Elemental Enzymes Inc.

ElementalEnzymes-logo-150x150Research and business partners Drs. Brian and Katie Thompson have collaborated on two new developments in the past year. As husband and wife, they are the proud parents of Luke, their ten-month-old son. As biological scientists, they are the proud founders of Elemental Enzymes Inc., their five-month-old technology startup business in Columbia, Mo.

Luke brings joy and challenge to their lives, as any parent can attest after the arrival of a newborn. Currently his biggest project is learning to walk.

Dr. Brian Thompson’s postdoctoral research in enzyme production at the University of Missouri led him to found Elemental Enzymes in early 2011.

Dr. Brian Thompson’s postdoctoral research in enzyme production at the University of Missouri led him to found Elemental Enzymes in early 2011.

Elemental Enzymes also brings challenges and joy, as any freshly minted business owner can attest after founding a company. Challenges include deciding on the type of business, choosing a name, searching for backing and selecting the proper location. Determining solutions to those challenges brings the joy.

“We see ourselves as a ‘greentech’ company,” says Brian, president of the firm. “We make enzymes to address personal and industrial contamination problems. We make them in a unique fashion that makes them less expensive and more stable than other enzymes. Greater stability allows the product to last longer and do the job the client needs it to do.”

Those clients could come from a range of fields — bioenergy, oil production, pharmaceuticals, environmental remediation — any business that finds itself in the position of needing high efficiency enzymes.

“We can design enzymes to remove pesticides, heavy metals like mercury and chromium, pharmaceutical residues, and remnants of explosive compounds such as TNT and C-4, among other applications,” says Katie, chief researcher, vice president and CFO of Elemental Enzymes.

The idea for the company came from Brian’s postdoctoral work at the University of Missouri. After earning his doctorate in diagnostic medicine and veterinary pathobiology at Kansas State University, he came to MU to conduct bacterial disease research. One of Brian’s side projects at MU lead to a discovery of a new way of producing enzymes. Collaborating with veteran MU scientists-George Stewart, chairman and professor of veterinary pathology, and Chung-Ho Lin, research associate professor of agroforestry-Brian perfected new enzyme production processes that are being patented by the University.

Dr. Katie Thompson, vice president and chief researcher at Elemental Enzymes, prepares specimens for analysis in the company’s laboratory.

Dr. Katie Thompson, vice president and chief researcher at Elemental Enzymes, prepares specimens for analysis in the company’s laboratory.

(Note: MU’s intellectual property policy is similar to most research universities: when University researchers develop a patentable product or process, it becomes the property of the institution.)

Soon after Brian left MU to form his company, he signed a licensing agreement with the University allowing Elemental Enzymes to use the patent-pending processes he developed during his stint as a postdoctoral researcher.

That licensing agreement was one of many steps in the business start-up process. Brian took another significant step when he contacted the Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Center at MU’s College of Engineering.

After completing several key business classes taught by staff of the SBTDC Brian engaged the help of Paul Bateson, business counselor and tech commercialization specialist at the center, for assistance in setting up his company. Bateson encouraged the business novice to become fully educated about his key markets, helped with investor advice, and connected Brian to many useful resources and potential future clients. Additionally, Bateson assisted Elemental Enzymes in submitting several federal SBIR grant applications to pursue additional start-up capital.

Close-up of Katie preparing specimen.

Close-up of Katie preparing specimen.

Brian originally called his enterprise Spogen Biotech Inc. But several people, including Bateson, strongly encouraged Brian to devise a more recognizable and easier to pronounce name. Hence, the moniker Elemental Enzymes was born.

Bateson also helped Brian analyze and secure sources of start-up funding. The company attracted funds from several private investors. That amount doubled this summer when the firm received approval of its application to the TechLaunch co-investment program at the Missouri Technology Corporation, part of the state’s Department of Economic Development.

“Having this backing has allowed us to buy research equipment and lease excellent lab space at the MU Life Science Business Incubator at Monsanto Place,” says Katie, whose research specialty is molecular, cellular and developmental biology. “Now that we’re moved into our new lab we’ll be able to take larger strides and make more research progress that will lead to additional product lines in the near future.”

The two researchers, business partners and husband-wife team review research data in their new lab at the MU Life Sciences Business Incubator in Columbia.

The two researchers, business partners and husband-wife team review research data in their new lab at the MU Life Sciences Business Incubator in Columbia.

Chief among those strides is building products that meet the needs of potential clients. Two recently developed enzyme applications with direct market potential: lactase, an enzyme that breaks down sugars, for use by researchers; and lipase, an enzyme that breaks down oils and fats for bio-fuel applications.

“It’s a great feeling to realize after more than a year of hard work we’ve arrived at the point where production and testing can take off,” says Brian. “However, I know without Paul’s guidance and the additional help we received from the SBTDC, we would not be a company today.”

Columbia restaurateur Jina Yoo is a diminutive, concentrated bundle of energy. She combines the soul of an artist with the drive of a determined entrepreneur.

