This story is part of a series featuring each of the fourteen startups in the CYstarters 2022 summer cohort. Each student has the opportunity to focus on their startup or business idea while receiving $6,500 or up to $13,000 (per team), along with mentorship, accountability, and educational sessions on how to build a business.
By Samantha Dilocker, ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship
Education: Sophomore majoring in finance & entrepreneurship
Hometown: Waukee, IA
Currently working on: Formed Grips, which offers customizable hard rubber hand grips to attach to nearly any handheld tool to reduce hand injuries.
Have you always seen yourself starting something?
Not necessarily. I’ve always had an aspiration to create, but originally, I wanted to do that through engineering. My entire life, I wanted to be an engineer. My brother was an engineer. Until I was a junior in high school, I thought that was what I wanted to do. I thought that would be my way of creating things. But then I realized I wasn’t the best at math, and I fell in love with business. I took a couple of business classes my junior year, which led me down the path of entrepreneurship and aspiring to create things through that and business.
When did you start working on Formed Grips, and who or what inspired you?
I started working on Formed Grips in the summer of 2021. The original idea came from when my family and I were on a trip to North Carolina to visit family and to entertain me on the plane because I was little, my parents brought Play-Doh. Whenever we would squeeze the Play-Doh, it would form to our hands. That got me thinking, how can this be used? There are so many products made to mold to your feet for arch support but little to no market for products meant to mold to your hand for support. I was only seven at the time but little did I know, my dad filed for a patent for the idea. Later in high school, I started working for a startup company, and through that connected with a lawyer who mentored me, and I eventually did an internship with him. At this time, entrepreneurship still wasn’t on my mind, but over the summer, I fell in love. I worked with three other startup companies that summer and fell in love with the idea of owning my own business. At the end of the internship, I knew I wanted to start something. I had a whole list of ideas I presented to the people I worked with, and we settled on Formed Grips as being the most plausible. That’s when I started pursuing it.
What excites you about being an entrepreneur?
I’m most excited to own what I do. In a world that’s so disposable, it’s cool to be able to own what you do every single day. A lot of people are just gears in a machine. They’re never truly going to know the impact that they have. But when you own a company, the good and the bad are on you. You have to own it. There are pros and cons to that, but it really excites me. Someday I hope to be able to pass this company down to my kids. This is something that can last generations, something substantial you can be proud of.
What is your biggest goal for your business?
I want to help people. I just want to have a positive impact in whatever I do. I hope to start many companies throughout my life. Many things may not save the world, but there are things you can do to help better the world with the money you receive. If I’m successful—when I’m successful—I’d love to give back, be philanthropic, and make a change in the world. Someone once said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” and that’s what I want to do through entrepreneurship.
What has been your biggest challenge thus far, and how have you overcome it?
My biggest challenge so far has just been owning it. Everyone around me wants to be a doctor, an engineer, or a banker, and when you tell people you want to be an entrepreneur, it turns some heads. Fortunately, I haven’t received much negative feedback, but I have received some doubt. People will say, “You’re going to have to get lucky five times, and then you might have a chance to make it big,” and stuff like that. I’ve had to really just get over myself and own the fact that I want to be an entrepreneur, create things, and take the hard road.
How has entrepreneurship at Iowa State impacted you?
It’s been a very welcoming environment. Freshman year, I came here knowing I wanted to pursue entrepreneurship in the future, and I heard about all of the resources Iowa State had to offer. It was a little intimidating at first, but then I got involved in the pitch competitions, business model canvas competition, and after each one got a little more familiar. This summer, I’m in CYstarters, and I’ll attend the Okoboji Entrepreneurship Institute. I’ve really been fortunate. I only just finished my freshman year, but I’ve participated in so many activities. I dove in head first, just like I wanted to. I’ll be able to use everything I learned this year throughout the rest of college and for the rest of my life. It was so important to start freshman year because I didn’t want to waste any time.
What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student?
Regardless of whether you want to pursue your own business or get a job, do what you love because you will be doing it your whole life. But I want to take it one step further. You can do what you love and be very successful in it, but find the thing you love and be the best at it.
How can we support Formed Grips?
Word of mouth is always important when getting started. Right now, I’m hoping to break into the assisted walking industry. Think canes, walkers, crutches, et cetera. I’d love to connect with people in that industry to learn more, but I’m also open to speaking with people in any other industry to discuss how using Formed Grips might benefit them. I’d love for people to spread the word.