Providing Comfort to the Challenges of Being an Ostomate: Stealth Belt

Strawberry Creek Ventures caught up with Stealth Belt VP, Collin Jarvis, to learn about his own personal journey with colitis.

The road that took Collin Jarvis to Stealth Belt, the leader in high quality, custom ostomy support belts, was a painful one. Collin was an active athlete at UC Berkeley for middle and long distance running and competed for the Golden Bears in Cross Country, and Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field. But as his third year at Cal wrapped up, he started to experience severe pain and anemia that nearly killed him.

Collin was eventually diagnosed with ulcerative colitis — a form of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)— and by March of 2014, he was left with few alternatives other than surgery to remove his large intestine. The procedure is called an “ileostomy,” and it involves pulling the end of the small intestine through a hole in the abdomen so it can empty into an ostomy bag attached to the side of the body. Faced with this new lifestyle, Collin discovered a business opportunity.

Together with CEO Richard O’Hamill, Collin has helped create and promote a custom ostomy support belt designed to securely and discreetly place an ostomy appliance against your body that also allows easy access to your ostomy.

Strawberry Creek Ventures sat down with Collin to learn about how he turned his pain into success.

For people that don’t know, what is an ostomy?

It’s a surgical procedure that creates an opening in the abdominal wall for the body to get rid of waste. It’s used to treat certain diseases that attack the digestive and urinary systems.

How hard was the decision to have the surgery?

It was very difficult for me both as a young person and an athlete. But the benefit of the surgery was that I was no longer sick and could return to my normal life.

What did you do after the surgery? Were you able to return to your previous lifestyle?

Yes. I went back to Cal and finished my academic career. I was also awarded a medical hardship year of eligibility to compete in the NCAA.

Are there other people in the NCAA with an ostomy?

From my searches online, I was the only NCAA D1 athlete competing with one. There was also little information out there that I could find to help someone in my position pursuing athletics as seriously as I was.

I recognized this as a potential way that I could bring together two seemingly unrelated things that I had become passionate about: Running and helping others navigate through the difficult realities of having an ostomy.

How did you spread awareness about this sensitive topic?

I took every opportunity that I could to talk about my goal of promoting a healthy and active lifestyle among the ostomy community. Promoting my story led to getting in touch with a Stanford graduate and his friend who pitched the idea of helping me start a company, which eventually became Hurdle Barriers LLC.

What was the mission of Hurdle Barriers?

To help facilitate the transition to an active and fulfilling lifestyle after major medical events. Our first initiative was to partner with Stealth Belt. I had found their belts and used them with great success to continue my running career, and we felt strongly about the business potential they had to help a lot of people who have ostomies.

What do you do in your role as the VP of Marketing an Operations at Stealth Belt?

We are still a small business, so my role in the company is broad. I regularly attend medical conferences and ostomy support groups as a motivational speaker, and help promote Stealth Belt. I also help oversee the day-to-day operations at our office, and make the final decisions on marketing initiatives to help stimulate sustainable growth for the company.

In addition, I have continued my running career and compete in a “Stealth Belt” jersey, running at major events such as the Boston Marathon to help raise awareness about ostomies to the general public as a whole.

What is your vision for Stealth Belt?

I want to get Stealth Belt into the hands of everyone who would benefit from having one. In the United States alone, there are over one million people in the ostomy community. I also want to become a reliable and trustworthy source of information to people who have new ostomies so that they may return to their normal lives.

See all of the active things that you can do with a Stealth Belt:

To learn more about Strawberry Creek Ventures, or investing alongside UC Berkeley alumni, follow the link.

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