Columbia restaurateur Jina Yoo opened her Asian Bistro in 2007 after seeking business counseling from Virginia Wilson at the MU SBTDC.

Columbia restaurateur Jina Yoo opened her Asian Bistro in 2007 after seeking business counseling from Virginia Wilson at the MU SBTDC.

She opened Jina Yoo’s Asian Bistro more than four years ago in the trendy, growing southwest section of Columbia. Her unique approach to dining has been so successful Jina is planning to open a second restaurant this spring in downtown Kansas City.

Jina’s path to restaurant ownership started with joyous extended-family gatherings in her native South Korea. Growing up there, the older of two children, Jina remembers frequent get-togethers with cousins, aunts and uncles. Every family celebration involved cooking and eating. In addition, Jina’s father was a gourmet who took his older daughter on frequent journeys around their native land to sample the fare of restaurants in every corner of the country.

A member of Jina’s cooking staff starts preparing some of the many signature sushi rolls on the bistro’s menu.

A member of Jina’s cooking staff starts preparing some of the many signature sushi rolls on the bistro’s menu.

This joyful part of her life contrasts with the discipline of an education focused on developing Jina’s musical talents. Her mother made sure Jina began taking piano lessons at age six. By her senior year in high school Jina regularly practiced up to 11 hours every day. She had time only for schoolwork and piano — no time for such diversions as tennis, volleyball or figure skating.

“But I never learned to love music,” Jina confesses. “I was like a machine. After recitals I always had an empty feeling.”

Majoring in the pipe organ at college, Jina decided after her freshman recital that a music career was not for her. But after talking with her grandmother, Jina returned to the keyboard, completed her undergraduate work and was accepted for graduate studies in the pipe organ at Indiana University.

The bartender always delivers a friendly smile with every libation from the fully stocked bar.

The bartender always delivers a friendly smile with every libation from the fully stocked bar.

There she met the man who became her husband. They moved to Columbia when he was accepted into the MBA program at the University of Missouri. Jina traded her pipe organ studies for the role of homemaker and mother. And in her new Midwest home she pursued her love of cooking.

Jina first got serious about the culinary arts when she gave informal cooking classes in her home to friends and neighbors. Soon many of her disciples told her she should start a restaurant.

The idea took a long time to grow. She loved to cook, but she knew nothing of business. She had no experience and no money to start a restaurant. The dream lingered for eight years, until Jina finally contacted Virginia Wilson, business counselor with the MU SBTDC in Columbia.

Within a month Wilson had helped Jina create a business plan that attracted the attention of loan officers at two local banks. Jina combined a $290,000 loan from Boone County National Bank with another $100,000 of her own money to find a location and to design and build Jina Yoo’s Asian Bistro.

Jina serves up one of many luncheon menu offerings.

Jina serves up one of many luncheon menu offerings.

It’s been open more than four years. Much of the loan is paid off, and Jina is doing what she loves.

“There’s no aspect of the restaurant business that I don’t know now,” she says with confidence.

Though the restaurant has an established menu, Jina gladly concocts new recipes on special request: “I once created a dish for a lady who suffered from allergies to sugar, garlic and soy sauce. To solve the problem I substituted with fruit juice, scallion and gluten-free soy sauce. She loved it.”

Regular customers frequently ask Jina to surprise them. She’ll return to the kitchen, survey the inventory, and have one of her staff write down the list of ingredients as she creates a new recipe.

Among the fare on the luncheon menu are Big Bowls of Bibimbap, Sumo Noodles, Antsy Noodle and Pad Thai. Each can be topped with a variety of items such as bulgogi beef, grilled chicken breast, tofu, grilled shrimp or shrimp tempura.

Among the fare on the luncheon menu are Big Bowls of Bibimbap, Sumo Noodles, Antsy Noodle and Pad Thai. Each can be topped with a variety of items such as bulgogi beef, grilled chicken breast, tofu, grilled shrimp or shrimp tempura.

“I can imagine how a dish will taste before I actually create it. But don’t call me a chef. I’m not qualified” Jina insists. “Cooking is more rewarding than music. Every day is different. I ask my customer’s, ‘What do you feel like having today?’

“What is so difficult about that? It’s a people business. I don’t simply survive … I thrive. But it’s not about the money. Once my business account was down to $300 and my entire staff had quit. I work my tail off, and the business continues.”

Jina is continually on the go, so moments of relaxation are few. The restaurant is open seven days a week. Opening later in the day on Sundays allows Jina some down time, which she puts to good use. She’ll relax by getting in her car and driving roundtrip to St. Louis or Kansas City while listening to inspiring business CDs.

“I constantly seek to improve my business knowledge. I also improve my menu. I learn by making mistakes. I also learn from Virginia. She is an excellent advisor who has helped me on my business journey.”
– Jina Yoo


Accurate Rx Pharmacy

Growing up in Fulton, Mo., Jay Bryant-Wimp, co-owner and founder of Accurate Rx Pharmacy in Columbia, Mo., had a friend with hemophilia.

