At just 31 years of age Cami Culwell has practiced occupational therapy for 5+ years and has launched her own company. She is the creator of Clinitote- a medical bag that is both functional and stylish. Cami graduated from New York University and is an Indiana native. Below Cami shares how it all started, what inspired Clinitote, and what she sees in her future. enjoy!
How did you first hear about occupational therapy, and when did you know it was meant for you?
I first heard of OT when I was a junior in college at Indiana University. I had originally wanted to get my MSW (Master of Social Work), but I discovered OT in a google search. I decided to shadow a local occupational therapist who was working in pediatrics and I fell in LOVE! I knew immediately it was for me and have never looked back!
What type of settings have you worked in?
I have worked in the hospital, home health and skilled nursing facility settings. My first job was in a large hospital in NYC working on a Traumatic Brain Injury unit. I currently live in Washington, DC and work in the home health and skilled nursing facility settings.
I also recently received my Low Vision Rehabilitation Graduate Certificate from UAB (Mary Warren’s program) which is such an AWESOME program. I use what I have learned from that program in EVERY setting!
What is Clinitote and what led you to design it?
Clinitote is my business that I recently launched in June of this year. I design high-end medical bags with multiple compartments to fit our most important clinical tools. We use a very high quality nylon that is extremely durable and washable, and each bag comes with two over-the-door hooks. If you are treating in a client’s room, these hooks allow you to hang the bag over the door, some chairs and drawers.
When I came up with the idea for Clinitote, I was working at a large skilled nursing facility in Washington, DC. It was 5 floors, and I was constantly forgetting things in the gym which was located on the first floor. I knew I needed a bag to keep myself organized and productive throughout the day. The only problem is that there wasn’t a bag on the market that was functional AND fashionable. So, I decided to make one myself. I sent out about 200 surveys to colleagues, school mates, and other healthcare friends and designed the bag based on their responses to those surveys. These bags are truly made FOR clinicians!
Did you face many challenges through the design/creative process?
YES! I am not a designer by training and did not consider myself a particularly creative person, so creating the first sketches proved challenging. Luckily, a friend of mine introduced me to a handbag designer who has helped me every step of the way. She helped me to put my design into a tech pack (the blueprint of how to make the bag for the manufacturer), introduced me to my manufacturer, and so much more! It took me three years to get my product to market, and I could not have done it without the help of my family and friends!
Describe what a typical day on the job looks like for you now that you have Clinitote.
It is very busy! I am still working full time as an OT, and I work on Clinitote when I get home in the evening and throughout the day commuting between home health.
What advice would you give someone who is interested in creating their own product or starting their own company?
My best advice is to do your research! Make sure you learn as much as you can about the industry you’re entering into, target market, product development, etc.
Also, if money is your biggest reason for not pursuing your idea, please don’t let that stop you! There are more avenues for financing these days, such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe, equity crowdfunding, etc. However, borrowing from family and friends if possible is better than borrowing from the bank.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In my heart of hearts, I hope that Clinitote has become the #1 medical bag company in the US by that time. I hope to create more bags and more products for clinicians. This has been such a fun and crazy experience for me, and I only hope that it gets better.
What is your favorite thing about being an occupational therapist?
I love meeting and talking to people from all walks of life, especially the geriatric population. I love being part of someone’s recovery story. Sometimes when I tell people that I work at a SNF (which most people call a “nursing home”), they tell me that it must be so sad and depressing. But I feel the opposite. I feel that I see more hope and happiness than I do sadness. As occupational therapists, we are with our clients during some of their most vulnerable and trying times and to be able to help people through those times is what is most special to me.
Quote to live by?
I know this is more of a poem than a quote, but it is my favorite:
To laugh often and much;
To win the respect of intelligent people
and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics
and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch or a redeemed social condition;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson