Sometimes, it can take years to get a small business off the ground, but University of West Georgia student and local entrepreneur William Cross has put himself on the fast track to success. He’s already got his product on select shelves and is seeking funding to expand his business while he’s getting his degree in business management. And as if that wasn’t enough, his product also has the potential to change thousands of lives across the United States.
Cross is a diabetic, and his product is specifically targeted to help other diabetics with a common condition called Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy, more commonly known simply as neuropathy or DPN. In diabetics, neuropathy – or nerve pain – is caused by the degeneration of nerves, which is in turn caused by the presence of excess sugar in the blood stream.
“Nerve damage is the main cause of all complications for diabetics,” Cross said. “There are 29 million people in the U.S. with diabetes, and 20 million of them suffer from DPN. Because of DPN, there are 146,000 limb amputations each year in the U.S. alone, and 50,000 deaths as a result of kidney failure.”
Cross is no stranger to these facts. In fact, he’s intimately familiar with them, having suffered from DPN himself for a number of years.
“I had neuropathy, and it was bad enough that I had a handicap tag because it hurt just to walk,” Cross recalled. “I tried some prescriptions, and they just had horrible side effects: weight gain, constant dizziness, brain fog. So I started researching and trying stuff on myself.”
Cross had found some ingredients that helped him that were listed under the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) category by the FDA. So gradually, over the course of four years, Cross developed a dietary supplement that addressed his pain by addressing the actual cause of the nerve damage.
“This isn’t just a pain pill,” Cross said. “It treats the root cause of the problem, which is the transfer of too much sugar into the blood stream and not enough calcium and salt. My product allows for salt and calcium to transfer into the blood stream at the same rate as the sugar.”
Once Cross had the formula right, it was time to find funding – which is where the TYE University competition comes in. On April 18, Cross represented the University of West Georgia (UWG) and his company, VasoCorp, placed second in the state-wide competition that welcomes Georgia university students to propose their business plans and compete for start-up funds. Just before this competition, Cross had been in Nebraska, where his product, NeuropAWAY, placed fourth in the world in that student-based competition.
However, on May 7, he’ll be in Texas competing on a global scale with some of the most promising entrepreneurs in the world representing his Carrollton-based business.
“This is like the Super Bowl of business plan competitions,” Cross said. “It’s based on whether your business is a real business as well as its feasibility and the likelihood of your product to make it to market. I think we have a real chance to win since my product is already on the market.”
Cross admits he may have a leg up, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t use the funds to improve his business.
“If I win, the grand prize is $75,000. I can use that to hold my own clinical trials so that doctors can write NeuropAWAY as a prescription, and I could buy a $35,000 capsule-filling machine that would allow me to make 500 bottles an hour. Right now, I can only fill about 10 to 15 bottles an hour.”
Cross isn’t the only one who has faith in his abilities and his product. UWG’s Rick Sigman, a business consultant at the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center housed at UWG, says he knows Cross is going places.
“William has worked very hard and has several follow-up products to bring to market. I have no doubt he will be a successful business owner,” he said.
Cross is currently working toward his bachelor’s in Business Administration at UWG’s Richards College of Business. Afterwards, he plans to obtain his master’s before fully launching his business.
“I plan on staying at UWG and getting my MBA here because they have a really great program,” Cross said.
In the meantime, Cross is working away, filling capsules and getting ready to make his first big shipment to 16 independently owned pharmacies in the Atlanta area.
“I’ve got 16 pharmacies signed up for displays,” Cross said. “I’m literally waiting on capsules to get here so I can fill their orders. Plus, we’re getting picked up by Food Depot, so that will be 35 more cases. That capsule machine would come in real handy.”
To find out more about Cross’s product, go to www.neuropaway.com. To learn how you can help him with his business venture, call the Small Business Development Center at 678-839-5082.