Accurate-logoThey did all the things small-town Missouri kids do, but Bryant-Wimp couldn’t help but notice his friend was a little different. When he was injured, he didn’t just shake it off like the other kids but sometimes had to leave.

That experience in part prompted Bryant-Wimp to become a pharmacist. Accurate Rx caters to individuals with chronic diseases such as hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis, immune deficiencies, growth hormone deficiency, infectious disease, Hepatitis C, psoriasis and Crohn’s disease. The company offers home infusion and specialty pharmacy services to patients nationwide, working with commercial insurance providers as well as Medicare and Medicaid.

Bryant-Wimp had previously worked as a pharmacist in a Washington state hospital and for Walgreens-Option Care in Columbia, which also helped patients living with chronic or complex conditions. He and his wife and co-owner, Stacy, who runs Accurate Rx’s day-to-day operations, eventually decided it was time to strike out on their own, which they did in 2009. Bryant-Wimp says he got great advice on launching the pharmacy and finding financing from Jim Gann, director of technology business development with the MU SBTDC. But the relationship continued beyond that.

Accurate-syringes“We’d go back to MO SBTDC for accounting assistance and classes, and that really helped out. When I heard about the BGS program, I was immediately interested. We knew we were going to get some good business consulting out of it. But we certainly got more than we ever expected.”

Bryant-Wimp estimates he received $20,000-$25,000 worth of consulting in social media and market, trade show and other research. Accurate Rx was already active in social media, he says, but he was still impressed by the reports.

“It was incredibly thorough; they really came through. Advice on how to make improvements to Facebook and Twitter was in itself tremendous help, and the market research helped us look closer at other states and physicians in our markets whom we could target for sales.

“The great thing was, it was all tangible. These were all take-home points for us. For a small business with limited time and resources to have this information delivered on such a very rapid timeline was perfect. We feel blessed and privileged to have partners like Jim and the BGS team.”

Accurate Rx is licensed in 20 states and currently has six full-time and seven part-time employees. Bryant-Wimp says the firm’s goal is to more than double its clients by the end of next year.

AmiraLin Innovations

Born of necessity

HVACstrap-371x600What do you get when you cross an engineer with an MBA and a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) professional? An HVAC gauge hanger.

To be more specific, a magnetic strap that clings to a HVAC unit, holding the temperature, pressure and other gauges at high level for the HVAC technician. The trademarked HVAC Strap is the invention of 15-year HVAC professional and current city of Columbia building inspector Dan Vande Voorde, brought to market with the help of the MO SBTDC, MBA and former Missouri Tigers tight end Clint Matthews and nuclear engineering PhD candidate Raymond Troy. The firm is called AmiraLin Innovations, and there are more products in the works.

Going about his trade, Vande Voorde kept asking himself why there was never a good place to hang his gauges. Technicians often have to throw their costly gauges on the ground where they are hard to read and likely to get damaged.

“The idea behind the hanger was basically born out of necessity,” says Vande Voorde. “I kept thinking about it, kept tinkering. There was nothing else like it on the market.”

Vande Voorde kept his ear to the ground. He had heard of the annual REDI Entrepreneurial Summit, held on the campus of the University of Missouri in Columbia, and its Idea Bounce competition, where entrepreneurs and inventors pitch business ideas to a panel of business pros.

He didn’t win the competition, but he did capture the imagination of summit attendees Matthews and Troy who were enrolled in an MU angel investing class. And not just any angel investing class, but a student-run angel investment program in which undergraduate and graduate students invest in promising firms.

A magnetic HVAC gauge hanger may be practical but it’s not sexy, and the class didn’t bite. However, Matthews and Troy, who have started nearly 10 companies, were sold on the device.

“Clint and I realized the value of the product from the start,” says Troy. “The HVAC Strap solves a real problem. A lot of inventions we see are looking for a problem to fix. This is just the opposite — an invention that solves a real problem.”

“I know HVAC, but I don’t know how to pitch ideas,” Vande Voorde admits. He also needed help in funding. “One of the first things I had to realize was that I had to give up a portion of the business for it to succeed, working with guys half my age.”

Vande Voorde had previously met Paul Bateson, MO SBTDC counselor, when Vande Voorde inspected the basement in Bateson’s home. Vande Voorde realized that Bateson could help.

Bateson and the three partners hammered out the details required to turn a great idea into a great product, such as the legal form of the new company; enacting a good marketing strategy; getting exposure via trade shows and other means; and whether to file a patent. Finding a manufacturer in American that could put the magnets and fabric together was also a challenge. Ultimately the partners found the right source in Arkansas, which helped ensure good communication and quality control.

Matthews and Troy secured a private investor and attended the largest HVAC trade show in America in late January. The product was a hit.

“Dealing with Clint and Ray has been an experience,” says Vande Voorde. “They are not easily discouraged and believe you should seize the moment. These guys are the next generation of business leaders.”

The HVAC Strap is already in stores and as of early March, the firm has sold more than 250 gauge hangers. Vande Voorde recently walked into a store and saw his hanger on display: “I went in to pick up some parts, and there it was! It was really a heartwarming moment to see our product for sale.” The partners are now weighing national and international distribution options.

