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From a High School Project to Commercialized Technology

a.w.e. cup team at Venturewell E-Team Pioneer Workshop in Baltimore, MD
a.w.e. cup team at Venturewell E-Team Pioneer Workshop in Baltimore, MD

a.w.e. cup started as a high school project in CEDAR’s Entrepreneurial Community Improvement Program. At the time, we were all enrolled in the Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics at Morehead State University (MSU), a premier and elite high school for academically exceptional juniors and seniors across Kentucky. We designed an innovative menstrual cup that promotes affordability, wellness, and empowerment in Eastern Kentucky, having identified menstrual poverty as a critical issue among homeless and impoverished communities. We were grateful to have the support of our mentor, Dr. Rachel Rogers, who challenged us to think critically and improve our designs. After deciding that we wanted to take a.w.e. cup further than a high school project, we engaged MSU’s Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, which put us into contact with Kentucky Commercialization Ventures (KCV). KCV provided invaluable support in navigating commercialization and entrepreneurship. We decided we wanted to implement a buy-one-donate-one model, through which one a.w.e. cup would be donated to a homeless or impoverished individual for each one sold online and in stores.


A Rich Ecosystem of Entrepreneurial Support

After graduating from the Academy, we kept in contact with KCV and were informed about the various programs they offered, including their Innovation Fellowship and their partnership with the Launch Blue I-Corps Accelerator Program. We started these programs last fall. At this time, we were all overwhelmed with our academics, but we knew that we wanted to continue pursuing a.w.e. cup. Despite the stressors in our lives, we applied to these programs and were accepted. During the Innovation Fellowship, we continued developing our product with new design innovations, created a thorough commercialization and market attack plan, and identified and revised technical failures. Art Gooray, an experienced commercialization manager, provided critical insights during this fellowship. Additionally, during the Launch Blue Accelerator, we were able to complete necessary customer discovery interviews, develop our business model canvas, and identify the need for an extensive educational campaign focused on menstrual health. From these various programs,

it became clear to us that Kentucky has a rich ecosystem of entrepreneurial support for university innovators.

Being STEM majors, we have always felt like we are trying to catch up when it comes to creating our product and building our business. None of us have any background in entrepreneurship and it was daunting starting this journey. Through the endless support of KCV, Dr. Rogers, and each other, we started to get our heads above water.


Shortly following these fellowships, KCV facilitated a meeting between our team and a materials engineer specializing in biomedical technologies, Thu-Ha Duncan. She helped us further identify design failures, create new, innovative features, assess our technical feasibility, and gave specific advice on prototyping.

 

VentureWell Pioneer E-Teams Program and Grant

In December 2023, we were selected to receive the Venturewell E-Team Pioneer grant and attend a two-day business and product development workshop with teams across the country in Baltimore, Maryland. Thanks to the KCV GOAL Fund we were able to receive the financial assistance we needed to go to Baltimore. The workshop helped us determine our best commercialization plan as well as open a new doorway to potentially licensing the technology. During our time in Baltimore we worked with several different med-tech teams and received feedback on our market and commercialization plans. We were given the opportunity to work one-on-one with mentors of different specialties to receive targeted and personal feedback.


Making a Real Difference with an Empowering Menstrual Product

Our immediate next step is to have a fully developed initial prototype by the end of March. While we have a solid marketing plan and have narrowed down our target customers, we have yet to develop a functioning prototype. Our twenty customer discovery interviews were a mix of college students and people facing homelessness and poverty. While this has been insightful and validating to our innovations, we recognize the need to conduct more customer discovery with other market segments, retailers, and medical professionals. Our journey so far has been exciting, and we hope to make a real difference in the lives of others looking for alternative menstrual solutions, as well as be able to provide some of the most in-need individuals with an empowering menstrual product.


The Team


Computer Engineering Major

Finance Minor

Georgia Institute of Technology



Biology Major (Pre-Med)

Spanish Minor

University of Kentucky



Veterinary Science Major (Pre-Vet Track)

Morehead State University




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