Elizabeth “Ellie” Carlson planned on spending this summer doing research on rare genetic diseases at Duke University as part of a project that her late aunt, Marcy Speer began a couple of decades ago. But then the pandemic hit and the summer research internship was cancelled.
Carlson, a 21-year-old rising senior at DePauw University and a Riverside native, got the bad news in late April when she was finishing up her semester from her parents’ home in Wayzata, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis.
The biochemistry major and premed student began looking for something else to do this summer. She didn’t really want to spend her summer at her parent’s home in Minnesota where she hardly knew anyone, so she began looking for something to do in Indianapolis where some college friends of hers were spending the summer the summer.
One friend, Carter Gillie had an internship at a small marketing company. Carlson and two other of her closest friends, whose summer internships had also fallen through, joined Gillie at the beginning of June and got to work developing a product line called Sanitize Your Semester to sell hand sanitizer, masks, and surface cleaner to college and high school students.
Carlson, who grew up in a home on Gatesby Road in Riverside and was a standout swimmer at Fenwick High School, built the product line’s website as the four DePauw students began formulating and executing a business plan. They worked from an office in a warehouse.
“It’s doing different things from anything that I expected to be doing this summer or anything I’ve ever done in the past, but it’s been a really awesome experience because I probably would never be able to work in a field like this considering I’m going to med school,” Carlson said. “It’s taught me a lot about how to work with people, more than anything, and how to figure out what they want and how to market to them.”
The product line, available at sanitizeyoursemester.com, consists of hand sanitizer, surface cleaner and surgical masks. Customers can make one-time purchases or purchase a subscription to have a box of sanitizer, surface cleaner and surgical masks delivered to your door every three, six, or 12 months. Prices range from $40.50 for a three-month subscription to $156 for a 12-month subscription.
Since Carlson and two of her colleagues are not being paid a salary, they get a 10-percent commission on each item sold. So far their customers have been mostly friends and family, but they are looking to expand their customer base.
When not working on Sanitize Your Semester this summer, Carlson studied for the MCAT, the admissions test for medical school. The first week of July she drove home to Minnesota and took the five-and-a-half hour exam at a testing center where all test takers had to wear a mask throughout.
“It was not fun,” Carlson said of taking the test while wearing a mask. “It made it really difficult.”