Nanova, Inc.

Dr. Hao Li, associate professor in MU’s College of Engineering, co-founder of high-tech biomaterials firm Nanova Inc.

Dr. Hao Li, associate professor in MU’s College of Engineering, co-founder of high-tech biomaterials firm Nanova Inc.

With the help of the Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Centers, Nanova Inc. was incorporated in 2007 by Dr. Hao Li, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at MU’s College of Engineering; Dr. Qingsong Yu, MU associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering; Dr. Meng Chen, Nanova chief scientist; and Dr. Kenneth Lambert, an orthopedic doctor.

Li and his partners’ research on nanostructured materials, composites and medical devices has led to genuine breakthroughs in orthopedics, dentistry and cardiovascular science. This newsletter described on some of these breakthroughs in a 2008 success story.

In late March 2013, Nanova signed agreements with the WuJin Economic Development District and Chinese venture capital firms to produce absorbable bone screws and dental products based upon the company’s core nanomaterial technology.

The Chinese venture capitalists will invest an estimated $7 million in the joint venture, $4 million directly in the firm’s Columbia operations in the next two years, said Li. Most of the firm’s domestic manufacturing and sales will be conducted in Columbia.

At the ceremony held at MU to commemorate the investment, Li said the partners received multiple investment offers but were waiting for investors who could move the firm’s products to commercialization.

Dr. Jim Gann, technology business specialist with the MU SBTDC, has advised Li and Yu since the business was founded. Gann and a team of MO SBTDC technology business specialists including Denise Fields of the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC) SBTDC and Bill Stuby of the MO SBTDC’s sister program, the Missouri Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, previously helped the scientists with business planning and development. This included conducting intensive market research, obtaining federal Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) and National Institutes of Health funding and facilitating introductions to key stakeholders in Columbia and in Missouri.

Through his R&D efforts, the engineer/entrepreneur Hao Li and his business partners are using nano-technology to develop cutting edge medical and dental devices.

Through his R&D efforts, the engineer/entrepreneur Hao Li and his business partners are using nano-technology to develop cutting edge medical and dental devices.

“Denise [Fields] has been so helpful. She helped me get connected with investors and advised me on many things I didn’t know much about, like financing. And Jim [Gann] has been very helpful on the SBIR applications — they’ve just helped us with a broad variety of things.”
Dr. Hao Li, co-founder of Nanova Inc.

Nanova’s bone screws and dental fillings are made of polymers and tiny strands called nanofibers. These fibers, composed of calcium phosphate, the same material as bone and tooth minerals, can be 1,000 times smaller than a human hair. Because they are so small and so dense, nanofibers are also incredibly tough, much stronger than stainless steel. A single nanofiber is very, very weak.

Nanova researchers and scientists from the UMKC School of Dentistry and the University of Tennessee-Memphis are also working on commercializing what’s called an atmospheric cold plasma brush. Non-thermal plasma, which is a partially ionized medium like gas generated by electrical discharge, contains energetic electrons, ions, chemically reactive radicals and ultraviolet; these plasma components rapidly destroy harmful microorganisms and have enormous potential in dentistry. Clinical trials with the brush have already been conducted. It will be ready for FDA clearance in a year or so, said Li.

These products, and others in development such as a new type of coronary stent, could transform dentistry, orthopedic surgery and cardiovascular medicine as we know them.

And that’s both a problem and an opportunity. “It will take a lot of effort,” said Li. “We’ll have to educate the dentist, the orthopedist, the cardiovascular specialist that there is a better way, and that could take time and be very expensive.”

At the ceremony, Li said he was very grateful to all Nanova’s partners for their investment, business acumen and enthusiasm. “For success in business in the long term, the right team is at least as important as money,” he said.


Nanova update May 2014

Nanova co-founder Dr. Hao Li wins the President’s Award for Economic Development

Dr. Hao Li, associate professor in the University of Missouri Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, co-founder and president of Nanova, Inc., has won the President’s Award for Economic Development.

The $5,000 award recognizes faculty for distinguished activity in meeting the university’s goal of serving as an economic engine for the state through entrepreneurial innovation. The awards are presented annually to faculty members across the four campuses of the University of Missouri System who have made exceptional contributions in advancing the mission of the university.

Nanova, Inc., founded in 2008 with assistance from the BDP, produces orthopedic, dental and cardiovascular devices using biocomposite and non-thermal plasma technologies, an outgrowth of Li’s and other professors’ ground-breaking research. In 2013, Nanova secured Chinese venture capital and is currently building a 6,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Columbia expected to employ 20 individuals by 2015.

The firm has received FDA approval and plans to launch its first medical device this year. Read the MU news release.


Nanova update November 2014

Biomaterials firm begins manufacturing dental varnish, plans to add 50 jobs

We’ve provided regular updates on Nanova Biomaterials Inc., incorporated in 2007 with the help of the BDP’s Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Center, but this might be the best yet: Nanova has begun manufacturing its first product, a fluoride dental varnish called StarBright, in its northeast Columbia facility after receiving FDA clearance. The company held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its 6,000-square-foot, $1.5 million facility in October.

