 2017 and commence the initial production run shortly after, bringing MagnaGrips to market through select medical outlets. Beyond that, “I’ve always got other ideas” for more inventions, Williams says. “Not necessarily right now, but I think I will one day.”

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Transportation Insight Center for Entrepreneurship and alumna entrepreneur featured in WNC Magazine
Published: Sep 8, 2016 3:27pm