During Wingate Shark Tank, students pitched business ideas to celebrity judges. The winner, Regan Huneycutt, won $1,000 to help get her idea, Clean Foot, off the ground.
Regan Huneycutt decided to go into the healthcare field for a couple of reasons: She wanted a stable profession, and she wanted to make a difference in people’s lives.
She started down the physician-assistant track, even spending a year working as a certified nursing assistant in order to get enough patient-contact hours in. “Then I had a semester of organic chemistry and a few other hard courses,” she says, “and I was like, ‘Let’s see if I can get into healthcare another way.’”
Now a business management major on the verge of graduating in May, Huneycutt might just make a difference in healthcare after all. Last week she won the Wingate Shark Tank competition, meaning that her idea, Clean Foot, is one step closer to limiting the spread of infections in hospitals.
Huneycutt’s idea is to develop disinfectant strips that users can easily stick to the bottom of their shoes. Ripping the strips off would purify people’s soles, removing dirt, debris and potential sources of infection and illness from the shoes. She and four other contestants developed their products during their entrepreneurship class, taught by Dr. Debbi Brock.
Huneycutt, 21, from Harrisburg, won the $1,000 grand prize over several other worthy ideas, including a shoe-detailing business, interlocking blocks for the construction industry, a customer-review browser plug-in and a running shirt with a built-in holder for your mobile phone.
Huneycutt was shocked and excited when she was announced as the winner.
“Having people who are not familiar with me or who are completely unbiased weighing in and saying, ‘Hey, this could really make a difference’ or ‘I’d like to see this come to life one day’ was a real confidence booster,” she says.
Wingate’s Porter B. Byrum School of Business has hosted Shark Tank competitions before, modeling them after the popular TV show in which budding entrepreneurs pitch their product ideas to potential investors.
This year’s Wingate competition was the biggest yet, featuring eight products being promoted in front of a packed Recital Hall audience.
Next up: making Clean Foot a reality
Huneycutt’s idea is simple yet potentially revolutionary. She quoted to the judges scary statistics regarding hospital-acquired infections: 2 million infections a year, with 99,000 deaths attributed to them.
Working as a CNA at Novant Hospital in Charlotte, Huneycutt first had the idea for the sanitary strips after seeing the state of many hospital-room floors and the lengths nurses go to in order to stay clean.
“When we go to a hospital we think about it as a nice, healthy place where we go to get better and send our loved ones to get better,” she says. “But working on the other side of it, you see some of the not-so-fun stuff. I saw medication spilled on the floor, blood and a lot of other gross stuff. People just have to walk through it. Typically, if nurses want to clean their shoes or if they spill something on them, they take out a bleach wipe and just hope for the best.”
Clean Foot, Huneycutt believes, could give them a more thorough alternative. Now comes the hard part: Turning her idea into reality. Huneycutt has already taken a customer-service job with Atrium Health in Charlotte, and she plans to go back to school to get a master’s in health administration. But she is also taking the next steps toward developing a prototype of Clean Foot.
She says she’ll heed the advice of the “sharks” who served as judges at the competition: Matthew Belk, founder and president of Better Car People in Monroe; Bill Crowder, a Wingate trustee and owner of Crowder Constructors, Inc.; Chris Elmore, founder of AvidXchange, a financial-technology firm in Charlotte worth $1.4 billion; and Barbara Pinson Lash, a professional speaker and “celebrity media coach.”
Each contestant gave an “elevator pitch” for their product and then answered questions from the judges, who provided feedback. The sharks saw uses for Clean Foot that Huneycutt hadn’t considered.
“I envision hospitals using it as part of protocol or healthcare workers using it for their own use,” she says. “But then standing up there on stage a couple of the sharks mentioned you could put it in CVS and people could use it to clean their everyday shoes. One was like, ‘I’ve got kids in daycare, and I don’t know what they bring home on their shoes.’”
Huneycutt also plans to use tools she’s acquiring in Brock’s entrepreneurship class to get Clean Foot off the ground. For instance, Brock recently brought in a lawyer to speak to the class to give the students tips on how to keep from being taken advantage of as they try to recruit funding for their projects.
“Dr. Brock has been really involved and hands-on to make sure this is more than just an assignment, really giving us the tools to turn this into something,” Huneycutt says.
April 17, 2019