Dr. Hao Li, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at MU’s College of Engineering and Nanova co-founder, said in a recent interview he hopes to have the varnish on the market by year’s end.

The company uses nanotechnology, which is the manipulation of material on a molecular and atomic level to produce particles with new properties. The dental varnish, for example, contains more fluoride molecules than other products on the market. Nanova is also working on new biofillers for cavities and a bone screw.

Q: What do you do when you lose a wheelchair?wcpLogo

A: Create one-of-a-kind wheelchair covers and start a conversation with the world.

Sharon Paulsell had lost something.

And it wasn’t something easily lost.

But amid the dozens of others just like it in the same location, it was nearly impossible to spot.

Sharon Paulsell had lost a wheelchair. As she gazed across the white granite landscape of the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., suddenly all she saw was wheelchairs. In them sat aging military veterans from three different states who had come to the Memorial as part of the national Honor Flight program, which transports WWII veterans to the nation’s capital for a special day of recognition.

A young girl in a wheelchair customized for the University of Missouri Children's Hospital.

A young girl in a wheelchair customized for the University of Missouri Children’s Hospital.

As logistics chief of Central Missouri Honor Flight (CMHF), Sharon had to help ensure that all of the 35 wheelchairs the central Missouri group traveled with made it back to the tour buses at each stop. Now she was one short. The longer she looked, the more frustrated she became. Knowing the importance of keeping the central Missouri group on a tight schedule, Sharon re-boarded the bus. But before the day was done, she had an idea (and she had reclaimed the errant wheelchair, which had inadvertently been loaded by another Honor Flight group stopping at the same locations throughout the day).

Back in Columbia, Sharon began to design an easily applied and removed wheelchair back cover and soon had enough covers constructed to clearly mark all of the wheelchairs on the next CMHF mission. Bright blue, with the CMHF logo and the words WWII Veteran across the top, the well-traveled wheelchairs were easy to spot in the crowd. The look not only unified the group, it did something else no one had anticipated.

Even before Sharon adopted the slogan, “Start a conversation with the world,” that is exactly what was happening to the elderly veterans seated in the chairs throughout the trip. Suddenly, other travelers and tourists were approaching the veterans enthusiastically, thanking them for their service, asking where they were from and what they thought of the Honor Flight experience. The Honor Flight volunteers traveling with the veterans noticed they sat a bit taller in the wheelchairs. Tourists started asking about the Honor Flight program and how they could get involved in their local communities. And other Honor Flight groups were noticing the covers and realizing what a wonderful logistical and marketing advantage they presented.

The immediate problem was solved — with unexpected rewards as well. So, as entrepreneurs tend to do, Sharon extended her thinking beyond Honor Flight and started exploring the possibility of turning the covers into a business. Wheelchair Personalities was born.

Wheelchairs with decorative covers sporting attractive University of Missouri Children's Hospital artwork.

Wheelchairs with decorative covers sporting attractive University of Missouri Children’s Hospital artwork.

In meetings with Virginia Wilson and Jim Gann, co-directors of the MU Extension SBTDC in Columbia, Sharon expanded her concept to businesses, health care facilities and other non-profit organizations. She refined the design of the covers, making them more durable and even easier to apply. Working with Missouri manufacturers, she identified better fabrics and construction methods. And she started building her all-important network.

Now she and her husband, Steve, who is the CMHF flight director, work full-time on the company. The Paulsells are committed to manufacturing in Missouri, creating jobs for sewers, graphic designers and fabric printers. Wheelchair Personality covers are now found in restaurants, hospitals, retirement communities and, as one might expect, on the back of wheelchairs used by other Honor Flight groups nationwide. They are also available in retail locations.

“Our covers remove the barriers that sometimes exist between wheelchair users and other people,” Sharon says. “They are conversation starters, and they are excellent marketing vehicles for businesses and organizations.

Plain hospital wheelchairs before Wheelchair Personalities

Plain hospital wheelchairs before Wheelchair Personalities

“How many times have you gone into a hospital and seen a row of institutional-looking wheelchairs at the entrance?” she continues. “Why not cover them with something attractive that can communicate a message about your facility? And for restaurants, hotels or other entertainment and hospitality venues, these covers add a touch of class that tells customers you are glad they are there.”

The Paulsells are now working with children’s hospitals, organizations that support disabled veterans and wheelchair athletic groups to develop other designs and applications. They see the market for the product expanding well into the future.

“There are more than three million wheelchair users in the U.S.,” she says, “and that is only going to increase as baby boomers reach the age at which mobility becomes an issue. There will be more health care and assisted living facilities, and there will be more individuals who use personal wheelchairs that can now be customized to display the user’s interest in a sports team, grandchildren or hobbies.”

