Estimated reading time: 3 minute(s)
Ehan Kamat is a 15 year-old inventor and entrepreneur who has developed, patented and is currently selling a medical device called the Solemender for foot pain. He has participated in GlobalHack, was one of the winners of Startup Weekend and won the Saint Louis University Teen Escalator Pitch. This high school sophomore has big dreams.
What is the Solemender?
Plantar fasciitis is a thing that happens to people that are on their feet a lot. Doctors usually prescribe cold or massage to heal it. My mom had it and I learned from her [experience with it] that nothing on the market was very effective—cold helps, massage helps, but nothing combined these things. I heard from my parents that a frozen water bottle would work to roll under the foot, but water bottles expand or explode in the freezer, so I came up with the idea of a gel pack inside the roller.
What happened next?
I keep all my ideas in a notebook. My dad knows a distributor who imports apparel from China and sells it here in the US who agreed to look. He saw Solemender as the idea most ready to take forward.
What’s been your experience of the startup events—GlobalHack, Startup Weekend, Startup Connection, the SLU teen Escalator pitch, etc.?
GlobalHack was a lot of fun, but I’m not a programmer. I learned a lot though, and now I’m doing Codecademy to learn coding. I got to go to TechCrunch. I didn’t have a good Startup Weekend experience, though. Even though our team won, the chemistry of the team didn’t work out.
What kind of traction and reaction are you getting?
We’re in Comfort Shoes and Medical West stores in addition to others. They’re both really good at demonstrating it. We have 1000 units produced, we’ve sold a few thousand dollars worth so far. Jon Flon keeps them in his warehouse while I work on more retailers and a website. We’re in talks with running stores, too.
What do your friends think?
I have friends that are entrepreneurs, and we work on kind of random things together. I make products, they might do apps, so it’s not competitive.
Tell us about the picture you sent for use with this story—where did you take it and what’s interesting to you about it?
This is me with Edith James, the owner and operator of Comfort Shoe Specialists on Manchester Road. She is one of the most active retailers of the Solemender and has the most experience with it.
Beyond education and training, what prepared you for what you’re doing now?
I’ve always been making and inventing things. I like to build things in general, like building my own portable 3D printer. My parents help me with being patient and letting me have the whole basement for my shop—they encourage me.
What do you struggle with the most?
I’ve always been good at talking and presenting, but learning to memorize and perfect the delivery for the SLU Teen Escalator Pitch was much harder.
Who’s a person in your past that helped you become who you are? What did they do? Do they know their influence on you?
My grandma. She was born in India and emigrated here. She was running a daycare business when she decided to go back to school in her 50’s to get her college degree. She’s had a private practice, a daycare business and used the proceeds from that to build a real estate business. She’s always trying new things. She’s impressive.
What book(s) have most influenced your life?
I’m into non-fiction. I like Steven Johnson’s books on innovation and invention.
Who are your favorite musicians?
I like French pop, like Strome, a Belgian group. I’ve taken French for 11 years, so I can understand them. I like that they’re a little deeper than conventional pop music.
Favorite guilty pleasure?
I’m really into vegan cakes, because I don’t eat eggs. If you take a can of chickpeas and whip the liquid, it becomes a meringue. I used it to make macaroons without eggs. It’s really fun experimenting.
What current problem would you like to solve?
I have an idea for solving the global water problem—a solar powered water filter. I’d like to work on problems like that.
Where do you spend the most time?
I spend a lot of time in the robotics lab at school, sometimes taking a 15 minute break with my invention notebook looking for problems to solve. That and hanging out with my brothers at home.
When do you live by routines? What are those routines?
Meditation is really big for my whole family. I find doing it at least a couple times a week helps calm my creative mind. Afterwards I almost always have an epiphany that makes it into my notebook.
Who else’s work do you admire and why?
Steve Jobs is someone I really admire—someone taking something from their garage to a global business. I’ve always been an inventor, but he inspired me to explore the business side.