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Network power Featured

8:00pm EDT June 28, 2001
Strolling near his home in Pompano Beach, Fla., Bob Roth saw an elderly man about his age collapse while riding a bicycle near the beach.

The man was unconscious. Roth called for an ambulance, but could find no information about the man to give to the paramedics once they arrived.

It's strange where and when the entrepreneurial spark hits. It hit Roth when he witnessed that incident.

For years, he carried in his pocket a handwritten, laminated card listing his medical conditions in case he was ever involved in an accident like the one he witnessed. If this man had a prior medical condition, Roth thought, no one would know until he reached a hospital. Precious minutes would be wasted.

Roth called his daughter, Diane Helbig, Cleveland, a marketing representative for Applied Laser Technologies in Cleveland.

''He said, 'I have this idea,''' Helbig recalls. '''I said, that's great, let's do it.' Then we found a company in Florida that would make the cards for us.''

Helbig and her father formed MyMedi-Card Inc. shortly after the incident on the beach. Aside from the basic name, address, phone and blood type information, the card lists medications, allergies and current medical conditions, and whether the cardholder has a living will or is an organ donor. It also contains detailed insurance and pharmacy information.

''This is the 21st century's answer to the Medic Alert bracelet,'' Helbig says. ''It's much more comprehensive.''

Working the network
The main challenge facing MyMedi-Card was spreading the word and getting people and organizations interested. The task was even greater due to the company's very limited marketing budget.

That's when Helbig started flipping through her Rolodex and picked up the phone. She called sales and marketing contacts she'd made over the years. She rung friends and family who could recommend the card at their companies, PTA meetings, senior centers and charitable organizations where they were involved.

Helbig sent out e-mails about the card to friends and colleagues. People in her professional network told others in their networks, and pockets of interest started to form all over the country.

''Fortunately, we knew a lot of people,'' Helbig says. ''I e-mailed them and explained what we were doing, then asked them to visit the site and give me feedback if they thought it was a good idea. There are a lot of people who have a lot of contacts and, as a matter of fact, we didn't even ask them to sell it. They came to me and said 'I'd really like to sell this thing.'''

Such is the power of networking.

How to reach: MyMedi-Card Inc., (866) 696-3341

MyMedi-Card website