Children living with diabetes deal with many daily struggles. They continuously have to monitor what they eat, check their blood sugar levels throughout the day, and safely inject themselves with insulin when necessary.
Entrepreneur Emily Guertler, 15, hopes to lessen some of that burden through her small business called StraightShot Apparel. The Utah teen has created a line of stylish pants with adjustable zippers that make insulin injections more manageable for kids and their parents.
“I remember thinking that I wish someone would come up with an easier way for my parents to manage my brother’s diabetes,” Guertler said in an interview. “I guess I just didn’t know that I could help.”
The pants are hand-sewn and made exclusively for children. The zippers run along the thigh, making it easy to administer an insulin injection to the upper leg quickly and efficiently. The upper leg may seem like an odd place to perform such an injection, but there’s a good reason for it: Frequent injections in one area of the body can create painful scar tissue, so diabetics tend to rotate the location of their shots.
Free Enterprise recently caught up with the budding young businesswoman to chat about her inspiration, her thriving new business, and her advice for other young entrepreneurs.
Why did you decide to create StraightShot Apparel?
My little brother Lincoln (7 years old) inspired me to create StraightShot Apparel after he was diagnosed with diabetes two years ago. It’s always been a struggle for him to get insulin shots when he’s wearing long clothing. One day my mom was getting frustrated with his jeans because she was having a hard time giving him his shot, and she said “I wanna just rip a hole in your pants.”
I started thinking about ways we could make it easier for him to get his insulin. There aren’t really a lot of products on the market that are aimed just at kids with diabetes.
What challenges have you encountered and how did you overcome them?
Before I signed up to take part in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!), where I learned about business, I knew nothing about starting a company. I was pretty new to this, so everything was a challenge at first.
I learned to ask questions to find out what I needed to know, what I was doing wrong, and what my business needed.
What’s it like managing your own company?
Right now, the company is only my mom, dad and me. The rest of my family chips in when they can. I design the clothes, and my parents help with advice when I need it. It’s cool that I get to be the boss of my parents—it’s kinda like everyone kid’s dream—even though it’s a little weird.
I’m really shy around other people, so it helps that my parents work with me. I don’t feel nervous around them.
You were named People’s Choice Winner at the national 2016 YEA! Saunders Scholars competition at this year’s America’s Small Business Summit and walked away with $2,000. What are your plans for the future?
Right now, we’re just working on producing more pants, and putting that money into finding a manufacturer instead of sewing everything at home. I’m also talking to investors who are interested in StraightShot Apparel so I can get the brand into hospitals and sell them across Utah.
As we grow, I hope to expand into long-sleeve t-shirts, dresses, and eventually add a secure pocket compartment to the pants for insulin pumps so kids can carry a pump without worrying about damaging it.
Any advice for young entrepreneurs?
Work hard and don’t be afraid of what other people think. I think a lot of people are scared of failing. If they think their idea isn’t going to work out, they won’t do it, but you should always try—no matter what.