She adds that the ability to individually adapt the wheelchair cover to the user is one of the company’s major selling points. Covers are offered in a variety of colors and are made with fabric that is easily laundered and spot-cleaned. Graphics are heat-pressed giving the appearance that appliques are embedded in the fabric. Blank covers are also available for users who wish to apply their own artwork.

“We saw what happened on the Honor Flight — the covers suddenly seemed to transform our veterans in the public eye from elderly people in wheelchairs to the truly heroic Americans they are. We were moved and amazed how something so simple could have such an impact,” Steve adds. “These covers take the focus from the wheelchair and put it on the person in the wheelchair.”

Entrepreneurs solve problems. Many of the innovations we enjoy today came about from the inventor’s need to make something easier, faster or stronger. Wheelchair Personalities’ covers are no different.

“We were just trying to find a way to ensure we didn’t lose wheelchairs on our flights,” Steve says, “and we ended up creating something that not only has financial potential, but also offers intangible benefits to these special members of our community.”

“We could never have predicted that,” Sharon says, “But it’s very rewarding to work on a small business that makes such a big difference.”

TwoAlity, LLC

Bailye and Brynne Stansberry are not typical entrepreneurs. They’re twins and just 22. They took a teenage idea and turned it into commercial reality.

The Stansberry Twins

The Stansberry Twins

While brainstorming a marketable product in a high school class one day, Bailye asked Brynne: “What do we wear?” The cold, dreary day outside prompted Brynne to contemplate the bright boots she preferred on rainy days. She wondered how they could make them more versatile. Together, they came up with boots with clear plastic uppers that would allow the wearer to insert different fabric liners — all-purpose boots for every mood. The boots would combine the water resistance of rain boots, the insulation of snow boots and the functional aspect of muck boots.

TwoAlity, LLC, which thus far sells the twins’ patented clear plastic boots with interchangeable liners online only, was launched in May 2013. Boots by TwoAlity, as the twins call their fun, unique product, was made possible by the care, attention and financial acumen of many individuals, including Jim Gann, the MU SBTDC’s director of technology business development. The twins had connected with Gann at a 2011 Regional Economic Development, Inc. idea bounce pitch competition at which they wowed the judges. They later found a California company that could make their boots. In early 2013, Gann, who lives in mid-Missouri and has made numerous industry contacts over the years, found a textile facility in Glasgow, American Discovery Textile Manufacturing, that could sew the liners.

And that’s important to the twins.

Growing up on a farm outside Moberly, they’ve witnessed first-hand the effects of the global economy on rural Missouri. Try as they might, however, they couldn’t find domestic manufacturers flexible enough to produce what they wanted at a price they could afford. The twins became convinced the boots and liners would have to be manufactured in China, Mexico or elsewhere, which presented a whole new set of headaches, not the least of which is quality control.

11267752_867696846650084_1064378942533436636_n (1)Creating jobs in America is more than giving back to the community, the twins say. Domestic manufacturers can scale manufacturing up or down far more quickly than overseas manufacturers, whose shipments can take weeks or even months. The twins forwent outside investors and kept their concept, recently securing an SBA loan to finance the launch.

As of late June 2013, TwoAlity is an online store only. The bright, intuitive website guides shoppers through the process: Choosing the right size of boots, then choosing liners in colors from berry to mellow yellow and basic black then choosing accessories. Because the liners can be printed with almost anything, in any color, licensing agreements represent a particularly fertile opportunity for the company.

“We’d love to have a Mizzou liner and a Cardinals liner!” Bailye says. She adds that sales are going very well.

But what is it like working with your twin?

“We have worked as a team all our lives and have perfected our teamwork to the point that we know how to work with and handle one another extremely well,” Bailye says. “On days that one of us is questioning our direction or future, the other one balances that negativity and brings everything back to usual. People looking in on our relationship are baffled by our ability to work as a team, and to be honest, most days we are too!”

Twoality-bootsAdded Brynne, “Having Bailye by my side is one of the best parts about what we are doing. One industry consultant tried to tell us that instead of completing business tasks together, we should divide all the work — for example Bailye be the CFO and me the CEO. That is the worst advice anyone could ever give us. We do our best work when we work together. No matter how many people tell us how to make our relationship work, only we know how to do that and we are sticking with what we know. After all, we have been working together for 22 years.”

DoctorOn LLC

Nahush Katti and Vikram Arun, both university freshmen, are very confident about their product, a smart phone app that takes clear, accurate pictures of the human eye for ophthalmological diagnosis and treatment.

The app would allow anyone with a cell phone to send an image of an affected eye to a trained ophthalmologist. The partners wish to price this app, which they say has a 92 percent accuracy rate, at about $10 to make it universally accessible. The cost of diagnosing cataracts, a leading cause of blindness, is about $3,000 today in the United States.

Katti and Arun have also benefitted from the expert advice and support of the MU SBTDC’s Jim Gann, director of technology business development and Paul Bateson, technology development and commercialization counselor. Gann and Bateson advised them on the necessity of a business plan and intellectual property protection, steering them toward a patent; helped perfect their pitch for competitions; and advised them on what type of company to form, among other foundational business essentials.

