Mikaela Saugstad, Emily Russo, Marissa Koscielski
A group of entrepreneurs, Mikaela Saugstad, Emily Russo, and Marissa Koscielski were brainstorming product ideas for a final project in their ESTEEM design course and Saugstad had to self administer an injection on her thigh. The difficult process that has become part of Saugstad’s daily routine inspired the team of women entrepreneurs to create a device, Gigil, that alleviates fears associated with the self administration of subcutaneous injections for patients with autoimmune diseases.
Saugstad recalled how as a child she was scared to self administer injections, and she hopes that Gigil can help make this process better for children and adults. The motivation that these women share to help individuals by easing a scary situation also inspired them into picking the name Gigil, which is Filipino for “the urge to squeeze something cute.”
In launching this company, the women have gained a lot of valuable experiences and have put into practice the concepts taught in the classroom. Saugstad claims how valuable the support they have received from Rheumatologists has been in validating the need for Gigil. Koscielski has been intrigued by the prototyping process and understanding how to get the best quality 3D print. The women also claim that having a customer centered business approach is one of the most valuable aspects that they have taken from the classroom and put into practice.
“Our main value proposition is something that you cannot put a price on. Alleviating fear is priceless and we are not doing it for the money, but to help people,” claimed Russo when asked how this product encompasses Notre Dame’s mission to be a “force for good in the world.” Saugstad adds that their mission is “near and dear to her heart.”
When asked what advice they would provide to their pre-ESTEEM selves, Saugstad said to “find fires that you like to put out and just spend your time doing that. There will always be curve balls thrown your way.” Russo responded with having “a great attitude and be flexible. Know that you will get it wrong a lot before you get it right.”
When looking towards their next steps, the women are looking to polish their business strategy, including product manufacturing and market strategy, and complying with FDA regulations.