Ishana Shekhawat’s startup is about to bring a little bit of joy to many sick and recovering young patients.
Her product, PlayPhysio, is a biohealth game targeted for youth between 5- to 15-year of age who need to practice lung exercises due to medical conditions. The exercises may be prescribed for those that have chronic lung conditions, or are recovering from a surgery.
The Beginning of PlayPhysio
Ishana recognized a need for an effective breathing exercise while she was an undergraduate student in New Delhi. “As part of a clinical immersion exercise, I was visiting a trauma center in Delhi where I met with a child who had undergone abdominal surgery and had been prescribed these exercises for his recovery and rehabilitation,” Ishana explains. “He seemed very reluctant to do the exercise and this sentiment was apparently a popular one when I cross checked with the healthcare providers.”
From this experience, she recognized a need in the market. She goes on to explain, “The objective of the exercise was to formulate a relevant need statement and this idea particularly stuck with me, since I had been on the lookout for an idea and felt that I could apply my skill set directly to solve this problem. It stayed as just an idea for a year or so before I started looking more into it.”
While the original prototype of Playphysio was a board game, the vision turned digital. “The objective of the game is for players to use their breath to control the movements of a submarine as it maneuvers a series of underwater obstacles,” she explained to Penn State News. “The player breathes into a device, which sends data to a digital sensor and then to the video game app via Bluetooth. By following the game’s breathing instructions, players avoid crashing the submarine and earn points.”
How Penn State Supported Her Entrepreneurial Goals
“I was part of the summer cohort at Happy Valley Launchbox, where we got a lot of help both in terms of individual mentoring as well as through weekly information and networking sessions.” Ishana explained. Happy Valley Launchbox is a free business accelerator and coworking space located in downtown State College, PA. “The entire process taught me a lot about the different aspects of running a business – like financing, business model development, hiring etc.” This is how she gained the hands-on know-how that can’t just be taught in Penn State’s classrooms.
“I was also awarded the Penn State Summer Founders award, which provided me with both a seed grant to get the idea off the ground and with weekly sessions where we could interact with the other teams and a guest with expertise in the related areas. As a student entrepreneur, the resources at Penn State have helped me tremendously. Not just in terms of the opportunities available but also with respect to the people who are there to offer advice and help whenever I was stuck.” she said.
How You Can Start a Business as a Student
Ishana shared wise advice for others looking to follow in her entrepreneurial footsteps. “If they are at the building stage, I would advise them to put the product out there as much as possible even if they don’t think it is ready.” she urges. While you might not feel like your product or service is exactly market-ready, getting it out there early can bright about some beneficial outcomes. “Feedback helps a lot in shaping the product, according to what the users want.”
You should also have contingency plans in place. Ishana explained, “There are a lot of unexpected situations that I’ve had to deal with, especially when it comes to timelines. I had thought while planning that it would be easy to get feedback from health practitioners, but it took almost 2 months to get somewhere with that.” Moral of the story: be prepared for the worst and try to expect the unexpected. Accounting for any detours can help you accurately set your expectations and create a realistic roadmap for your brand.
If you’re ready to make the plunge into student entrepreneurship, check out our How to Build a Business infographic to get started!
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