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Posts Tagged ‘Teenager’

17 Year Old Starts Own Business – It’s Not Rocket Science Or Brain Surgery

Over the years I’ve spoken at many trade shows and conventions about starting your own mail order business and many of the attendees ask me how hard is it to start your own business, especially in this difficult economy and I usually wind up telling them “well, it’s not rocket science or brain surgery”. The easiest and best way to begin is to rely on advice from people already in the business who have been successful. Going this route will save you many dollars and keep you from making the dreaded B-B’s…beginners blunders. See how easy it is to begin by first reading the following article which appeared in the November 27th issue of the New York Times written by Nicole Laporte.

DON’T KNOW HOW? WELL, FIND SOMEONE WHO DOES!

Is advanced technical knowledge necessary to become an inventor? Look at the story of Katherine Bomkamp, and you will see it isn’t. Ms. Bomkamp, 20, came up with the idea behind the Pain Free Socket, a prosthetic device that is intended to ease phantom limb pain in amputees. The device, now awaiting a patent, works by applying heat to the amputee’s joint socket through thermal bio-feedback. The theory is that as the nerve endings are warmed, the brain is forced to focus on the heat rather than send signals to the absent limb.

Now a sophomore at West Virginia University, Ms Bomkamp was in high school when she began working on her invention. At the time, she had zero background in chemical or electrical engineering, which were essential to the creation of the device.

“It was all completely foreign to me. I had no interest in engineering before this,” said Ms Bomkamp, who was a criminal-justice major at the magnet high school in Maryland. In college she’s studying political science, with plans to attend law school.

Her experience shows how ambition, persistence and an ample supply of curiosity can lay the groundwork for achieving breakthroughs, even technological ones. (A bit of youthful pluck helps, too.) It also shows that drawing on other people’s experience and resources is often as good as, if not better than, doing everything yourself.

Politicians know this. Business leaders like Steve Jobs knew this. And yet when we think of a solitary soul hunkered down in a basement lab for weeks or months before emerging to claim an unshared victory. To this, Ms Bomkamp would say: think again.

The seeds for the Pain Free Socket were sown when Ms. Bomkamp, whose father is a disabled Air Force veteran, found herself in waiting rooms at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center—the hospital in Virginia that has since closed—seated among wounded soldiers just back from Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of them were amputees.

“They would tell me their stories, and phantom pain kept coming up,” she said. She started researching the condition and learned that “most amputees are prescribed antipsychotics and barbiturates which are expensive and have high addiction rates.”

“So I wanted to see if I could eliminate the need for those holistically,” she said.

An opportunity to pursue her idea came when a teacher announced a school science fair. Wanting to “do something meaningful that impacted the community,” she said, she decided to work on a device to treat phantom pain.

“My thought process was: when I pull a muscle, I apply heat to it. If I applied the same concept to treating phantom pain, I thought that could work.” The only problem was execution. Ms Bomkamp was the furthest thing to from a math or science geek; there was no way she could do this alone. So she began e-mailing engineering professors at universities in the area and asking them for assistance. “They were all very receptive,” she said. “they all invited me to come work in their labs. I chose the University of Maryland because it was closest to my house”.

And every Friday, she would take the day off school—with permission—and her mother would drive her to College Park. There, she worked with Professor Gilmer L. Blankenship in the department of electrical and computer engineering, and his lab manager, Jay Renner. “They taught me electrical engineering from the bottom up—electrical programming, heat-wiring,” she said. “Basically, everything, they had to teach me”.

They helped her build a prosthetic socket as the first prototype; heated socks used by hunters served as the gadgets heat source. But engineering was only half the battle. Ms Bomkamp wanted to expand her invention and build a prosthetic limb. Who would build it – and not charge her $15,000, the typical cost of an artificial leg?

Again she resorted to grass roots outreach, printing the names of prosthetic companies she found on the Web site of the Amputee Coalition of America, and making calls. “A lot of people hung up on me, saying, “This won’t work, you’re just a kid, don’t waste my time” Ms Bomkamp said. Finally she reached Jake Godak, who at the time was working at Cascade, an orthotic and prosthetic supply company in Chico, California, and remains a consultant in prosthetics. “He said this could really work, and so he built sockets and a leg for me,” she said. “I still work with him”.

In the second generation prototype, the heated socks were replaced by ribbing cable, and the electronics were such that the amputee could control the temperature of the socket.

The device “appears to be a very promising prototype for one of the possible ways for amputees to deal with phantom pain”, she said. Joe McTernan, a director of coding and programming at the American Orthotic Association. “This certainly is interesting and intriguing research,” he said, adding; “but it is, as far as I can see, currently very much a prototype”.

At West Virginia University, Ms Bomkanp has acquired a new set of mentors in the school’s entrepreneurship program. She has set up her own company and is working on third, and fourth generation prototypes. These will have smaller, more compact electronic boards and will be able to be operated by a mobile phone.

In the meantime, she has applied for a patent, and the device will be tested. She also is in talks with a domestic prosthetic company about licensing the rights to sell the device, which is subject to the approval of the Food and Drug Administration. She hopes to receive a small percentage in royalties from future sales.

Otherwise, she’s just an ordinary college kid—sort of. “I definitely don’t have the typical college student life”, she says, “But at the same time, I do. I still worry about tests and getting scholarship money. But yet I’m a C.E.O., and I’ve got this project and I go on business trips. I walk the line between the two. And yes, she won the high school science fair.

So what has this wonderful story got to do with starting your own business? Hopefully it will inspire you to take a chance on something new, something you know nothing about. My book HOW TO BECOME A MAIL ORDER MILLIONAIRE is like having a mentor right next to you answering every question you will ever have on becoming successful in mail order… and even if you don’t become one of the mail order millionaires like some of my clients have, you’ll have the opportunity to make an excellent income in a business of your own.

The book is sold on a money back guarantee of satisfaction, so you have nothing to lose.

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