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SOTERIA Flooring startup wants to make falling safer

A Notre Dame graduate entrepreneurship program alumna is working towards longer, safer lives for people with a fall risk — not with grasp bars or fall buttons, but with a patented flooring system designed to “restore the right to fall.”

Julie Moylan, CEO of SOTERIA Flooring and ESTEEM program graduate, arriving on campus summer 2021 with an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Galway. Moylan made it her business to dive straight into the entrepreneurial scene, having never pursued anything like it before.

She was paired with a flooring startup previously founded by Tim Ovaert, a professor in Notre Dame’s mechanical and aerospace engineering department. Moylan helped reshape the “nearly completely stopped and dissolved” company. Today, SOTERIA is still in the pre-seed round of funding, raising $80,000 dollars so far.

The twice-patented flooring product was commissioned by the CDC for research purposes but was soon turned into a purchasable product that reduces the occurrence of injury from falling.

“It can be installed under your carpet or linoleum, anything that has a bit of give, in nursing homes or care facilities, assisted and independent living,” Moylan said.

Moylan said 25% of those who fall [that are] over the age of 65 are dead within six months of the injury, and the problem only gets worse with age.

“People are actually dying because of it and nothing has been done,” she said.  

During the 35-month period before installing their flooring in a facility in Ohio, 21 fractures were recorded. Once SOTERIA flooring was installed, Moylan said there was a 100% reduction in fractures, 100% reduction in overnight stays and a near complete reduction in ER visits.

“People with dementia and Alzheimer’s forget they can’t walk anymore and are incredibly prone to falling. The only alternative to them getting up or falling down was to strap them to the bed, which is completely inhumane, so giving them back the right to fall is a huge part of our mission.”

SOTERIA currently has two major installations in Ohio and has no plan to slow down. The company is currently talking with a care facility in Kentucky and the Logan Center in South Bend. 

Moylan is utilizing the traction the company is gaining to expand into the construction industry,.

“It’s tough to be a new player in that market, so I need a global flooring or commercial flooring provider to sell directly to the customer,” Moylan said.

A partnership like this has the potential to ramp up adoption of the flooring.

“They will have the resources to offset some costs and include us as part of their portfolio, so for me it’s about being selective about a partner that will accelerate our route to scaling in the market,” Moylan said. “We are in discussions with all those people, especially their research, design and innovation arms, so they let us know what they need to see from us, and now it’s just up to us to get there.” 

Moylan’s advice to budding entrepreneurs is to trust their gut instincts.

“You will have people to advise and guide you, but when you’re in it and something doesn’t feel good, don’t go against your internal instincts,” she said. “I can’t even describe how much you will be pulled in all sorts of directions, so just listen to yourself, trust yourself and trust your product.”

Editor’s Note: A previous version of the story mistakenly said SOTERIA Flooring had raised $20,000 instead of $80,000.

Contact Kate at knaessen@nd.edu