Student entrepreneur gets a leg up at Design Fabrication Zone
Ryerson student Eric Muellejans (Business Technology Management 2020) began his entrepreneurial journey six years ago on the football field… but it was not a moment of glory.
“I had a really bad injury,” he remembers. “If you think about a leg, if your foot is facing up 12 o’clock… my entire foot went all the way to about 7 o’clock.”
It was reconstructive surgery and four months of bedrest for the then-16-year-old, and those months were not pleasant. He had to keep his injured leg in a state of constant elevation, “but I constantly had my leg roll off the pillows that were stacked up, or I’d need new cushions, or sometimes they would get dirty from the weeping wounds.” When he was finally able to start using crutches, he’d still have to rest his leg on a piece of furniture. There had to be a better way than cushions, furniture, and foam wedges… but there was nothing on the market.
This sparked the idea for Kumovate, external link, his new startup based at Ryerson’s Design Fabrication Zone. The technology is an inflatable, portable, adjustable leg-lift product for patients with lower limb injuries.
Sound simple? It did to Muellejans, too.
“I initially told the idea to my mom, and her advice was, ‘Eric, that’s a really simple idea somebody has totally done it before, and there’s a reason it doesn’t exist.’ I was like, ‘Y’know what? You’re probably right. I’m 16 years old—what do I know?’”
Fast forward to October 2017, when he revisited the concept. “I realized, ‘Y’know… there are a lot dumber ideas, and I still don’t see anything like this on the market. Let’s just try this out and see if it might be a viable option.’ So, I started prototyping it, I got a really good response… and now I’m here.”
After realizing his previous university presented limited opportunities for healthcare-sector entrepreneurship, Muellejans transferred to Ryerson in early 2018. As he puts it, “I knew that Ryerson was a great institution for business, and I knew I could accelerate my idea through the zone learning.”
In Ryerson’s business ecosystem, he quickly found an ideal home at the Design Fabrication Zone. “The DFZ was that perfect thing I was looking for, because they only work with physical products. They work with people in the prototyping and industrial design stages. That’s exactly what I needed.
“They’ve been phenomenal helping me with the patent process, as well as further prototyping, ideation, marketing of the product—it’s just a dream situation.”
The DFZ has also presented the opportunity to work side-by-side with other emerging startups. “As any entrepreneur knows, you always go through a stage where you’re working out of a Starbucks. It gets a little lonely. Besides having a consistent, reliable wifi, it’s really great having somebody across the desk who’s going through those same issues you’re going through. We have very similar problems: manufacturing, marketing, funding. We can kinda help each other out.”
Kumovate is available to order at kumovate.com, external link.
The Design Fabrication Zone is one of 10 business incubators in Ryerson’s zone learning model, which offers space and resources for student entrepreneurs to develop products and technologies.