Startup founder Sierra Singleton is innovating new tools for occupational therapists and their patients
You could say TheraPoints CEO Sierra Singleton's path to entrepreneurship began even before birth. The occupational therapist says, "When my parents were pregnant with me, they were told I was going to have Down Syndrome. Tests also showed I had two cysts on my brain. My parents said, 'We are going to love our baby no matter what.' I'm so glad that was their reaction because I was born without any issues. It was probably about middle school that I realized the depth of that and how different my life could have been. Since then, I've always had a heart for people with disabilities. That easily could have been me."
Singleton's compassion connected with innovation and entrepreneurship as she was finishing her Master's degree in occupational therapy at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.
She was doing a fieldwork rotation when she encountered a patient who had recently had a stroke. "She had movement in her fingers and strength in her hand, but it was like her brain and her fingers didn't work together anymore," Singleton says. "My supervisor asked for creative ideas that might be helpful. I came up with some exercises and tried a couple of different versions with the patient. She blossomed with what I had created. I tried them with a couple of other patients, and it was working for them, too."
Singleton explains, "TheraPoints presents like a game, but it's actually cognitive exercises that also address finger mobility. A peer told me she thought it was amazing. She said she was going to do something with it if I didn't. That helped me decide to move forward."
From idea to innovation
That nudge led Singleton to tell her church group about the idea. She says, "I told them I didn't know how to go about making a product out of it, but I wanted to do it to be able to help more people. Taysha Williams (TTU Innovation Hub Program Director) was in my group. She said, 'I work at a place where we help ideas come to life.' That was my introduction to the Hub, which is giving me the resources I need to make it happen."
Singleton participated in the iLaunch competition in 2019. The feedback she received from the judges, including Silicon Valley entrepreneur Jim Messemer, encouraged her to develop a workbook with plans to add an app that would be easily accessible for therapists and patients alike. Singleton adds, "Through iLaunch, I had a huge mental shift. I went in with a few pieces of paper with exercises drawn on them. I came out with the realization that my hands could be multiplied to help more people if I created this product, and that would require creating a company."
After completing her Master's degree in December and then earning her OT license in February, she applied for admission into the TTU Accelerator at the Hub. TheraPoints was one of eight startups accepted into the program in March.
Accelerator journey begins
Despite isolation protocols during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, Singleton says her accelerator cohort has already found ways to adapt and bond together. "One of our members started a Facebook group so we can still relate to each other as an entrepreneurial community. That's been really important because, while it may look different for everyone, we are all on the same journey. We're doing this together," she says.
"It's amazing to think about what's about to happen through the program," Singleton adds. "If it weren't for the accelerator — with the grant money and the guidance of the mentors — my idea would just die on the table. I just wouldn't know how to do it otherwise."
Singleton says her passion and dedication fuel her hustle as a therapist and a startup entrepreneur. " I believe my job is to help others do what they need and want to do. I'm blessed that so many people at the Hub have the same kind of commitment to help me with TheraPoints."