Genesee County entrepreneur aims to create a product to prevent smoke inhalation

Louella Jamerson knows what it’s like to wake up to a home full of smoke, desperate to find fresh air. Thankfully, she was able to quickly extinguish the fire in her home and get outside before her lungs filled with smoke. But not everyone is that lucky.

Years later, she remembers being saddened by news accounts of children dying of smoke inhalation after their family’s home caught on fire. Jamerson believed there had to be something that could help. That was when she came up with the concept for Your Breath of Life, a portable kit to prevent smoke inhalation.

“Your Breath of Life is a life-saving design. It’s easy to put on in seconds, keeps your hands free, and gives you and your family a fighting chance to get out alive,” said Jamerson, who resides in Mt. Morris, Michigan. “Had I had something like Your Breath of Life, it would have been different. I would have been able to put it on and not inhale so much smoke. I didn’t want someone else to experience that, especially children.”

On Aug. 6, Jamerson won the $5,000 first-place prize in the 100K Ideas’ Pitch For $K competition, bringing her one step closer to making her idea a reality. She plans to use the money to file for a patent, register her business, design a website and begin working on a prototype.

A screen capture of the virtual video competition featuring Louella Jamerson on the call with her presentation in the middle of the screen.

Louella Jamerson presented alongside five other entrepreneurs during a virtual Pitch For $K competition on Aug. 6, 2020.
Photo: Sarah Schuch

When placed over the head, the equipment would cover the eyes, nose and mouth, while allowing the person using it to breathe in fresh air. It would protect individuals from harmful smoke and give them time to get to safety.

Jamerson hopes to make her product affordable for anyone who wants it. She believes it should be available in every room of a house, dorm or business.

Jamerson won the first in a series of three virtual pitch competitions hosted by 100K Ideas and funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. The second-place winner received $2,500, and the third-place winner received $1,000. This series also includes a People’s Choice Award of $1,000.

The Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce partnered with 100K Ideas to help participants succeed. Chamber staff identified mentors for each of the entrepreneurs and helped choose the judges. University of Michigan–Flint Outreach also facilitated a pitch clinic for those chosen to present their ideas.

“In the midst of everything going on in the world, we are excited to continue Pitch For $K. During times like these is when innovation flourishes, and Pitch For $K is a way to support innovators and entrepreneurs working to move forward,” said Brandee Cooke-Brown, director of operations at 100K Ideas. “Even when we can’t be in person, our ability to connect is still strong, and our first virtual Pitch For $K proved that.”

Flint and Genesee County innovators can apply for the second virtual pitch competition through Sept. 18 at www.thepitch4k.com.

“We encourage anyone with an idea to apply to participate in Pitch For $K,” Cooke-Brown said. “It doesn’t matter what stage you’re in; this is a competition designed to help your ideas move forward. We’ve proven regardless of whether we’re in person or virtual, an impact can be made.”

Now a Pitch For $K winner, Jamerson will continue working with 100K Ideas on next steps. She said her victory was a team effort.

“Without 100K Ideas’ guidance and help, I would just be a person with an idea struggling to put it together,” Jamerson said. “There was no way I could have done that without them. They provided me with a mentor. They provided me with instruction. I can’t just celebrate me — we won.”

Jamerson encourages anyone who has an idea to apply to compete in Pitch For $K, because she knows the experience is well worth it.

“You are not going by yourself. 100K Ideas, along with the mentors and coaches, are going to provide you with everything you need to be successful and to be a strong competitor,” Jamerson said. “You don’t have anything to lose. I’ve always had ideas. I just didn’t know where to go.”

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