Grove City College senior Luke Gilligan is one of Pittsburgh Inno’s 5 Founders under 25.
"They're young. They're creative. And They're driven," according to Pittsburgh Inno, an online outlet focused on the region’s tech and startup sectors. “Pittsburgh's next generation of innovators is here, and they are poised to transform the way the world works.”
The distinction highlights the undergraduate CEO’s work establishing Resense, a company that produces and markets products to improve the lives of people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.
Gilligan, an Entrepreneurship major from Fishers, Ind., said being selected as one of the region’s rising stars was “very cool” and a great way to highlight the business and raise awareness about a dementia, which impacts six million Americans and “touches everyone in one way or another.”
Gilligan and four other collegiate entrepreneurs identified by Pittsburgh Inno are profiled this week in the Pittsburgh Business Times.
“Getting this opportunity to showcase the work that I have done is encouraging and reassures me that I am on the right path. I am hoping this is also an opportunity to raise awareness of those with dementia and how we can help them in their journey,” he said.
In the profile, Gilligan says he became interested in the caregiving field through volunteering and working in nursing homes as teenager. He said the way people with dementia were treated, often “like children,” broke his heart.
He was a freshman at Grove City College when he and other students in Entrepreneurship Professor Yvonne English’s Lean Launchpad class began to develop the idea for Resense. “One of my team members had a grandfather who was living with Alzheimer’s, and we wanted to create a product for him,” Gilligan said.
After extensive research, including interviews with loved ones, physicians, psychiatrists, nurses, and caregivers, the company conceived its lead product, the Connect + Comfort Kit, a toolbox of items and activities that target the five senses to utilize a nuanced approach to therapy aimed at increasing brain health and eliciting long-term memories.
“We joined the Center for Entrepreneurship + Innovation (E+I) at Grove City College’s VentureLab program and we were able to test our toolkits in multiple care communities, develop our own products, build partnerships and launch in May 2022,” Gilligan said.
With support from E+I, seed money won at collegiate business plan competitions, and much hard work, Resense was able to market the kits successfully and develop another product. “We realized that many care communities do not provide newspapers to their residents. So, we came up with the idea of a dementia-friendly newspaper that would include completely positive news. We launched our paper, the Resense Register, in March of 2023 and it has entered over 400 care communities to date,” Gilligan said.
Up next for the startup is creating an online platform that will allow care partners of individuals with dementia to have online access to downloadable activities, resources, and mentoring, Gilligan said.
Grove City College has been an essential element of his venture’s development, Gilligan said. “Without GCC I would never have had any of these opportunities. I owe most of Resense’s success to the Center for Entrepreneurship + Innovation,” he said, singling out English ’97, who serves as E+I’s executive director, and E+I Campus Director Logan Hammerschmitt ’16. “Their encouragement, mentorship, and support have been beyond helpful.”
E+I has also helped Resense with internship support through the E+I Fellows program, while Gilligan was paid to work on his startup through a new and innovative program called E+I Founders. “This is beyond helpful because it allows me to focus on growing Resense instead of having to work another part-time job somewhere else,” he said.
“All of my professors have been supportive of me pursuing Resense while still in college, and I am happy to be able to have a practical opportunity to apply everything I am learning in the Entrepreneurship program to a real-life company,” Gilligan added.
Gilligan is “a passionate and humble entrepreneur,” English said. “The team at the Center for Entrepreneurship + Innovation has had the tremendous honor of working with Luke over the last few years as he participated in every facet of our programming, and we’re excited to see him use his education and training to help and serve others. We couldn’t be more proud,” she said.
For more about Resense, visit resensebox.com.
For more about The Center for Entrepreneurship + Innovation, visit gccentrepreneurship.com.