Auburn University students who developed a personalized electrotherapy garment to aid injury rehabilitation earned $25,000 in funding, plus additional services, as winners of the fourth annual Tiger Cage student business pitch competition. Two College of Education Kinesiology doctoral students, Sarah Gascon and Matt Hanks, were part of the three-person team that won the grand prize in the “Final Four” of the competition. The third team member was Dawn Michaelson, a consumer and design services major.
Presented by Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business, Tiger Cage identifies and rewards the best early-stage products, services, and business concepts that emerge from Auburn students.
ESCAPE Therapy walked away with the grand prize, edging three other finalists on April 6 at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center.
Teams presented their ideas to a panel of industry judges in a manner similar to “Shark Tank.” Judges included Delphinus Medical Technologies CEO Mark Forchette, River Bank & Trust CEO Jimmy Stubbs, Frontier Labs Co-Founder Sean Cook, Tara Wilson Agency CEO Tara Wilson and MartinFederal Consulting CEO Corey Martin.
Wilson, a 1997 Harbert College finance graduate, said the judges had a “tough decision” choosing the winner.
ESCAPE Therapy’s prize rundown included the $25,000 cash grand prize, $15,000 in donated services from Allegiance Merchant Services, and $10,000 in legal services from Bradley Boult Cummings. Gascon, ESCAPE Therapy’s CEO, certainly understands the potential market for her concept—athletic trainers and physical therapists. She is an aspiring 2020 Summer Olympic Games competitor, training at Auburn University with Team USA Handball.
“Usually, physical therapists require you to do some physical therapy at home and they give you instructions,” Gascon explained. “What happens is the patient says that they are going to do the rehab but they don’t. They are really visiting the therapist only seven to 10 sessions. In reality, to receive a full recovery they need more than that. Our garment works in conjunction with the physical therapist. The patient can take it home and they can use it while they are also doing the rehab exercises.
“We are bridging the gap between a physical therapist and a patient.”
Gascon described ESCAPE Therapy’s Tiger Cage journey from a business idea in September to the 2018 champion as “very long.”
“At the start of it, it was just an idea that we wrote on paper,” she said. “We didn’t know how to write an executive summary and we didn’t know what a business model was. We knew nothing in terms of how to operate a true business.”
Then Gascon smiled and said, “But we are doctoral students and are very high achievers. We had to learn all of the different aspects of how to build and develop a business—and we perfected our craft. It’s remarkable that we were here [in the finals] because we think about the first few months and it was just an idea and we didn’t know what we were doing. Now, we have business people coming up and talking to us. We received a lot of mentoring from Dr. [Lakami] Baker. That really helped direct what we wanted to say, how we wanted to say it and what we want to think about in terms of having a successful business. This is our next adventure after school and we’re looking forward to hitting the ground running.”
ESCAPE Therapy already has a list of potential customers.
“A lot of my Team USA teammates are saying, “When will this come out? We want it right now!” Gascon added.