Paige Peters of Rapid Radicals Technology has learned things she never expected on her entrepreneurship journey.
Paige had a vision to treat wastewater quickly and efficiently. “The process of developing and implementing the technology solution has exceeded my expectations. It was beyond my wildest dreams that so many people would spend their time contributing to my vision,” she said.
She knew clean water was important, especially in Milwaukee, an area so near to the Great Lakes. And she knew treating wastewater was a problem that must have an innovative solution. Her revelations came in the form of technology, marketing, implementation and funding.
Even while in school, pursuing her PhD, Paige developed a team excited to help her realize her vision and all the market applications of the technology. Her PhD dissertation is related to the commercialization of water treatment, so she has researched rigorous data and statistics to help prove this idea that seems almost too good to be true. Most conventional wastewater treatment takes 14 hours to accomplish what Rapid Radicals can do in fewer than 30 minutes. The process involves rapid solids removals and advanced oxidation.
Phase I of the National Science Foundation Small Business Technology Transfer (NSF STTR) grant helped fund the development of that oxidation process in 2019. “I learned that some of the barriers to the technology success included long sales cycles, a topic that relates to public health and risk aversion. In talking to stakeholders, the market research showed I needed to make people aware of how my idea could solve real problems.”
She learned to approach the commercialization of her technology like an investor. The Center for Technology Commercialization (CTC) and her NSF Program Officer helped her develop marketing proposals that demonstrated how a task could be accomplished, for a specific dollar amount and within a specific time frame, to solve a particular problem. CTC’s guidance on NSF language and format was instrumental in creating proposals that could be funded.
“CTC even conducted mock panels,” Paige commented. “The CTC programs met what we needed, when we needed it, for the NSF stages. Their help allowed me to focus on content and building crucial relationships while they focused on deadlines, requirements and logistics. Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely, isolating experience, but CTC built a community of my fellow entrepreneurs going through the same tech scaling process that I was going through. We helped and taught and challenged each other based on our own experiences.”
This support resulted in Rapid Radicals becoming the Governor’s Business Plan Grand Prize winner. “The contest was a lot of work and a fun experience. Our COO Will Shannon completed the executive summary and business plan and attended the bootcamps and managed everything we needed for this. My team thought my passion for the project as the founder made me the most logical storyteller to give the pitch. I still get nervous about being on stage sometimes, but that’s good because I only get nervous about things I really care about,” Paige said.
Will and Paige also worked together for the Project Pitch It! contest. “It was really fun! And it was a bit hilarious because we had hair and makeup done professionally and we joked we would make great 1970s news broadcasters without a hair out of place. Also, working with wastewater means we get to throw in a poop joke every now and then,” Paige laughed.
She and her team are excited to see what the next four years will bring. “Our initial financial projections are now in sight. We are ready to finish our Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project in Milwaukee and then pilot real-world applications in Detroit communities. We are prepared for setbacks that will come but will ultimately help us continue to grow,” Paige said.
Paige added that she would love to encourage young females who are currently feeling that the tech industry – and really the world – are not rooting for them right now. “I would love to teach someone that they deserve to be here in the entrepreneurship world, just like all the people who have helped build me up, especially when many people were telling me I couldn’t succeed.”
“The most recent thing I have learned is that I need to make my wildest dreams even wilder,” Paige added with a smile.