A West Virginia University Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design freshman recently won first place and $2,500 in the ZinnStarter Pitch competition with her business proposal, PetRecord.
The ZinnStarter pitch competition was started and is supported by Silicon Valley CEO Ray Zinn as an opportunity for students to pitch their ideas to win cash prizes and a network of support and resources as they pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.
Emma Adams, from Frederick, Maryland, is an animal and nutritional sciences major working toward veterinary school. Having spent a couple summers working as a veterinary technician, she started to see the depth of the problem when it came to animals’ medical records.
“Where I work, we have our own system. Other places have other systems that are not compatible with ours. I was noticing issues we had in getting animal records from other veterinarians and from owners who would bring in whatever they had. It was just creating a huge rift in the system,” she said.
Adams’ winning idea, PetRecord, is a new system for keeping animal records that makes them accessible at any time.
“It’s not technology that’s super new. It’s more of a combination of technologies. I think that’s what makes it cool and unique compared to most products out there on the market right now,” she said.
Adams has volunteered in animal shelters; she’s worked at a clinic; and she owns three dogs, Myla, Boomer and Cosmo. She said she’s been able to experience the difficulties in keeping animal records from the perspectives of people who are impacted the most by the disorganization.
Never having taken a business class but seeing the potential in her product to help pet owners, veterinarians and shelters, a friend recommended she go to the LaunchLab.
“It was such a cool process to see how my idea evolved just by entering the competition and having to think from that kind of business perspective,” she said, adding that the pitch was the hardest part.
After filling out an application with her business plan and sending in a one-minute pitch, she advanced to the next round where she had to give a five-minute pitch. Watching shows like Shark Tank and looking into other business proposal pitches helped her to refine her own.
Knowing she’d be going up against much more business-minded people, she said she tried to consider things from a financial, economic and marketable standpoint.
Since winning the competition, she has patents pending for her design. With the winning money, she plans to get a team together - maybe even students - from electrical engineering and other technology fields to move forward with the technological aspects of the design. Hopefully, she said, within the next year, she’ll also have a website for PetRecord.
Her performance in the competition and how well PetRecord was received solidified PetRecord’s place in Adams’ heart, she said, adding that she doesn’t ever think she’d sell the idea.
“I had always been tippy toeing around it just because starting a business is such a big financial investment. It’s a lot of time. It's a lot of effort. Not knowing any of the engineering side of this or the business side of this, it was nice to see it all come together. To get affirmation from the judges that this is a good idea pushed me to take it even further than I originally thought I was going to,” Adams said.
However, she noted that her career goal still hasn’t changed. Her dream of being a veterinary surgeon has propelled her entire academic career and spurred the creation of PetRecord.
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