It’s been almost six months since Samantha Simmons won the 2015 ELEVATE pitch competition at HealthTech Venture Network Conference in Boston. We wanted to check in with her and see how her business Curative Orthopedics, and her product Back2Sleep (a back brace designed for sleep) have progressed.
On how winning the ELEVATE competition affected Simmons.
“It’s hard to run a business by yourself. When I did the ELEVATE competition, I had no one working full time on Curative Orthopedics -I was working on it on the side. Winning the HTVN competition was the turning point where I quit my job and worked on my business full time. ELEVATE was really helpful for me because after winning, I came up to Boston a few times for meetings and those meetings gave me some business targets to work on. It gave me someone to report to and it gave me some deadlines and tasks to do and that led me to put together a team and work more full-time on [Curative Orthopedics].”
On Simmons’ business development in the past months.
“In the past months, I’ve been working on expanding my team. I’ve hired a full-time C.O.O, a full-time product manager and five independent contractors. Right now we are preparing to do trials of our back brace in February and we are getting samples in now of the brace. We also did a Kickstarter campaign, and fine tuned our go-to-market strategy. We’ve decided to go the sports medicine route and the veterans route. Our C.O.O. is a veteran and he is taking the lead on that market (which is a huge market). We are also looking to bring on some veteran interns for the summer.
On her work-life balance in the past six months.
“[My work-life balance has been…] Not too great, but the energy of the city [New York] is so good and people work around the clock here and you can go out at 11:00 at night and people are still out. I need to have a social life and see people because one of the most important things for an entrepreneur is networking. For example I went out to a local bar and met a former professional athlete and talked to him about the back brace and he’s interested in helping me. Recently I talked to another person and got an idea for another product. There are so many people in New York to meet.”
On whether her MBA (earned from MIT in June, 2015) is helping her.
“I absolutely needed it. I couldn’t have gone from a previous job into a startup. Entrepreneurship is one of the fields where you can use all the facets of your MBA.”
On her greatest challenge so far.
“It’s been stressful. I’ve been building my team, and I just brought on my C.O.O. who is now helping do the work, but my biggest challenge was putting together a full time team pre-funding. Trying to find someone who wants to be all-in and committed to the venture and not be paid until we have funding is hard. But in order to get funding you need to show that you have a solid team. That was a difficult thing –but I feel like I’m concluding that now. Also being a full founder [as opposed to a cofounder] is a challenge. It’s hard to bring someone else on who has your same level of drive and ambition behind your product.”
On her greatest achievement so far.
We haven’t done it yet. We’ve done everything up to this point, and we are on the right track, but I think our success will be launching a product and having customers. It’s [the back brace] available for pre-order but we’re not actually in business yet. Everything has been great coming along –but our biggest success is still ahead of us.
On how she has changed since starting this journey.
One thing is, I’m a better manager with interpersonal relationships now. Having a team, understanding peoples’ personalities and how to play to peoples’ strengths has changed me and taught me people management skills. I’ve learned to be more patient and not get mad at someone right away. Instead, I take a step back, analyze someone’s strengths and push them toward that area.
On being a woman entrepreneur in health-tech.
Honestly I’m not sure it matters what industry you’re in as a female entrepreneur. It’s more about being a woman in business. Outside of business people say I have a strong female personality, but when it comes to business, you’re still a female and people think they can still walk over you. As a female you always have to keep your eyes open more than if you were a male. You always have to be on your game – there’s a heightened level of that. You have to keep your eyes out for someone who might want to slide one past you because they don’t think you’re as strong.
On her best piece of advice for other entrepreneurs.
“Keep going. It doesn’t matter. There are plenty of business plan competitions that I didn’t make it to and some that I did. You are going to have your moment if you keep going.”