High school junior Norah Kolb is getting a kick out of being an entrepreneur. The 17-year-old, who’s a competitive swimmer, invented an ergonomic kickboard called Ray-Board.
It all started when Kolb was in eighth grade and a school assignment called for creating a product for an invention convention. She decided to create something related to what she knew best — swimming. Uncomfortable, inefficient kickboards were a problem for her, causing shoulder pain and visits to a physical therapist.
“I just wanted to create a solution to allow swimmers to really focus on their kicking without having to deal with an uncomfortable kickboard,” said Kolb, who’s been swimming since she was 8 years old.
She submitted a few sketches of her idea and an application to the Connecticut Invention Convention, and ended up winning the ESPN award for best sports-related invention. She then presented the board at a local “Shark Tank”-like competition, where she won the top prize of $12,000 to invest in developing the product.
With swimmers in mind
She designed Ray-Boards to be wide at the bottom and narrow at the top to fit swimmers’ natural arm and shoulder positions. The kickboard is comfortable, supportive, ergonomic, and efficient.
Kolb spent two years testing different foams, making prototypes, and working with suppliers. She had a Kickstarter fundraiser and started selling the product this spring. Feedback has been positive, with customers telling her they couldn’t believe something like this hadn’t been invented before.
Kolb is grateful to (and inspired by) her parents, who are also entrepreneurs and have engineering degrees.
Kolb, who swims on her high school team and a local USA Swimming team, plans to go to college and may focus on being an entrepreneur. She says starting the company gave her business insights and resulted in personal growth, too.
“It definitely has grown my confidence a lot,” she said. “I would say don’t be afraid to try new things and step out of your comfort zone.”