These 14 Startup Ideas Made The Cut For WashU Olin’s BIG IdeaBounce $50K Top Prize

Team Name: Aiding Arm

University: University of Buffalo

BIG IndeaBounce 2023 finalist

Concept: The Aiding Arm is a clip-on shower chair attachment that allows frail individuals to control the flow of water while seated safely in a standard shower chair using a patented lever system; no one ever has to hold a shower head again!

Challenge: The assistive bathroom device market is $5 billion dollars annually (TAM) and 60% of these sales are assistive bathing devices (SAM), most of which are sales of shower chairs. Through customer discovery, we learned that the customer varies depending on the level of care. It can be the user themselves (more independent levels of care), the loved ones of the end user, or executives in charge of purchasing at Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing facilities. We are targeting Assisted Living facilities as we launch because we can get valuable customer testing and feedback in reference to the market standard and sell larger purchase orders.

Solution: The Aiding Arm is a first-of-its-kind product. Currently, there are two options on the market, (1) sponge bathing and (2) a stationary clip which holds the showerhead to the leg of a shower chair. However, these are not solutions for people who suffer from mobility issues. Considering independence, flexibility, comfort, containment, and time saving, The Aiding Arm is far superior to current solutions. Sponge bathing does not offer independence nor flexibility as the person can only reach as much as their range of motion allows. During a sponge bath a person is exposed to the air whilst being washed, which leads to a very cold and uncomfortable experience. Additionally, sponge baths are often done in places outside of a shower, such as a bed, which can be messy. Lastly, bathing another person can be a time-consuming task and may require multiple people.
Similarly, a stationary clip does not enable full independence nor flexibility while bathing because the person is only able to reach the parts of their body which they can reach without assistance. Due to physical limitations users may be facing, bathing, especially their back and hair, can be uncomfortable and potentially painful. This makes it difficult for the user to control the flow of water as there is nothing to stabilize the showerhead, which can lead to a mess. The Aiding Arm’s two-lever and two-lock system makes it so the user or aid no longer has to hold the shower head in the process, streamlining the bathing process.

The Market: We plan to market initially direct to consumer, giving live demonstrations at facilities and getting LOIs. This will allow us to capitalize on larger purchase orders. Our goal is to sell 500 units in the first year, which will result in $750,000 in revenue. We project our revenue will grow to $37.5 million by year 5 and grow our operating margin to 30% as we build a sustainable business.

We have a partnership with a local manufacturer, Tresca Designs, capable of handling the manufacturing, packaging, shipping, and storage of up to 1000 units at a time. Further, we have Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with the two leading elder care facilities in the Western New York and Finger Lakes regions – The Green Fields Continuing Care Facility and Cloverwood Senior Living. Additionally, we have a working relationship with the Arc system, an organization serving disability communities with over 25 facilities in Monroe and Erie Counties. On top of this, we have compiled a list of over 300 facilities in the tri-state area that are ideal customers, many of which we have connections to through our community outreach endeavors. We are motivated to reduce strain on healthcare staff and empower users during the bathing process.

We are partnering with local businesses to keep our dollars within the region and plan to remain headquartered in Upstate, NY, hire from this region, and invest back into the community that is helping us to grow.

Competition: We have raised $55,000 in non-dilutive funds to grow our business. We have spent most of this to develop two prototypes (with optimized design), file two provisional one non-provisional patent on the Aiding Arm design, file a trademark, build a professional website and company profile, build a demonstration kit, test with facilities, and start preparing to sell.

The next step for us is to finish development of our final product design, finish testing, and start selling! The facilities we have demonstrated with have expressed high levels of interest in placing initial orders and they have a combined 150 assisted living rooms. We will need $20,000 to finish the final product design by May and $10,000 for our first small batch manufacturing run and initial sales, and $20,000 to optimize our design for manufacturing at scale. If we win the grand prize, the $50,000 will allow us to stick to our timeline and launch by the end of Q3 this year. We have adopted a bootstrapping approach to maximize our traction and maintain our velocity. Therefore, if we win this year’s Big Idea Bounce competition at WashU Olin powered by Poets and Quants, the grand prize will help provide us with a faster avenue to the market.

The Team: Myself and my co-founder, Courtney J. Burris, recently lost many of our loved ones to health-related issues from 2019-2020. We used these tragedies to fuel a business venture that produces products to improve the quality of life for individuals who struggle to perform Activities of Daily Living (ADLs). We work every day to develop products to help the loved ones of our customers in the way we wished they could have helped their loved ones.
Courtney is a 6th year PhD candidate in Industrial and Systems Engineering at the University of Buffalo and Brandon is a 6th year PhD candidate in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Anticipated Graduation is 2023. Courtney has extensive experience in systems optimization and has started one other business venture. In addition to his extensive medical knowledge, Brandon has over six years of experience in sales and customer discovery. The management of RHM Innovations Inc. consists of co-founders Courtney Burris and Brandon Davis. Both partners will be taking hands-on management roles in the company. In addition, we have assembled a board of advisors to provide diverse business-related expertise and decades worth of experience. The advisors are:

Mr. John Herbrand, Esq. Business and Legal Advisor
Mr. John Seman, Business Coach
Dr. Bruce Troen, MD, Aging Specialist (UKMC)
Dr. Daniel Phillips, PhD, Effective Access Technologist (RIT)
Dan Buckmaster, Tresca Designs Design and Manufacturing Advisor
Dr. Victor Paquet, PhD, Human Factors Advisor (UB)
Dr. Carlos Pena, PhD, FDA Regulatory Specialist (Jacobs Institute)

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.