The Entrepreneur Innovation Awards (EIA) attract all kinds of companies and entrepreneurs, even high school freshmen. Norah Kolb brought her innovative swimming kickboard idea to the judges and took home the September 2018 grand prize and the Crowd Favorite award. Norah explains how winning the EIA competition has helped advance her business idea.
Tell us about your invention, the Ray Board.
I made a kickboard that solves the problem of shoulder pain for swimmers. A lot of swimmers use kickboards to focus on strengthening their leg muscles, but the problem with today’s boards is that they are uncomfortable and unsupportive, resulting in shoulder pain when used for long periods of time. The pain leads to a shorter workout. My board’s unique shape allows for a bent-arm position and for the swimmer’s head to be raised out of the water, making it easier to breathe and ultimately reducing shoulder pain. The Ray Board allows the swimmer to train longer and have a more effective workout. The board can also be used by older, elderly swimmers or people who are recovering from some injury and in physical therapy.
How did this idea come about?
I started out with the Invention Convention when I was in eighth grade. I’m a swimmer and I wanted to create something that involved swimming, as that’s what I know best. I made a list of a bunch of different problems in swim and talked to my teammates to find out what some of their biggest problems were. The issue of shoulder pain when using standard kickboards was one of the biggest problems that came up.
How did you become aware of CTNext and the EIA competition?
I had not heard about CTNext before I started the process of making my invention. My parents had signed me up for the EIAs, thinking it would be a good opportunity. I applied and got accepted. They helped me throughout the process, and it was a really good experience. As a freshman in high school, it was great for me to have the opportunity to stand up in front of a big audience and present. That’s a really good skill to have for presentations in class. The EIAs were a pretty big event for me; it pushed me, and I was able to focus on that and put my full work toward that. I met with an EIA advisor who helped me prepare for the competition and provided guidance as to how I can take my company to the next level and promote the board.
How have the EIA funds you won helped you move your business forward?
I was able to use the money to manufacture a prototype of the board. I had made a number of prototypes by hand, but with the EIA win I was able to have one made professionally. In addition to the prototype, I’m also working to develop a website.
What are the next steps in bringing your invention to the market?
Right now, we’re in the process of testing and evaluating the board, building the website and pursuing a patent. (I have a provisional patent right now.) I will be attending different fairs and talking to people who might be interested in purchasing the board, and I’ve been talking to elderly swimmers to give them the opportunity to test out the board and see if it’s something they would use.