A knee injury led William Sweet ’20 to an entrepreneurial brainstorm. Sweet, a scholarship athlete who plays offensive tackle for the Tar Heel football team, had to undergo surgery to repair his ACL in fall 2017. Afterward, he was provided a cold compression product to reduce the swelling.
Although the device helped during the early stages of rehab, Sweet wondered whether others could benefit from having a similar appliance not only post-surgery but throughout their recovery.
As a student enrolled in Entrepreneurship and Business Planning, a class at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, Sweet came up with the concept for a cold compression sleeve. Just weeks after surgery, his idea won the fourth annual Carolina Challenge Pitch Party, UNC’s business venture competition.
“Since I’m a part of the market, a part of the niche for this product,” Sweet said, “it gives me a deeper insight into how much this item is needed.”
Sweet said he formed his idea on his own. Less than two weeks before the competition, Professor Jim Kitchen asked Sweet to pitch his product to the class so some students without ideas might join his team.
“Before I could even finish the pitch,” Sweet said, “I had two or three people saying, ‘Pick me, pick me.'” Three classmates joined him. Sweet said what makes his cold compression sleeve different from existing products is that it can be used on the entire leg from the ankle up. Other devices only support certain body parts, such as the ankle or knee.
Sweet’s concept garnered the interest of several Pitch Party attendees, who received faux money to decide which teams they’d “invest” in. His team ultimately took first place.
“It was a huge moment for me because it was something I had accomplished with the help of my team, and we were able to share that moment together,” he said. “It was a great experience.”
And it’s not over. Sweet’s team earned a $400 award for the creation of a prototype. Afterward, Sweet met with a prototype engineer and he’s also working toward securing a copyright and patent for his cold compression sleeve.
Opportunities such as this, after all, are what Sweet said originally influenced his decision to attend UNC.