“Dr. Gann has just helped us immensely in strengthening the business aspects of our company, DoctorOn LLC,” says Katti. “Vikram and I are able to work on the technical aspects of DoctorOn, but had little to no idea on how to properly run a business. Dr. Gann taught us that, among many other things. Prior to the trip to California [for an Indo-American science and technology forum], Dr. Gann worked with us for a couple of hours every day to rehearse our presentation. He was also instrumental in helping us convey our idea clearly and concisely.”

Although they did not receive funding for the company, the partners agree the experience was invaluable.

DoctorOn’s a-ha! moment occurred when Katti’s grandfather, who lives in a small Indian village, fell ill and had to travel to a hospital two hours one way, sometimes to be kept waiting interminably for a perfunctory treatment. Smart phones, tablets and other devices have revolutionized almost every aspect of our lives, the partners thought, allowing us to do almost anything remotely. Why not healthcare?

But what would their first app be?

That, too, came easily to the bright young men. India, with about 1.25 billion people, has largely bypassed the industrial revolution to plunge straight into the electronic revolution. That nation today has an estimated 862 million cell phones with the number expected to rise to 97 percent of the applicable population by the end of the decade.

At the same time, large swaths of India, especially rural areas, don’t have access to basic health care, and India is home to the world’s largest population of blind individuals, nearly 20 million people, according to that country’s national medical journal. Many of these individuals are born with easily correctable impairments or conditions almost nonexistent in the developed world where blindness prevention programs were enacted decades ago.

But why stop at blindness prevention?

Katti speaks enthusiastically about placing the app in kiosks situated in rural government buildings, bus stations, grocery stores and other public locations. “Next time you take out your phone to take a picture,” he said in a presentation, “don’t just think about what it can do. Think about what else it can do.”

Katti also foresees farmers employing a slightly different version of the app to show an agricultural pathologist across the province or across the country a crystal clear image of a pernicious fungus or pest.

“Last summer, Vikram and I tested that idea with an agricultural college in India and received stellar results,” says Katti. Although the partners have focused on the ophthalmic aspect of DoctorOn, a provisional patent has been filed for both core concepts. “We hope that one day, hospitals will be for intensive care or extensive testing only. Everything else will be through your phone or at a kiosk.”

This independent thinking may be inherited. Arun’s father is a professor of accounting at MU and was able to help the partners immensely with the business and financial part of the effort. Katti’s dad is an MU professor of radiology and physics, a senior researcher at MU’s research reactor, director of MU’s nanotechnology cancer efforts, a man named one of the 25 most influential scientists globally in molecular imaging and the father of green nanotechnology.

“It definitely helps coming from a family of scientists!” says Katti.

It’s a bright, cold day in January. Traffic is sparse and sunlight glitters on freshly fallen snow. Inside the industrial-zoned building on Fay Street just northeast of downtown Columbia, sparks fly and construction workers grind, weld, nail and otherwise ready the former meatpacking plant to become Logboat Brewing Co. LLC in February.

The newly renovated home of Logboat Brewing on Fay Street in Columbia.

The newly renovated home of Logboat Brewing on Fay Street in Columbia.

Tyson Hunt, CEO and one of four partners of Logboat, graciously points out the offices and a conference room and the tap room, where thirsty patrons can sip at tables. He explains the purpose and location of steam generators, a glycol cooling system and the huge stainless steel tanks trucked in from Oregon.

It looks like a complicated process — and it is.

Every beer lover knows it takes a combination of hops, barley, malt and water mashed together and cooked to make beer. But there’s much more to brewing than that. The resulting fragrant mash, blended to exacting specifications, must then be steam-heated and vented through stacks that will carry the steam out of the brewery, giving the whole building that intoxicating, malty-sweet aroma of beer in the making. The beer must then be pumped and cooled into fermenters, mixed with carbon dioxide, aged and then finished before it can flow from a tap or keg into a frosted glass.

This is an extremely bare-bones description of the process. Logboat head brewer Josh Rein knows much, much more but mostly just nods as his partner points out the gleaming new equipment’s salient features. Rein didn’t start brewing professionally until about four years ago when he began working at Broadway Brewery. In 2011, he became assistant brewer at Flat Branch Pub & Grill. He has since studied brewing technology at Siebel Institute in Chicago and in Munich, beer’s homeland.

Tyson Hunt, Logboat CEO and partner, inspects a 930-gallon stainless steel tank.

Tyson Hunt, Logboat CEO and partner, inspects a 930-gallon stainless steel tank.

Like any business, however, it takes more than the right equipment and know-how to make good beer. It takes passion. And Rein, Hunt and co-owners Andrew Sharp, Judson Ball and Gardell Powell are all passionate craft beer enthusiasts who decided several years ago to transform their love of good beer into good business. And they are confident mid-Missouri is ready for a full-scale craft brewery. The city’s two current brewpubs (Flatbranch and Broadway), and another, already operational production brewery (Rock Bridge Brewery), says Hunt, have been enthusiastically received.

