Student Spotlight: Christian Leonard
Christian Leonard, a Master’s student in the Robotics program and a 2021- 2022 ELP fellow, believes his interest in entrepreneurship grew out of a combination of leadership opportunities and previous experiences.
“It was the excitement and the passion of helping others succeed and having our group achieve our goal that motivated me to keep moving in the direction of leadership.”
While working at the real estate office as a 16-year-old teenager, Christian learned to speak up and advocate for himself when he was surrounded by professionals who were seemingly more successful and experienced than him. He learned the importance of a leader in helping those who seem out of place, feel like they belong.
During the summer of 2019, Christian was diagnosed with epilepsy and his mother was seriously injured in a tragic car accident. For many months after the two earth-shaking and life-changing experiences, his life was consumed by hospitals, doctors, EMTs, firefighters and physical therapists for whom he was extremely grateful.
“This easily taught me the most about life and about myself. I learned the value of practicing gratitude each and every day. I learned how resilient my spirit is, even if my body may not be at times. I learned to appreciate and become an advocate for therapy. I learned about the preciousness and fragility of life and the difficulties and challenges of disability,” Christian said.
Through his position as a student body president of Park University, he was given the opportunity to speak at their opening convocation to share his learnings from his experiences that summer. He helped raise a great deal of awareness about disability and equality, about challenge and triumph, and the impact one can have when given the platform to do so.
“It was here that my interest in entrepreneurship really began to shine through. I saw the difference that could be made by applying myself and trying to make the world a better place by creating something I could be proud of,” Christian said. “I could utilize all the past lessons I had learned through everything I’d overcome to shape my community, advocate for others, and use my passion for leadership and innovation to give back to those who had helped me through so much in my times of need.”
By the time he arrived at UMich, he had decided that he wanted to pursue entrepreneurship in some form here. Not knowing how to begin, he reached out to Professor Nick Cucinelli to know more about his incredible experiences and expertise with technology ventures. Professor Nick Cucinelli recommended him to check out the Entrepreneurs Leadership Program. While signing up for courses, he noticed that the ELP courses were incredibly detailed and seemed to be exactly what he was looking for.
“My time within the CFE has been one the best parts of my Master’s program, by far. As an ELP fellow, I went from only having ambitions of pursuing entrepreneurship to now being in the early stages of starting a company. The connections, the opportunities, the insights – the ELP experience is unmatched at getting students up to speed and ahead of the curve when it comes to founding, leading, and understanding a business.”
With a Bachelors in Mathematics and pursuing a Masters in Robotics, the last thing that Christian had anticipated was that he would create a start-up centered around healthcare experience. But after participating in the ELP, he couldn’t see himself doing anything else for his immediate future. “It perfectly aligns with my past experiences, with my need to give back to my community, and allows me to help do my part in advocating for others,” Christian said.
Christian plans to pursue his start-up goal of launching his medical ID company, Juno. Juno aims to provide those living with chronic health conditions, disabilities, allergies, and complex medical issues with a greater sense of comfort and confidence when going about their daily lives.
“My goal with Juno is to provide a more complete medical ID experience by improving upon the information-sharing capabilities of traditional engraved medical bracelets or necklaces. I also plan to put the word ‘jewelry’ back in medical jewelry with the goal of creating pieces that allow for a sense of empowerment and self-expression – to create something that people feel like they want to wear, not that they have to wear.”
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