Plenty of 13-year-olds want to become doctors when they grow up. Mallory Kievman is one of them, but she already has a pretty impressive extracurricular achievement to bolster her med school application: Mallory is CEO and founder of a company that might just cure one of the world's oldest and most annoying maladies, the hiccups. Kievman is preparing to launch her product, the Hiccupop, a hiccup-stopping lollipop of her own invention. She has a patent pending, financial backers, and a team of business consultants (in training). Here's her story:
What are Hiccupops?
Kievman got the idea after trying to tame a stubborn bout of hiccups two years ago by using any home remedy she came upon: Drinking saltwater, sipping water out of an upside-down cup, eating spoonfuls of sugar, slurping pickle juice. After testing about 100 folk remedies, Kievman picked three of her favorites — sugar, apple cider vinegar, and lollipops — and combined them. I'm still "tweaking the taste," she tells The New York Times, but the combination of ingredients "triggers a set of nerves in your throat and mouth that are responsible for the hiccup reflex arc... It basically over-stimulates those nerves and cancels out the message to hiccup."
Is this a viable commercial product?
Let's put it this way, says entrepreneur and angel investor Danny Briere. "It's very rare, when you're evaluating businesses, that you can envision a company or product being around 100 years from now." Hiccupops is one them. "It solves a very simple, basic need." It also "has some terrific potential benefits for society," adds Christopher Levesque, who's advising the team of University of Connecticut MBA students who will help Kievman launch her product this summer. "It straddles that line between an attractive, go-to product that people might like to savor and a helpful nutraceutical aid." Hiccups is a common side effect of chemotherapy.
How many employees does Hiccupops have?
Two, so far. Kievman is listed in the company's organizational chart as CEO and head of research and development. "Then you get to a picture of me," the second employee, Mallory's father, Adam Kievman, tells The New York Times, "and it says, 'Adult supervision.'" It's Mallory's show, the elder Kievman insists. "I'm trying to do my best to support it but to also not, you know, drive it." Dad is helping with "a lot of the business stuff," Mallory says. "And he's also helping me handle stuff like using the stove."
How did a 13-year-old manage all this?
A lot of hard work, and a lot of help. Kievman met Briere, founder of small-business incubator Startup Connecticut, a year ago at the Connecticut Invention Convention, a sort of talent fair for young tinkerers. Kievman won prizes for innovation and patentability. With that boost, she presented her lollipops to investors and state officials, and even helped ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. "The hardest part of the business aspect, I would say, is I'm a minor, so there's a lot of different contract things that are difficult," she tells Tech Cocktail.
What's next for Hiccupops?
Kievman has to find a manufacturer for her lollipops, then she has the team of business grad student consultants until August. And "what about product testing?" says Rich Maloof at MSN Living. "Imagine the boardrooms of angel investors, where suited millionaires sit patiently around a conference table for hours, a box of lollipops on the table, just waiting for someone to get a case of the hiccups." Kievman's goal is to make Hiccupops "a staple in drug stores [and] nurse's offices," she tells Tech Cocktail. But perhaps more pressingly, she adds, "I have recently been applying to high schools."