Serving as someone’s informal caregiver is a rewarding experience, but the pressure of being fully responsible for taking care of a loved one can take a toll on a person physically and mentally, acknowledged Nicole Staab and Rachel Blankenship.
Through their startup, Rings of Care KC, they are providing support and resources for informal caregivers and those in need; a $17,500 cash prize at Friday’s Regnier Venture Creation Challenge is driving them closer to that mission.
“First thing we want to do with the funds is hire and train additional facilitators,” Blankenship said. “Just last week, [Nicole] had four calls to be at the same place at the same time, so there needs to be more of us.”
“I’m an end-of-life doula, and we’d love to hire other end-of-life doulas,” Staab added. “We feel like they can add so much to what we’re doing; they are very great at caregiving, organizing people and getting a care plan together.”
The University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Regnier Venture Creation Challenge awarded more than $90,000 in cash prizes to student, local and full-time entrepreneurs on Friday. Rings of Care KC took home first place in the James and Rae Block Kansas City Startup awards category.
“This was our first time pitching, and it’s so validating,” Staab shared, noting that they established Rings of Care KC at the beginning of 2023. “This is something that we are so passionate about and ready to bring to people in need.”
Click here to check out Rings of Care KC.
Come On Now was awarded second place with a cash prize of $12,500 for its core product Come On Now, which connects patients to doctors in a safe and convenient way. The platform gives consumers access to the right information, resources and tools to help them make the best medical and financial decisions for themselves and their families in a simplified experience, explained founder Dr. Shelley Cooper.
“It was very exciting to be in the same room as Kansas City’s innovators; the Blocks and Regniers have made history over the years,” Cooper said. “It’s a great learning experience.”
The $12,500 is set to be allocated to add Swahili to Come On Now’s platform, Cooper noted.
“We currently only offer [the platform] in Spanish and English, so we could really broaden our customer base by translating it into Swahili,” she continued. “We’ve also added a bit of gamification to [the platform]; so when children get their immunizations, they will get digital stickers. … It’s a way to bring and engage children into their own healthcare experience.”
A third place prize of $2,500 was awarded to Venboo, an app that allows vendors to set criteria for events that match their products, receive notifications about them and reserve their spot at the event. Venboo was founded by Juaquan Herron and Rodney McDuffie in 2020.
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Other award winners included:
The Regnier College Startup Awards
- First Place, $15,000 — ChiChi (Chiara Munzi, Washington University in St. Louis) is a healthy and convenient chickpea-based breakfast food.
- Second place, $10,000 — King of the Curve (Heath Rutledge-Jukes and William Kelly, Washington University in St. Louis) is an app that leverages an engaging experience for students studying for the MCAT.
- Third place, $5,000 — Xotu Jewelry (Adriana Suarez, University of Missouri-Kansas City) offers handmade jewelry inspired by the Wixárika people.
The BlueKC Healthcare Innovation Awards
- First place, $15,000 — Foliagraft (Abby Knoesel, Madison Husereau and Aiden Armstrong Missouri, University of Science and Technology) proposes the use of spinach leaves and stem cells to help burn victims and others with wounds and conditions that require a skin graft.
- Second place, $10,000 — InforMedic (Pranav Rajan and Tan Phan, University of Nebraska-Lincoln) is an app that summarizes medical records through tailored machine-learning algorithms.
Honorable mentions (each recipient was awarded $2,500)
- Outstanding Undergraduate Venture — Solutoy (Ako Hamaamin and Noah Strodtman, University of Missouri-Columbia) incorporates creative solutions into a variety of industries with creative products. It’s patent-pending electric cat is an anti-theft device for catalytic converters
- Outstanding Social Venture — Vi Sinh Xinh (Alyssa Lai, Iowa State University) which is Vietnamese for “Beautiful Microbes” is a double-sided marketplace providing services and supplies to urban families selling their fermented food waste to organic farmers.
- Best Creative Venture — YHARI (Yhari Gray, University of Missouri-Kansas City) offers statement fashion pieces dedicated to quality, craftsmanship and making a positive change.