Stay-At-Home Mom Of 5 Becomes Startup CEO To Help Save Her Son’s Life
This post originally appeared on PowerToFly .
When Tammy Bowers gave birth to her fourth child, Lion, she was unaware of his life-threatening heart condition. At birth he was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopothy and was told that her son wouldn't live to see his first birthday. Receiving a heart transplant increased his chance for survival.
Doctors told her that being involved would help Lion receive the best care. So she created Lionheart Innovations, a mobile application that helps people store their
medical information, while tracking their medication schedule. PowerToFly spoke with the app creator about her incredible journey from being a stay-at-home mom of five to a startup CEO, how Microsoft's accelerator program helped, what she does at 3 a.m.
How did you go from being involved in your son's medical care to creating an app?
When we went to the ER, I gave them copies of everything. The medical binder that I made ended up being over five pounds and falling apart. That's when I thought "Hey, I have my phone everywhere. Why can't I find something on the phone?" After going to conferences and teaching advocacy in the NICU, I found that others felt the same pain as I did, so I started Lionheart. I started networking, found a coder to come on board, and we went from there.
As a parent with a child facing this type of health challenge, was it natural for you to spring into action and become an entrepreneur?
It's amazing how fast it actually happened — within a year and a half. I've been a stay-at-home mom for 12 years. I have a Bachelor's degree in Child Development. This is nothing I expected to do. I went through an accelerator in Utah called Boom Startup. We didn't even have anything set up, they just believed in me. After that, I applied to Microsoft Ventures. There were over 500 applicants for 15 slots. Somehow I got into Microsoft too. Most people that live it know the pain that goes into caring for someone — that's what pushes me along.
Tammy and her husband with Lion after his birth
What did you learn from Microsoft's accelerator program, which helps startup CEOs launch their businesses?
They say if you're not embarrassed of your first release, you've waited too long. That's something that I struggled with because I wanted to build this all-encompassing app to solve everyone's problems. I learned that if I were to do that on a shoestring budget, it would do lots of things really bad. I had to focus on one thing, build the core foundation, and learn how to scale.
Now I have connections with some of the top pharmacies in the nation. We're in talks to do something as soon as the app is done. Microsoft was an incredible opportunity in terms of fueling growth, taking a crash course in business, pitching, and always being prepared.
Tammy pitching Lionheart at Microsoft's Demo Day
You were pregnant during the accelerator program with your 5th child, and delivered a week before taking the stage for Demo Day, your final presentation at Microsoft. Describe that experience.
We moved our family from Utah to Seattle. My husband actually gave up what he was doing career-wise to become a stay-at-home dad while helping me build Lionheart. Everyone at Microsoft supported me through the pregnancy. I think because it was my 5th, it wasn't really that big of a deal to me. The C-section was scheduled at 5 p.m. that night. I was at practice until 3 p.m., then went straight to the hospital to have the baby. I returned to practice three days later and was onstage a week after the C-section. That probably wasn't the smartest thing to do. I had to take 3 weeks off after that to recover, but I had to do what I needed to do.
Tell me about the structure of your app.
We have 100 beta testers nationally. They're mainly parents of children with chronic medical conditions, some teens, and adults taking care of their parents. Our focus is on multiple caregivers. We track medication schedules. I'm on the app, my husband is, and our babysitter. Everyone gets notifications when a medication is due and when it's been given. At the end of the day, it gives you a summary of everything. There's also a button called "Medical ID." You push it and it has a list of all of the information you need in an emergency or even a new doctors' visit, including all of the medications that you've taken in the last 24 hours, your medical conditions, surgeries, medical records, emergency contacts, and hospital information.
How do you see your app fitting into the marketplace?
Our big distribution channels are support organizations. One of our advantages of living it every day are these connections. We would like it to be free for the user. We're also talking to different insurance companies and pharmacies who would pay for it and offer it to their customers. I live this every day and know that any additional cost on top of what you pay for medical is a lot.
Tammy at Microsoft's Demo Day presentation
Lion visiting the doctor
Was creating the Lionheart Innovations app a way to cope with your son's medical challenges?
Sometimes it's hard because, what if the app does not succeed and my son goes into to heart failure and I've spent two years building this company and not spending enough time with him? I deal with a lot of Mommy guilt. But the app has been a great help to us so far.
Tammy's children at Demo Day
What's the best thing about being a female startup entrepreneur who is also a mom?
I love having my kids involved. I take them one at a time to different events. We talk about different strategies. My daughter ran for Vice President of her school. She had to write her speech and remembers going to pitch practice with me. I have two daughters and it's important for them to be a part of this culture. It's a hard to juggle between five children especially with one who is medically compromised. I'm definitely not running for PTA president. I can't go to all of my kids’ school events, but they get to go to cool events at Microsoft.
A lot of the men in the program said they looked up to me. They said all they had to do was concentrate on building their business. I did that while pregnant and managing four kids. It's amazing how much we as women and moms can do.
Tell us the top three things you'd like to tell other moms who are interested in creating an app or being a startup entrepreneur?
Don't ever say I'm just a mom. We can compete with anyone else. Don't say you can't do something because you don't have experience with it. I'm not tech savvy at all, but sometimes people like me are the best people to build apps. We want people that aren't tech savvy to use it. Apply for things you'd never apply for. Get in there and fight for it. This app is probably the hardest thing I've done in my life, but hopefully at the end it will be the most rewarding, outside of my family and kids. This is my son's life and a better way to care for him, so I'm going to do everything I can to build this.
Lion at 5 years old
Do you believe that the best inventions are born out of necessity or hardship?
Yes, a lot of time I work from home until about 3 a.m., because the kids are asleep. When you're solving your own pain, it gives you the ability to push through hard times. Someone told me, every startup almost dies seven times. If it's something you believe in, it's worth it to stay up until 3 a.m.
How is your son Lion?
He's six now and doing amazing. In December he went in for his 13th surgery to check on his heart. He walks himself to surgery, says goodbye and looks forward to eating his favorite food, bacon, afterwards. He still takes his medications every day. He has nine different doctors that he follows, but everything is great.
Tammy and her family