Student Entrepreneur Creates Safe Binding Alternative for Trans Community
Entrepreneurship Student Morgan Turner Wins Owl Venture Competition
KENNESAW, Ga. (May 1, 2020) — Entrepreneurship is about more than having a desire to start a business. It is also about finding solutions to real-world problems.
That philosophy has guided Kennesaw State University Student Morgan Turner through his journey to launch a business that will help transgender males struggling with their body image, a journey that includes recently winning the Robin and Doug Shore Entrepreneurship Center’s Owl Venture entrepreneurship competition.
The Owl Venture competition invites Kennesaw State students from all disciplines to present their business ideas to a panel of faculty in the entrepreneurship degree program. The winner takes their pitch to the Georgia InVenture Competition hosted by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, where they will compete for funding opportunities.
Turner earned the top prize at the Feb. 27 competition with his business, Self-Made Prosthetics, which is a technology company that builds custom-made prostheses to non-surgically modify the bodies of transmasculine individuals assigned female at birth. The products will allow customers experiencing chest dysphoria to better align their body image with their gender identity.
The traditional approach to this challenge is a practice called binding, where individuals restrict their chest with a mesh compression. Binding can only be done for about 8 hours a day and can lead to health issues like shortness of breath, heat stroke, and even lung damage if the binding is too tight. Turner’s product is an alternative to that.
“Binding isn’t a part of a medical transition for a lot of people,” said Turner, who is trans. “As I was going through my transition, I was thinking a lot about how people like me go through life every day having to struggle with this part of themselves. Why haven’t we changed the current binding techniques so it’s not as harmful?”
Turner, is a senior integrative studies major who is minoring in entrepreneurship. He also works as a student assistant on the Kennesaw State Department of Events and Management broadcast team. While entrepreneurship has always been an interest of his – he had plans to launch a media company – the inspiration to start Self-Made Prosthetics came from an experience in an entrepreneurship class.
“We learned about the top 10 things that make a good entrepreneur, and one was that they solve an actual problem,” Turner said. “It’s not just having a neat gadget, it’s about how you are helping society. That changed everything for me. I switched my idea to work on a trans-focused product that would be helpful for myself and a lot of other people.”
For help developing his idea, Turner reached out to the Entrepreneurship Center, which is housed within the Michael J. Coles College of Business’s Michael A. Leven School for Management, Entrepreneurship, and Hospitality. The EC encouraged Turner to enter the Owl Venture Competition and put him in contact with mechatronics student Justin Swiderski, who joined the project and helped design a 3D model of the product. The two received guidance from Kevin McFall, interim chair of the Department of Mechatronics.
During the competition, the six finalists pitched their business concepts to the judges, including entrepreneurship faculty Birton Cowden, Dennis Loubiere, and Greg Quinet, executive director of the Entrepreneurship Center.
“The finalists all demonstrated true cross-discipline involvement with students represented by majors in software engineering, biology, entrepreneurship, management, and integrative studies at both the graduate and undergraduate levels,” Quinet said. “The competition was fierce with all finalists presenting pitches that were viable and exciting new ventures. The EC is excited to continue to support these students as many of them are moving forward to the commercialization of their products, services, or technologies.”
As the winner, Turner will go on to represent Kennesaw State in the Georgia InVenture Competition in Atlanta. The two-day competition was originally scheduled for April, but was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. InVenture contestants representing universities from across the state will compete for $50,000 in cash and prizes, and for the coveted InVenture Cup.
Though Turner will have graduated before the InVenture Competition and will likely be pursuing a master’s degree in business or information technology, he plans to attend InVenture and compete for an opportunity to grow his business.
“I’d love to get funding to move into the beta testing phase so that I can get my product out into the hands of my market,” he said.
With an estimated 1 million transgender males in the United States, and with the support on social media from members of the trans community, Turner is confident that Self-Made Prosthetics will resonate with his audience.
The most rewarding part of this entire journey, he added, is the satisfaction of seeing a worthwhile project through to completion.
“I’ve put so much love and passion into this company,” Turner said. “This has been the result of a lot of people’s hard work and there’s a great sense of satisfaction to see how far we’ve come with it.”