University teacher and business consultant vies for $100,000 in Project Vesto business competition

Marie Gibson’s pitch to create her Caregiver’s Journal app made her one of 12 finalists

4/12/2013 - By: Deanna Hearn
Caregiver's Journal

She calls herself a "jack of all trades and a master of several of them," and for good reason. Marie Gibson teaches accounting for the University of Nevada, Reno where she's also working on a doctorate degree in education leadership; she owns her own business; she's the author of two accounting books; and her passion for patient advocacy prompted her to develop yet another book, the Caregiver's Journal. That project, born out of personal experience and frustration when her father was in the hospital, has landed her in one of 12 finalist positions out of 232 entries in Project Vesto, a Nevada business competition.

"As the owner of Marie Gibson Management & Consulting for the last eight years, I help businesses with all their business systems," Gibson said. "That includes budgeting, accounting, strategic planning and marketing - basically anything a business needs to be successful."

Gibson has also been a College of Business faculty member since 2007, initially as full-time, non-tenured faculty teaching accounting, and now as adjunct faculty emphasizing online learning in accounting and QuickBooks. She has an MBA and a master's degree in range management from the University.

Yet, it's her patient advocacy that tugs at her heartstrings. "When my father was hospitalized, I found the terminology and technology confusing, and I felt overwhelming frustration in trying to keep track of what was going on so I could communicate with the doctors and nurses," Gibson said. " I ordered lots of books to help me make sense of it but found that most of them had to do with the legal aspects of getting one's papers in order such as wills and trusts."

Gibson knew she had to fill the void to help others. "I'm a fix-it kind of gal. There was a need, and I figured I could fix it, so I decided to step up to the plate."

Working with a team of healthcare professionals, Gibson laid the groundwork in her journal to help family members keep track of their loved one's condition, procedures and treatments, therapy sessions and much more.

"The family is an important part of the healthcare team, which is often forgotten, and they didn't have a tool in the past to help them understand and organize what is happening in the hospital," Gibson said. "The journal helps them feel in control of a frightening situation."

After several revisions, the partially-completed Caregiver's Journal sat on the shelf for a while, according to Gibson.

"I kept hearing these gut-wrenching stories of how people were devastated about what was happening in the hospital and how they were not able to communicate with the medical professionals. I felt guilty knowing I could help them and hadn't finished the work," Gibson said. "It gave me the incentive I needed, and it's been especially meaningful to hear from so many people how much the journal helped them."

Released in November 2011, pilot sales of the journal have been strong. As a speaker at the 2012 California Hospital Volunteer Leadership Conference, Gibson gave a copy to each of the conference's 500 attendees. The journal is now in hospital gift shops throughout California. It is available locally at Sundance Bookstores or online at www.the-caregivers-journal.com.

According to Gibson, the many requests she's had to turn the printed journal into an application for smart phones and tablets prompted her to enter Project Vesto.

Open only to Nevada residents for start-up or early stage for-profit businesses, Project Vesto's 12 finalists will compete for $100,000 in the winner-take-all competition. The competition is coordinated by the Nevada Institute for Renewable Energy Commercialization with funding from the Nevada Governor's Office of Economic Development.

Project Vesto participants were required to submit a one-page Business Model Canvas based upon Alex Osterwalker's nine building blocks of business: customer segments, value propositions, channels, customer relationship, revenue streams, key resources, key activities, key partnerships and cost structure. They made five-minute pitches followed by five minutes of questions and answers to panels of judges in Reno or Las Vegas made up of potential investors and venture capitalists who determined the finalists. The Project Vesto winner will be selected by an online voting process at www.ves.to which will be scheduled soon.

"The judges said the app was greatly needed and encouraged me to move forward with it," Gibson said. "I will create the app whether I win the competition or not. It will just happen faster with the $100,000 prize money."

Gibson said she is developing future printed journals or apps specifically for pediatrics, cancer and hospice patients.


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