After working 17 years in a hospital environment, Nancy Haberstitch wanted to transition from controlling infections in health care to helping people avoid hospitalization for infection.
So, she started, Nanobugs, Inc., an educational microbiology and infection prevention program, based out of Lincoln, Nebraska.
Nancy obtained an Alice Dittman Integrity Loan, administered by the Center for Rural Affairs, which helped cover some of the business expenses.
With an idea and financing in hand, and plenty of passion to guide her quest, Nancy developed nanobugs, which are animated characters representing different infections.
The nanobugs are featured in various teaching tools including a card collection—a 16-page primer for children called the “Infection Collection: Lessons in Infection Prevention,” —playing cards, static clings, temporary tattoos, PowerPoint presentations, a training shirt to teach cough and sneeze etiquette, coloring books on food safety, and more.
“I teach practical microbiology to people who don’t like to get infections,” said Nancy. “I have created tools to put the nanobugs to work—teaching us about them and ultimately how to avoid them.”
To gain business insight, Nancy took advantage of one-on-one consultations with then Center for Rural Affairs Rural Enterprise Assistance Project (REAP) Women’s Business Center Director Monica Braun. The entrepreneur also participated in training workshops offered by the Center, including ones focused on social media marketing, sales tax, and QuickBooks.
For Nancy, teaching and infection control are the most appealing and rewarding areas of medicine; however, she found that an understanding of practical microbiology was necessary, too, even though most people are not attracted to that science.
“The nanobugs became my way to engage young and old in the practical microbiology needed to prevent infection,” she said. “My concept was to vilify the microbes rather than other Homosapiens. So, this business expands on my work as a nurse consultant in teaching, training, and promoting infection prevention and control.”
Nancy says she saw a need for this business in Nebraska and beyond. Initially, she hired her daughter, Hannah, to help get the business off the ground. She also brought on a freelance caricature artist, Kirk Kuenzi of Lincoln, Nebraska, to draw images of the nanobugs, and hired local animators to give the nanobugs life. Nancy currently manages the business herself and brings on consultants for the aspects that require expertise beyond what she can deliver or learn.
“I am now focused on promoting nanobugs products as resources for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education to address microbiology in an engaging and accurate way,” she said. “Maybe I can excite some curious, young people to consider a future career in epidemiology, infection prevention, microbiology, or food safety.”
Nancy continues to connect with other business owners to learn new ways to expand Nanobugs, and finds encouragement in new places, but considers her work with the Center to be a huge asset in her success.
“I have found the network of entrepreneurs in the Lincoln community to be very supportive,” she said. “Networking with them at Southeast Community College Entrepreneurship Center is how I found out about the classes and resources available through the Center for Rural Affairs. I am so grateful for that.”