I-Corps@ECU Honors Entrepreneurs

I-Corps@ECU recognized the work of faculty members, students and community members at its 2018 Celebration and Information Session at the East Carolina Heart Institute on April 13.

More than 30 participants, East Carolina University representatives and community partners honored the spring semester’s 26 teams.

I-Corps@ECU is funded by the National Science Foundation. The program provides budding entrepreneurs a model to reach go or no-go decisions on their business ideas by using a lean launch method. Participants identify a customer base, interview potential customers to learn about their wants and needs and reach a decision on whether to bring a product to market based on consumer feedback, market share and profitability.

I-Corps at ECU speaker

East Carolina University professor Richard Baybutt describes his product, BetaSol, during the 2018 I-Corps@ECU Celebration and Information Session at the East Carolina Heart Institute. BetaSol is an e-cigarette product that delivers vitamin A to smokers to help protect their lungs from damage.

Three teams were highlighted at the celebration, including a team led by an ECU student, an ECU professor and local business owners. The program recognized BetaSol, a product developed by professor Richard Baybutt, which provides a dose of vitamin A to smokers to help prevent lung injury; FoodMASTER, an educational curriculum that uses food to teach math, science and nutrition skills led by professor Melanie Duffrin and graduate student Allender Lynch; and Glean, a local baking flour product created by a group of entrepreneurs from “ugly” vegetables that are rejected by retail stores.

Each team discussed their journey through I-Corps@ECU and how it helped them reach decisions for their products.

I-Corp co-director Marti Van Scott said the program is a useful tool for entrepreneurs who want to explore whether their idea has a position in the marketplace.

“I-Corps will benefit anyone; whether they’re a scientist, a writer or an artist, this program is useful,” Van Scott said. “Whether you’re researching, writing a grant or have an idea for a business, it forces you to take an in-depth look at what you’re offering to see if its beneficial to the people you’re trying to serve.

“I-Corps is a great tool to help people think through the next steps of their business idea,” she said. “Often, entrepreneurs will come up with an idea, but it’s the steps after that – interviewing potential customers, identifying pain points and determining market share – where they struggle. I-Corps helps point you in the right direction.”

Teal Darkenwald, an associate professor in the School of Theatre and Dance, said she attended the event to learn more about I-Corps@ECU. Darkenwald is the founder of Ultra Barre, a barre-based supplemental dance training method that lengthens and tones muscle.

“My background has nothing to do with entrepreneurship,” Darkenwald said. “I know that’s a deficit in my training and education, so today was a great opportunity for me to learn more about business and entrepreneurship.

“It makes sense for me to learn more about where I fit in with my business and learn how to build a team,” she said. “I could do that through I-Corps. I feel like I have the research background and I have a clear idea of who my demographic is, but I could potentially participate in I-Corps and strengthen the other half of the business through what you learn in the program.”

I-Corps@ECU begins its third session this fall. For more information about the program visit I-Corps@ECU online.