Get to know Student Entrepreneur Program Finalist Tammy Dorsey, Founder & CEO of Prenatal Hope
Traditionally, while monitoring a fetus before birth, medical professionals have been forced to make educated guesses about possible fetal distress based on contractions and readings from heart rate monitors. Student entrepreneur Tammy Dorsey knew there had to be a better way, so she invented it. Viv02 is the first device of its kind that can easily read fetal oxygen levels, giving doctors the crucial data necessary to make confident decisions and accurately detect issues.
A recent graduate of Wichita State University, Tammy Dorsey is Founder and CEO of Prenatal Hope, the company behind the Viv02. An “Engi-preneur,” Tammy believes in collaboration and applied learning. With a BS in Biomedical Engineering and a MS of Innovation Design, Tammy serves as an active alum/faculty of the Institute of Biomedical Innovation. She is proud mom of five and wife of 21 years.
Tammy was the second-place winner in the 2019 WBENC Student Entrepreneur Program (SEP) Pitch Competition, which took place in June during the WBENC National Conference & Business Fair in Baltimore. As the premier startup program for collegiate female founders, SEP fosters growth for the next generation of women-owned businesses through a tailored entrepreneurial curriculum, mentorship, and a pitch competition, where students compete for $25k in seed capital.
We interviewed Tammy to learn more about her entrepreneurship journey, her advice for other female founders, and what’s next for Prenatal Hope.
What has the entrepreneurship journey looked like for you so far?
Some days you don't know what the hell you are doing, then beautiful affirmations that let you know, you got this! Just like a roller coaster, there are many highs and lows. Often the pace is slow but then growth hits, and I can barely keep up. Building a solid foundation and needs analysis set the course, and months of customer discovery provides keep us from falling off the tracks.
What has been the most rewarding part of being a young female entrepreneur?
Looking into the faces of those who will be directly impacted by your innovation and seeing the gratitude they have for your efforts to solve this problem. It literally keeps me going when I feel like I'm running out of steam or I feel like I'm not good enough.
What three traits define you?
Perseverance/Optimism - these two must be two sides of the same coin.
Collaborative - curiosity mixed with systemic thinking.
Passion/Vision - fuels the other two traits.
Bonus trait - grateful
Where do you see yourself in one year? How about 5 years?
In a year I will be in the throes of regulatory work and clinicals for FDA approval of my innovation so as to reach our target market. I hope to learn as much of the regulatory side of biotech as I've learned of innovation design and engineering.
In five years, it’s my goal as founder of Prenatal Hope to have raised the standard of care for our mothers and babies; make a direct impact in the prenatal care industry, helping to recover the US as a safer place of birth with our biotech.
What are you reading or listening to now?
Ever since I attended the IBE (Institute for Biomedical Entrepreneurship) in Boston, I've been engrossed in Gregg Fairbrothers "Idea to Success: The Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Guide for Start-Ups." I can do the science stuff all day, but I know so little about the business side of things and that program and this book helped/helping to bridge that knowledge gap in an exponential way.
I enjoy listening to TED talks to keep expanding my world view.
What advice would you give to other female founders just starting their business?
Identify your knowledge gaps and start building a team of advisers and mentors who are unbiased to give guidance and tell you ugly truths when you need to hear them. You will save so much time, energy, and resources...AND NETWORK. Did I mention network?...GO NETWORK... all the time, every function, every event. Share your story, get people excited about what you are doing so they want to introduce you to people. Ask for advice more than you ask for money.
How did you first learn about the WBENC Student Entrepreneur Program?
I had literally just graduated the IBE and went straight to a Collegiate Entrepreneurship Organization national pitch where WBENC had a booth, and the amazing Mona Amin was empowering the women entrepreneur attendees with knowledge and resources of WBENC. I've been actively engaged ever since.
How would you describe your experience?
Revolutionary. The connectivity and support women and "He's for Shes" offered to elevate one another was inspiring! I was able to keep audience with corporate executives and industry specific people that I would have otherwise never gained audience with. The world is just too big and WBENC SEP brought it down to the functioning of a tight-knit, nurturing community with so much knowledge, wisdom, and networking to share.
What did it feel like getting up in front of an audience and judges to pitch your business?
I'm such the engineer introvert. Public speaking is definitely a weakness of mine. I found if I tell myself I'm not nervous but excited, mind over body can usually get the words out, with only a few flubs and stumbles. I've always felt there is a big disadvantage to those pitching anything medical or heavily regulated in a 90-second time frame as there are so many more facets to cover than the traditional consumer good. Most of the panels want the majority to cover business model stuff and it leaves you seconds to cover the science stuff.
What did you learn during the program that will help you grow your business?
Strategies and mindset. Their importance, timing, their intent versus actual impact. My FAVORITE takeaway was the professional touches shared by my mentors.
What's next for you and your company?
We are expecting our first batch of manufactured prototypes by end of third quarter this year to jump into our feasibility studies with the FDA! By end of year, our marketing will be in full swing and positioned to begin selling to midwives who have identified themselves as early adopters for our device. We will be revenue generating while satisfying the FDA pathway for the rest of the OB market.