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Meet Grace Sturdivant

Today we’d like to introduce you to Grace Sturdivant.

Hi Grace, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstories.
Life has been a series of turns and pivots culminating in this niche profession that I never would have anticipated even 5 years ago. I grew up in Grenada, Mississippi as the daughter of an avid outdoorsman. Though I never had much of a desire to hunt, I have always had a healthy respect for shooting sports and for hunters as environmentalists and conservationists of our land and animal populations. I’ve always been musical and I experience the world largely through my ears. From my preschool nickname “Chatterbox” to my radio DJ days to piano training and vocal performances, my history has a definite soundtrack attached to it.

In college at Ole Miss, I took my first Audiology course in which we watched a documentary about a child who was born deaf and received cochlear implants. I was so moved and my life’s passion was triggered to facilitate hearing and communication for people who otherwise would live in a quiet world. I set my sights on attending the top program in the country and was delightfully surprised to gain a scholarship to the most coveted Doctor of Audiology program at Vanderbilt University. There, I devoted my doctoral research toward hearing wellness in the music industry.

Between my first and second year of doctoral work, I took a leave of absence to serve as Miss Tennessee and to compete in the Miss America competition. I had the opportunity to be employed by then-Governor Bill Haslam as the official spokesperson for the Safe and Drug-Free Tennessee and Character Counts education programs; traveling the state and speaking to schoolchildren in up to five schools a day across the great State of Tennessee.

I finished as a finalist for the Quality of Life Award for my work creating a nonprofit to provide hearing aids to children in need and finished as a finalist in the overall competition. This brief chapter impacted and shaped my life through diverse experiences with people from all walks of life. It also gave me my first experience with managing my life as an entrepreneur and as an owner of a nonprofit organization.

After finishing my degree, my husband and I moved to Jackson, Mississippi where he continues his family business. I joined the faculty as Assistant Professor of the University of Mississippi Medical Center as a clinical Audiologist in the ENT department. Eventually, I had the opportunity to serve as Vice Chief of the Audiology division. My clinical niche during this time evolved into the specialty of diagnosing and treating patients with both hearing loss and varying forms of dementia.

I became fascinated by emerging research in this area and began writing and speaking on the topic. This led to work on a research study out of Johns Hopkins, focusing on neurological changes that occur with untreated hearing loss and how those changes interplay with cognitive decline. The evidence compelled me to try to prevent those brain changes instead of simply working to treat those changes after they occur.

I started urging friends and family to make an appointment with me so that they could be fitted with quality hearing protection. I learned quickly that most people weren’t willing to take the time no matter how much evidence I was showing them. A new service delivery method was needed in order to reach people before the damage was done. That’s when OtoPro was born.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
I don’t think any entrepreneur could say that it is a smooth road. In fact, I’ve seen graphics that left me laughing at the accuracy of a zig-zagging chart illustrating the roller coaster ride of starting a business. Some days it feels like we are conquering the world and creating a legacy in this space. Many days, it’s like a game of whack-a-mole solving problems and dealing with unexpected issues. It sounds like a familiar refrain at this point—but much of 2021 presented a shortage and long delay of the most popular product I offer. Saving the less exciting details, it led to months of uncertainty and problem solving on behalf of my clients.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
OtoPro is a concierge-style service delivery model for hearing protection. As a Doctor of Audiology, I constantly research products available on the market and bring my clients a curated list of the highest quality offerings at varying price points.

OtoPro consults on an individual basis to determine the ideal product and then sources custom earmold impressions necessary to custom-build those products from varying manufacturers. We make the process seamless, efficient, and easy for each client and remain on-call to ensure proper fit and function for the long haul.

Our mission is hearing conservation so you can continue to enjoy the things you love. No matter your needs—whether you’re a hunter, swimmer, pilot, motorcyclist, musician, construction worker, physician, or light sleeper, we will ensure your custom earmold fits perfectly and aligns with your lifestyle.

So maybe we end on discussing what matters most to you and why?
In business, what matters most to me is to bring the need for hearing protection to the forefront. To shine a light on largely un-marketed products which can fit comfortably, make loud activities more enjoyable, and provide hearing protection at the same time.

I strive to move the academic/medical/audiology communities to focus on hearing protection as the starting point for the continuum of care, focusing on hearing wellness and not waiting until treatment is necessary.

In life, my family and my faith matter most.

Pricing:

  • OtoPro pricing ranges from $125-$1600. Products and pricing change as new technologies come to market. Click the SHOP tab on www.OtoProTechnologies.com for current products and pricing.

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