“I think this town is ready for us,” Hunt, who lived in Portland, Ore., for four years and was exposed to that city’s craft beer cornucopia, says. “Craft beer is exploding! People are paying more attention to artisanal beer now. There’s plenty of room for everyone.”

It’s worth noting that Logboat is a brewery, not a brewpub. The partners decided early on to not become a brewpub with its requisite restaurant, health code and server requirements. Logboat will employ outside distributors, Hunt says, strengthening an already strong business plan.

American-made Metalcraft 930 gallon tanks where fermented beer is carbonated, conditioned and readied for packaging

American-made Metalcraft 930 gallon tanks where fermented beer is carbonated, conditioned and readied for packaging

With MO SBTDC help, the partners perfected that business plan sufficiently to raise outside capital and secure an SBA loan from a local bank. SBTDC counselors also provided the partners detailed ESRI geographic information systems research into mid-Missouri, its demographics and disposable income spending patterns and facilitated vital business connections.

“We had the business plan down cold, we thought!” Hunt says. “Then we met with the MO SBTDC. They helped us edit the business plan and add pieces the people on the money side would need to read, then took our finances and grilled us line by line to make sure we had thought everything through. They helped us sell the company and get people behind it. They have been a huge part of building our confidence and getting us to where we are now.”

A tank manway, so called because it allows access into the tank.

A tank manway, so called because it allows access into the tank.

“Where” is a section of Columbia primed for renaissance one block from Columbia College, two blocks from the renovated North Village Arts District and a few more from downtown and the University of Missouri. It’s a part of town that’s suffered from benign neglect for more than a decade. That’s all likely going to change in 2014, however, with a new hotel, lofts and new businesses under construction.

The old plant that now houses the new Logboat would be unrecognizable to long-time Columbia residents. The building had to be torn down to its very foundation and rebuilt from scratch. Its industrial zoning was a plus, Hunt says, in deciding to purchase the property. It also had floor drains — a big plus, as cleanliness is a necessity in the brewing business. The partners are also installing energy-efficient doors and windows and recycled wood planks from a more than century old barn to give the brewery a warm, homey feel inside and out.

The property also has a large side yard for music or movies in warmer weather and a large front yard that must be fenced off before it can become a beer garden. All this, the partners feel, will make Logboat a destination and not just a business. Hunt says the brewery’s walls will probably also be adorned with local art, further strengthening the brewery’s ties with its neighbors.

As of this writing, Logboat expects its mainstays to be:

  • A pale ale, one of the world’s most popular brews, characterized by a high proportion of pale malt resulting in a lighter colored brew
  • An India Pale Ale, a robust ale first brewed in England for export to India
  • A ginger wheat beer with hints of coriander and lemon (“It’ll go great with Asian foods and sushi,” Hunt says.)
  • An English-style session ale “similar to a brown ale but with a lower alcohol content and with a subtle chocolate/toasted bread flavor,” says Hunt. A “session” beer is one with a lower alcohol count and a balanced flavor of hops and malt that can be drunk over a long session without overwhelming the palate or getting the drinker too intoxicated.

Logboat also plans to produce a gluten-free cider and implement a barrel-aging program for higher-gravity beers to be aged in whiskey barrels, then blended to create delicious beers chock full of body, aroma and flavor.

Ball adds, “It’s been a crazy process and each new relationship has turned into another opportunity to learn something new from business folks in our community, even family members and friends willing to share their experiences. All of them have been instrumental in getting us to where we are today.”

Why a logboat?

4.29.15_logboatblackLogboat Brewing Company LLC’s logo is popping up on bumper stickers all over central Missouri. It shows a silhouette of a logboat, or dugout canoe, containing a trapper wearing a coonskin cap and smoking a corncob pipe, a bearded settler and, in front, a Native American pointing the way.

“Missouri” means “people of the dugout canoes,” and the founders chose the name to honor the first people, the river itself, the explorers Lewis and Clark and the state’s heritage.

“The name just fit well with what we wanted to do,” says Logboat co-founder Mike Wolf. “It’s a symbol of exploration, a reminder to never stop growing and exploring, of keeping an open mind. It has so many meanings to all of us and will hopefully resonate with our customers, too.”


In 2009, we profiled Dr. Kattesh V. Katti, co-founder of SBTDC client Nanoparticle BioChem, Inc.. The Columbia firm, founded by a team of MU researchers in 2004, focuses on nanotechnology applications in medicine, health and hygiene.

Katti, now an MU Curators Professor of Radiology and Physics, has won the 2015 Hevesy Medal Award for his decades of work in nuclear sciences and medicine, including radiopharmaceutical sciences and nanomedicine using radioactive gold nanoparticles.

In fact, Nobel Laureate Norman Borlaug calls Katti the “Father of Green Nanotechnology” for his groundbreaking invention of producing gold nanoparticles by mixing soybeans and gold salt. Manufacturing nanoparticles can release toxic chemicals, and Katti’s methods dramatically reduces this risk.

Katti will receive the award in August at Delft University of Technology, Netherlands.

Read the MU announcement.