Successful businesses are fueled by great ideas and great ideas are driven by inspiration. The inspiration that Dr. Jeanette Hill needed to start her business revealed itself while her mother, who lived in a rural area, was battling a chronic disease.
Once the proverbial light bulb flashed within her head, the real challenge arose - a challenge that is never easy - giving life to a notion that existed only in her mind.
Not every idea is out of the box, many times great ideas and innovations come by exploring ordinary ones in a different way. Dr. Hill's revolutionary idea was to create a simple kit that would allow a few drops of blood to be collected away from a lab then be safely sent to in for analysis. Thus, the HemaSpot device was born.
The HemaSpot device is based on dried blood spot technology, a technology that has been known for more than five decades and is best known for its use in newborn screening. The greatest impact would exceed beyond the U.S. borders and into the developing countries, where doctors are faced with the challenge of transporting such samples over long distances.
Dr. Hill, who received her Ph.D. in Bio-organic Chemistry at Washington University in St. Louis with research in protein engineering and completed post-doctoral research on liver disease and diabetes at Case Western Reserve University and Washington University Medical School, had the technical expertise needed for this business endeavor but lacked the full understanding of what is needed to start and run a business.
In 2010, Dr. Jeanette Hill founded Spot On Sciences Inc., a biotech company that develops and markets innovative medical devices that revolutionize collection and storage of biological fluids for medical research and testing and immediately sought assistance from her local Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
“When I started the company, I began meeting with my SBDC advisor right away,” said Hill. “My background is in pharma research and while I had some experience running a department and selling products, I had no idea how to start a business from scratch.”
Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) help entrepreneurs realize the dream of business ownership and help existing businesses remain competitive in a complex, ever-changing global marketplace.
The SBDC advisors provide aspiring and current small business owners a variety of free business consulting and low-cost training services. SBDCs are hosted by leading universities and state economic development agencies, and funded in part through a partnership with SBA.
“My first name for the company was Spot on Biosciences,” as she recalls one of her fondest memories during her many counseling sessions. “Makes sense - we are a bio company. An advisor gently reminded me that there would be many times when we would want to shorten the name and even use initials.
“This was good advice” she said. “I changed the name and every time I sign a contract I am grateful that we are not known as the SOB Company.”
Dr. Hill perseverance and drive was perhaps the greatest factor to her success. In 2012, Spot on Sciences was awarded funding through a Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR) grant with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The SBIR program is a competitive awards-based program, designed to encourage domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) that has potential for commercialization.
The SBIR Program is structured in three phases, from establishing the technical merit, feasibility, and commercial potential of the proposed R/R&D efforts to pursuing commercialization objectives resulting from the Phase I/II R/R&D activities.
In addition to the SBIR grant, Spot on Sciences has recently announced a collaboration effort with the U.S. Military HIV Research Program and Walter Reed Army Institute of Research to support a study for detecting infectious pathogens such as HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, and mosquito-borne infections such as dengue, West Nile and chikungunya virus in deployed troops.
Spot on Sciences was also selected as an exhibiting entrepreneur for first-ever White House Demo Day – held on August 4. Demo Day showcased the wide-ranging talents of innovators from across the country.
Dr. Hill may have started her career as a research scientist but with the assistance she has received from the SBA, she has gracefully made her mark into the entrepreneur arena and is dominating the world of biotech startups.
Her willingness to turn her idea into a reality will not just help her mother but will benefit everyone around the world.
To find out how the U.S. Small Business Administration can help you, contact your local office.