The SUU Entrepreneurship Program has aided the efforts of a number of successful entrepreneurs. Among them is Christopher Christiansen, a senior biology/pre-med major from St. George, Utah who noticed a problem with current medical practices while working in a local emergency room.
As an emergency room scribe, Christiansen has seen hundreds of medical procedures. During a routine shift, he noticed that current sutures (stitches) haven’t changed much since their invention 3,000 years ago. He started thinking about modern applications to this ancient invention and developed a working idea to upgrade the stitch.
Christiansen connected with a few other people about the idea and together they created Zero Stitch, a new and improved version of a medical suture. Among those partners is Christiansen’s wife Catherine, an SUU alum with degrees in nutrition and photography. Taking ideas from existing medical equipment, Christiansen and his team sat down with a mechanical engineer to revise and optimize their product design.
Zero Stitch is currently patent-pending and will soon move to the manufacturing and distribution stages. Christiansen is working with local entrepreneur Jason Whitesides from TouchMD to distribute the product in physical stores. This “do-it-yourself” kit has the potential to slash the costs of hospital services and make a routine procedure like stitches a home treatment.
“We were recently invited to the Utah Entrepreneur Challenge and the University of Utah’s Bench to Bedside competition,” said Christiansen. “We were awarded $5,000 by Zion’s Bank and named ‘Best in Medicine’. It’s quite rewarding when you see your hard work pay off as a student entrepreneur.”
As a biology major, Christiansen didn’t know anything about business, finance or entrepreneurship before he started attending the SUU Entrepreneurship Speaker Series. There, he gained mentors who helped him connect with the right people. He credits his uncle Rich Christiansen, a member of the SUU Board of Trustees, Tyler Stillman, SUU Director of Entrepreneurship, Jason Whitesides, TouchMD President, Kary Smith, Managing Partner/Owner of TouchMD, and his father as vital mentors to Zero Stitch.
“Entrepreneurship is the perfect blend of creativity, curiosity, and hard work,” said Christiansen. “Starting a business while in college allowed me to use the quality education I was receiving each semester and apply it to real world problems and situations. It can be stressful and difficult to balance school and a business, but the connections and experience gained are worth all the work and effort.”
Tyler Stillman has worked closely with Christiansen to build his business and says he is the personification of what business guru Jim Collins calls ‘Level-5 leadership’.
“Chris demonstrates exceptional humility, fierce resolve, and a willingness to give other people credit,” said Stillman. “He is an extraordinary young man, and he's a tremendous credit to SUU and to the entrepreneurship program. Chris will be successful in his professional ventures, and he'll do it while improving the lives of the people around him.”
Christiansen offers this advice to other entrepreneurs: “Always be learning. Even though I come from a science and biology background I don’t feel that this hurt me in any way in the world of business. As an entrepreneur, there will always be something you need to learn and understand in order to make your product or idea successful. Having a mentality to always be learning has been hugely helpful to me through this process.”
Christiansen is in the midst of applying to medical schools. He plans on continuing to develop Zero Stitch as well as multiple other products and business ideas while in medical school. Christiansen and his colleagues have started an LLC and currently have five other medical device projects that should be launching within the next 18 months.
“My goal is to integrate my medical training and love for inventing and entrepreneurship,” said Christiansen. “SUU’s pre-medical and entrepreneurship programs have given me the tools to succeed.”
The Entrepreneurship Program at SUU promotes transformative educational experiences and financial well-being through new venture creation. The program connects students with business mentors, hosts monthly networking events, and provides necessary support and counseling services in finance, partner facilitation, marketing, legal and human resources. Students of all majors interested in starting a business can join the Entrepreneurship Club or contact Tyler Stillman at firstname.lastname@example.org.