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Steven Michael Kelly: The teacher, the baker, the iDROP maker

Steven Michael Kelly is the director of the Professional Science Masters administrative program, owner of the Educated Baker and creator of the iDROP. Photo by Brittany Mascio

Steven Michael Kelly has quite the sweet tooth for innovation. And rightfully so. He’s the master chef behind The Educated Baker, a for-profit bakery with a social mission. And ironically enough, he is the mastermind of the iDROP, an iPhone application for diabetes management.

The Educated Baker, Kelly’s primary project, is a for-profit wholesale bakery that specializes in producing frozen cookies and scones, operating under what he calls a “simple social good” strategy. Aside from the production, the Educated Baker focuses on a mentoring program that seeks to connect, inspire and motivate a mix of college students and Avenue Scholars from Omaha high schools to pursue entrepreneurship.

Kelly bootstrapped this startup with the help of friend Tyler Price, with the majority of funds stemming from Kelly’s previous earnings from a dessert catering company he started in high school. He has since built on his baking chops and is the lead for mass-producing frozen edibles for various businesses in the the Omaha area, including Film StreamsBluePlanet Natural Grill and Hy-Vee stores, where treats are baked fresh on location. The profits feed into the production of baked goods, the mentoring program and soon a scholarship fund for at-risk youth in Omaha. Because of these non-profit qualities, Kelly said potential clients are more willing to participate in the company’s for-profit cause.

Kelly, 23, opened the Educated Baker nearly two months after he started as the director of the Professional Science Masters administrative program at Creighton University, a timeline of events happening all within his first full year out of college. His position with the University’s College of Business has allowed Kelly to streamline his startup experience with the ideas he has for the entrepreneurship program.

Recently he finished writing the curriculum for the fall semester course “Innovation and Integration in the Bakery.” With associate professor Kate Linden, Kelly will teach this experiential learning course to help students explore everything from finances to flour, walking the students through the struggles, outcomes and benefits of running a startup.

“Honestly, I just love starting new things,” Kelly said. “I know now, it’s okay to have a thousand ideas but just know when to pursue the best options.”

If starting the Educated Baker and establishing the “Innovation and Integration in the Bakery” course were just two of the thousand ideas Kelly had, he made a safe bet when he cooked up another with his iDROP. (Below, photo of the iDROP prototype courtesy of Creighton University).

Kelly, a diabetic since age 3 who follows the strict “six prick” routine, decided he wanted to eliminate the need for the traditional glucose testing kit. He developed the idea for the iPod Diabetic Regulation and Organization Product or iDROP, a device with the “all-day” diabetic in mind that works with the iPhone and iPod Touch to more easily control and track blood sugar levels.

Two years ago, he paired with a team of students from Creighton University’s BioScience Entrepreneurship Program to win BioVenture 2009 with a business plan and poster presentation for the iDROP (See our previous post “Three teams compete at BioVenture 2009).

Impressed by Kelly and his team’s win, Ron Quinn, a board member at the Halo Institute and executive vice president at Tenaska, offered to take the idea to the next level – the executives at Johnson & Johnson.

Since the team couldn’t afford to build the prototype for the iDROP, Kelly turned over the business plan to the pharmaceutical giant and entered an agreement to develop and potentially commercialize his concept. For the past six months, the iDROP has been in the Johnson & Johnson Product Development Center with Kelly hoping to hear back on the status in the coming months. As far as a definitive timeline for the app and licensing progress, Quinn said he is unaware of the company’s internal progress, and a Johnson & Johnson Product Development spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

And though Kelly has been grateful for this experience and the opportunity to get this device into the hands of diabetics, the next step in this process has him learning to wait, though it is unlikely to stop his progress with his ideas.

“Steve is constantly thinking of ways to develop ideas and businesses,” Quinn said, “especially those that operate to benefit the community.”

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