Candice Blacknall and Chima Odinkemere have been teammates from the beginning. From studying for their licensing exams, to entering the MD/MBA program together and now, becoming co-founders of their business GABA, the two Georgia Institute of Technology and Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) MD/MBA students are well on their way to graduating with a dual degree and a flourishing company.
“Chima and I worked together to study for our licensing exam, so we had a really strong professional relationship and a great friendship,” Blacknall said. “When we heard about the MD/MBA program we were really excited. One thing we said to each other is that we want to come out of the other side of this with a business that we can use to give back.”
Blacknall and Odinkemere are a part of the second class of MD/MBAs at the Scheller College of Business. Scheller partnered with Morehouse to offer a joint, five-year dual degree that allows students to complete their first three years as medical students and then enter Scheller for a one year, three-semester MBA program prior to returning to MSM to complete their fourth year of medical studies.
Not only have Blacknall and Odinkemere finished what was supposed to be three semesters of an MBA program in just two semesters, the two were recently accepted into Georgia Tech’s CREATE-X program. CREATE-X is an initiative designed to instill entrepreneurial confidence in students and empower them to launch successful startups. Through the CREATE-X Startup Launch program, students receive a $4,000 grant and $30,000 in services including intense coaching from experienced entrepreneurs and business faculty, mentorship from industry veterans, pro-bono legal services from a full-service law-firm, free accounting services from a CPA firm, access to hundreds of investors at Demo Day and an opportunity to receive additional funding ($20K-$100K) at the end of the program.
“In order for you to become a CREATE-X company, you have to demonstrate that you not only have an idea but that you’ve also talked to your potential customers about that idea,” said Blacknall. “When you’re in the program, they assign you two coaches. These coaches not only rally around your idea but also around you as an individual entrepreneur to help you grow into the business leader you need to be in order to see your ideas through. That’s why it’s really, really cool.”
Blacknall and Odinkemere’s company is GABA, an educational technology platform designed by medical students for medical students. Through GABA, the pair addresses the national physician shortage, relying on their personal experience to develop solutions for helping those applying and going through medical school.
“It is getting more difficult to get into medical school and to get through medical school,” Odinkemere said. “That’s where GABA comes in. We are helping medical students by providing them different recommended resources, reviews, learning assessments, and more. These are things that help them understand themselves.”
Blacknall and Odinkemere’s fellow MBA students may not be as familiar with the meaning behind GABA as much as their fellow medical students.
“GABA is a neurotransmitter that functions as a signal in the brain. It does many of things including decreasing stress and anxiety, as well as foster learning,” said Odinkemere.
“I love the symbolism,” said Blacknall. “It was a very well thought out suggestion from Chima. For our customers, GABA means relieving the anxiety of not knowing how to choose the appropriate educational resources for you as an individual. It means being able to save time and money.”
The next adventure for the two teammates is the CREATE-X demo day that concludes the summer program before heading back to MSM to finish up their final year of medical school. Not only has Blacknall and Odinkemere’s company grown during their time at Scheller, they themselves have also experienced great growth.
“After going through the MBA program, my definition of world-class has changed,” Odinkemere said. “For me, world-class is not only about learning content but about having professors and people around you that take time to invest in you. It goes beyond the classroom. It’s the office hours, emails, assignments, networking, coffee chats, and more. You realize - not only am I learning and growing intellectually, I’m growing as a person.”