In the fall of 2017, Melody Roberts was in the audience of South Side Pitch, co-sponsored by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship. Before startup founders pitched their business ideas, clinic director Beth talked about taking the plunge to follow your dreams and vision … so Roberts decided to do just that.
The Hyde Park resident is co-founder and CEO of Liv Labs, a wellness company addressing a problem faced by one in four American women: urinary incontinence when exercising, sneezing, or laughing. Inspired by the presentations she saw, Roberts put together a pitch and entered the following year’s competition. Liv Labs and its innovative pelvic-floor fitness device won the first prize of $5,000 cash plus a one-year membership to the Polsky Exchange, UChicago’s startup hub on 53rd Street that offers entrepreneurs work space, mentoring, community connections, and a state-of-the-art fabrication lab.
Exchange membership turned out to be a huge value, says Roberts, especially after Liv Labs was accepted to the Polsky Incubator housed in the Exchange. Incubator companies have access to even more resources, like the student intern and Law School students who helped Roberts create legal release forms and other materials.
Liv Labs is raising funds and testing its device prototype (refined at the Exchange’s Fab Lab) in advance of FDA clearance. “I don’t know how or if we would have gotten this far without the Exchange,” Roberts says. “It provides an environment that keeps me motivated and energized; I’m able to get help from others, and give help to them, too. Because of a relationship built there, someone thought of me and I was able to be on a call with a corporation that’s interested in the product.”