A student from Belfast has won an outstanding award and investment for her innovative app to help young people with type 1 diabetes.
Emma Corbett used her own experiences of the obstacles she faced when she was diagnosed at the age of 17 to create an app specifically aimed at helping young people cope with and understand type 1 diabetes.
The Ulster University student recently won the Belfast Business Idea award, which has won her a cash injection of £2,500 to help her grow her business.
Read more: Young NI entrepreneur who turned a university project into a unique business idea
Speaking to Belfast Live, Emma explained how sudden weight loss and constant fatigue left her in hospital.
She explained: “I was very weak, I was losing a lot of weight, very skinny, but I was constantly eating because my body needed energy but I was still losing weight. I was drinking water like crazy. and I was running to the bathroom like crazy, and so so tired, I was constantly tired and just wanted to sleep all the time.
“Over the summer mum went to see the doctor about something and I went with her, and as we were about to leave I told her to ask the doctor why I was so tired and I ate all the time, and we were laughing.
“But the doctor asked me more questions and took me straight away for a blood test because she said it looked a lot like type 1 diabetes.”
Emma continued: “The normal blood sugar range is between 4 and 8 and mine was 28. So I was very close to getting into diabetic ACD because I was very close to that, this which is very dangerous, so I was admitted to the hospital straight away and stayed there for about three days.”
Following her shock diagnosis, the former Ballyclare secondary school student admitted that she struggled to take in all the information being thrown at her as she tried to process and understand her new way of life.
“One of the things I’ve noticed is when you’ve just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, you’re just given flyers. I noticed it was a gap in the market that was not filled, there is nothing targeted at newly diagnosed diabetics.
“The things that target diabetics are all about their numbers and their blood sugar levels, but they don’t focus on the emotional and mental aspect that a lot of young people really struggle with.”
And with that, Emma decided she wanted to make a difference and the idea was born for her app ‘Insurin’. She decided that this would be her last college project goal and so she decided to create her business team to help her make her dream come true.
“I wanted to work on something meaningful, so I thought why not try to address the issues I’ve noticed while living with my condition and put them into an app to help others.
“I started working on it and my speaker told me about a program called Co-Founders, and it’s run by Catalyst and what it helps you build a team of like-minded people who come up with skills and ideas and see if anyone could work with you.
“So I met Michael, Tom and Lucy there. Tom is front-end user experience focused, Michael is more back-end tech focused, and Lucy has worked on many start-ups before, just like Tom , and Lucy focuses on operations and logistics, so I was lucky that they agreed to be part of my team.
“It was amazing because I had the skills then to take something I had as an idea and start building it and getting the ball rolling.”
Explaining how her app works, the 22-year-old said she wanted to make sure those who use it can personalize it for themselves and ensure it targets its young audience.
“When you’ve just been diagnosed, you’re hit with something that you’re probably going to have to live with for the rest of your life, a few flyers just won’t do.
“So what Insurin does is educate and guide newly diagnosed diabetics as early as possible to help prevent future complications. It aims to help them physically, mentally and emotionally so they can live with confidence and without fear.
“The app’s mascot is called Gluco, and he’ll be your friend, he understands what you’re going through, he encourages you, he doesn’t put you down, he tells you what you’re doing well, and the app is all personalized to this user.
“So if you’re feeling depressed that week or if you’ve had multiple episodes of low blood sugar, all information will be targeted towards that so they can help you with whatever you’re struggling with. And because it is difficult to interest young people in education, especially when it is a condition they do not want to have, what Insurin will do is provide succinct information under the form of news from Snapchat and Instagram, so we use social media to also include things like TikTok. So it’s very calibrated towards young people,” Emma added.
After taking part in the Belfast Business Idea Awards, Emma came out on top and hopes to use the funding she won to help her develop her app and bring it to market.
“Belfast City Council have been absolutely brilliant in helping us and the sponsors they have offered have been very helpful. We will be using the money for user testing and user focus groups in September, so Diabetes UK is going to help us, we’re going to get people with type 1 diabetes in this age group to come and participate in our focus groups and test the app.
“We’re hoping to have something in people’s hands maybe around this time next year, but at the moment the app is still in development.
“We are also keen to speak to potential investors, so if anyone would like to get involved, please contact us via email, email@example.com”
If you are considering starting your own business or already run a small business and would like free assistance to grow, check out the range of programs offered online by Belfast Belfast City Council and get in touch today. their Enterprise team today.
You can follow Emma’s progress with the app by following Insurin on Instagram and Twitter.
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