Duke student, inspired by professor's seminars, starts new business during COVID-19 pandemic

Ed Crump Image
Wednesday, December 16, 2020
Duke student starts business during COVID-19 pandemic
A Duke student started a brand new business during the COVID-19 pandemic after listening to a seminar from one of his professors.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Duke student started a brand new business during the COVID-19 pandemic after listening to a seminar from one of his professors.

"Did I think I would be starting a business at the start of second year?" Yahya Remtulla asked rhetorically. "No."

Remtulla is pursuing a master's in business at Duke. But before finishing his studies, he's launched a brand new business.

"There's so much uncertainty in every aspect of a business during COVID-19," he said outside Duke's Fuqua School of Business.

Back in October, ABC11 introduced you to Jamie Jones, a professor at Duke. She said new businesses are often born from tough economic times--something she called the Great Resets.

Well Remtulla is one of her students.

"She was looking at opportunities and historical opportunities that usually come around with pandemic or a major event change," Remtulla said.

Remtulla had already been considering a business response to the pandemic and when he heard Jones' seminars in March and April, he decided to pull the trigger.

All of the new demand for preventative measures and devices to combat the coronavirus caught Remtulla's attention, especially when he saw people obeying the handwashing rules and then picking up their smart phones.

"You'll go wash your hands but the germs are still on the phone. So you put that back in your pocket, and you wash your hands, you touch your phone again, you've got germs back on your hand," Remtulla said. "So people weren't looking at that aspect of the problem."

He did some research and came across UV-C sanitizing lights.

He then sought out people at Duke from hospital and health experts to engineers with PhD's.

With their guidance he designed what he calls the Doctor's Choice UV Sterilizer.

It uses ultraviolet LED light to remove germs from items that are zipped inside a fabric-covered box that's 10 inches wide, 5.5 inches tall and 7 inches deep.

Although federal agencies have not authorized or verified claims that UV products kill the coronavirus, sales of Remtulla's product are still soaring.

"If it wasn't for the pandemic I wouldn't have known this great technology existed," he said.

Weirdly, both thanks to and despite the pandemic, Remtulla is already an entrepreneur and he hasn't yet completed his MBA.

It was a business opportunity that couldn't wait he said pointing out, "Everyone's dream is to have a viable business that is also helping and impacting lives. I believe that's kind of what our purpose is. So the fact that I was able to find such an opportunity is really what motivates me."

Although Remtulla is sharing the UV sanitation space with competitors, he believes his product's many unique features make it stand out from the crowd.

Plus, if further testing can eventually convince government agencies that UV-C light does effectively kill the virus that causes COVID-19, he thinks business will only improve.