Wichita State University’s Center for Entrepreneurship (CEI) has granted two students the Women for Women's Innovation Award — one who wants to use an app to help those with chronic illnesses, the other who wants to support local businesses by creating Wichita artisan gift boxes.
The Women for Women’s Innovation Award was created in 2020 by Erin Cummings, a Wichita State alumna, to help support the next generation of female entrepreneurs. These entrepreneurs show the promise of innovation and the potential for commercialization.
Madeline Shonka, a senior studying health management at WSU, founded Co-Immunity, which aims to aid people struggling with chronic illness. The Co-Immunity app, CoVstat, is a symptom-tracking tool meant to create better patient outcomes and reduce health provider burnout.
The idea was spurred from Madeline’s own struggle in the health care environment since she was diagnosed with both lupus and narcolepsy. Because she has two different chronic illnesses, she sees a total of seven medical specialists.
“Not only do you not feel good, but you have to recall and effectively communicate your medical history and symptoms, sometimes dating back years,” Shonka said. “As I began working in health care and talking to both providers and patients, I realized this problem was bigger than myself.”
Shonka is proud to say CoVstat was designed by patients for patients.
Diagnosis of chronic illnesses relies on a patient’s ability to communicate medical history and symptoms, so it is important to have it well documented to avoid misdiagnoses.
“In the US, one in 20 patients receives misdiagnoses,” Shonka said. “Not only is misdiagnosis a major issue, but miscommunication accounts for 30% of malpractice claims, costing over $1.7 billion in a four-year span.”
The demand for the app became necessary to allow patients to accurately track symptoms and stress daily. One of the unique features is that with the information a patient inputs, the app can generate a symptom report for appointments or email updates to providers to erase the hassle of recalling symptoms.
“In the future, we will differentiate ourselves further by enabling providers to see in real time how patients are doing, be alerted to negative trends, suggest tips to patients, and integrate that with the patient portal,” Shonka said.
The goal is to create a seamless patient and provider experience.
Shonka’s major in health management gives her the knowledge base of many of the fields applicable to the app. Classes like Health Communication and Quality Improvement in Health and Health Care provided the tools necessary for creating CoVstat and ultimately achieving this scholarship.
While she was creating CoVstat, Shonka said, she surrounded herself with mentors who “encouraged and pushed her to overcome hurdles and dream big.”
Her advice for students who wish to go for the Women for Women’s Innovation Award is to “take the leap, find your passion and leverage your story. It doesn’t matter what age, credentials or challenges you have to overcome. Take the risk. You haven’t failed until you give up.”
Devon Creasman, a junior studying marketing, founded ICT Box, a gift box that creates a new and easy way to support local makers and artisans. ICT Box aims to carefully curate multiple products from various local businesses.
Creasman got the idea during the pandemic as a way to support local businesses.
“I guess that makes me crazy to want to start a business while other businesses were shutting down, but that’s the reason why I wanted to do something to help out brick and mortar businesses and eventually beyond,” Creasman said.
ICT Box helps small businesses by incorporating their products and sending them directly to the consumer in a contactless way. Creasman wanted to have each box help to promote the business by explaining the product and how to shop with each business again.
“E-commerce was the key to getting through lockdowns afloat, and I saw that as an amazing opportunity,” she said.
Say your best friend is having a rough week at work, but she recently moved to Kansas City. You want to comfort her but can’t be there in person. You go to ICTboxshop.com and find a self-care-styled box. The box is jam-packed with Wichita-made goods to remind her of home and products to help her wind down. All you have to do was order it, and the perfect gift she needs is delivered to her in two days.
"It all has to start somewhere; all it takes is the leap of faith into it. Keep it going and stay grounded in who you are — no matter what.”
Creasman says she was inspired by Tonya Witherspoon, associate vice president of Industry Engagement and Applied Learning and Dr. Smita Srivastava, assistant professor of entrepreneurship and strategic management, who told her about the scholarship and gave her the confidence to apply.
“Further along in the application process, I felt seen by this award; and the questions I was being asked made me feel even more proud to talk about the business that I’ve been working so hard on,” she said. “I guess that means don’t listen to the voice in the back of your head, and instead, take every shot at any opportunity you can get.”
As for the future, Creasman plans to use her award winnings to team up with more local businesses to expand ICT Box’s holiday gift selection. Because of the success of the boxes, Creasman is eager to push it into a more significant scale operation to continue supporting and reaching more of the community.
“This scholarship means everything to me,” she says. “I’ve been introduced to the leaders at the Center for Entrepreneurship at WSU and have been overjoyed to have their perspective and feedback.”
Creasman has had the opportunity to be immersed in the Wichita business community and put her skills to use.
Her advice to other women entrepreneurs is to have an innovative spirit and to explore ideas and develop them. In the digital age, things like crowdfunding and social media are helpful tools.
“It all has to start somewhere; all it takes is the leap of faith into it. There are so many great niches to find support in and find sounding boards for your ideas in Wichita,” she said. “We all have our respective passions and things going on, so don’t ever give in to feeling outcasted. Keep it going and stay grounded in who you are — no matter what.”