At age 16, Shawn Michels couldn’t understand why he was struggling to keep with his fellow sprinters. The experienced runner was usually at the head of the pack, but suddenly, he was winded and needed to rest. He also began to experience tingling in his hands and feet, and he had developed an unquenchable thirst. A quick trip to the doctor identified the problem: Shawn had Type 1 Diabetes.
The diagnosis meant the teen would be insulin-dependent for the remainder of his life. He quickly learned to give himself injections, sometimes dosing himself as many as ten times a day. Diabetics are told to vary the site of the injection, using both sides of the body and focusing on the fatty areas behind the arm, on the buttocks, the stomach and the thigh. Those who do not rotate their injection sites are at a high risk of developing lipohypertrophy, a painful condition that is caused by repeated injections to the same site and impacts the absorption of insulin.
Using his dominant right hand, Michels would inject his stomach or thigh each time he dosed himself, as they were the easiest locations for him to reach. Despite the bruises and lumps that formed on his abdomen and legs, he continued to inject in those accessible locations, and ultimately, developed lipohypertrophy. As one of the millions of diabetics who develop this condition during their lifetime, Michels sought a solution.
The college junior was spurred by advice from his Introduction to Entrepreneurship professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Stefan Koehler, who teaches students to seek out entrepreneurial solutions to their problems. Michels decided to tackle the problem of lipohypertrophy by designing a device that makes it easier for those using pen type insulin injectors to administer injections in difficult to reach locations. With little more than a handful of nuts, bolts and washers pilfered from his parents’ garage, Michels started to develop a brace that affixed on the end of an insulin pen and held the pen steady to aid injections made with the non-dominant hand, or in difficult to reach areas. Initially, the brace was held together with duct tape. Later, Michels’ father welded the creation together and the first prototype of the product that was to become Steady Shot was created.
Michels began working with Discovery to Product (D2P), a campus group for student entrepreneurs. The inventor found the guidance he received from D2P instrumental in the development of his product. He was accepted in the Igniter program, which offered him access to business mentors, FDA consultants and product manufacturers who helped him create a business plan, while navigating the legal requirements for launching a medical device, like Steady Shot. During his senior year, he won second place in the Transcend Madison Innovation Competition, which came with a $10,000 check to begin his business. Michels’ business plan turned into a business in 2020, with the launch of Steady Shot.
Frustrated by the roadblocks he encountered while trying to get his device into pharmacies, Michels has started selling his device online, directly to his users. He has partnered with Amazon Launchpad, a service designed specifically for startup businesses. Steady Shots are in Amazon warehouses across the country. Michels has his eye on the European market and is counting on the online retailer to help create a pathway to international sales.
The young entrepreneur offers this advice to students aspiring to follow in his footsteps: “get the idea out of your head.” He has observed that people are guarded with their innovative ideas, but he urges people with ideas for new product concepts to “get feedback sooner, rather than later.” He notes that hearing the assessment of others is critical in evaluating the idea for viability and will help the prospective business owner connect with the resources needed to move the idea from concept to reality.
To learn more about Shawn Michels and Steady Shot, see the company website.