Creative Careers: Liz Clayborne, MD, FACEP Founder and CEO of NasaClip

Exploring Unique Careers in Emergency Medicine

Dr. Liz Clayborne didn’t set out to become an entrepreneur. She had her mind set on academic emergency medicine, with specific interests in health policy, medical ethics, and health disparities. The spark that ignited her entrepreneurial journey was a common problem when she was an EM resident at George Washington University: nosebleeds. So many nosebleeds.

She was taping together some tongue depressors for yet another nosebleed when she thought, “We have inventions for everything. There is a device for everything. I cannot believe there is nothing truly in the market that helped deal with nosebleeds.” She had an idea for a device inspired by kayak nose clips that she thought might work, and one of her attendings encouraged her to pursue her idea further by applying for the GW business plan competition. She worked on her patents and intellectual property for what would become NasaClip, but she put it all on hold because life got busy with marriage, parenthood, and an active academic career.

Dr. Clayborne knew she would have to dedicate herself to pursuing her product idea or it would never make it off the backburner. She made the bold decision to enroll in the TEDCO accelerator program during her maternity leave in 2020 because that specific program required full-time enrollment, and the only way she could pull it off was during leave. Somehow, she made it work, finishing that 12-week program with the capital and executive support she needed to get her company off the ground.

Fast-forward to July 2023, the official launch of her nosebleed management device. It came after two rounds of funding during which Dr. Clayborne raised $1.1 million. She’s been relentlessly persistent in pursuit of her dream to join the very small club of Black woman entrepreneurs, learning a lot along the way. “I really have honed my skills of being able to clearly communicate my problem, what my solution is, why my business is going to be successful, and why I am the type of founder that my investors want to get behind and back financially,” she said.  

It hasn’t been easy, but she said it has been exciting. “That three-year period between 2020 and 2023 when I launched was still the most challenging because you are always juggling still doing clinical work, and I also think you have an internal battle—am I going to give up this profession that I spent so much time and effort to become?”

For Dr. Clayborne, she stepped down her clinical work gradually until deciding to go PRN in April 2023. Now she dedicates most of her time to growing her company and is in the middle of a $4 million seed raise to grow NasaClip into new territory, perhaps as an intranasal medication delivery platform. Her goal for the next 12 months is to grow product awareness in the clinician and consumer markets while building an internal infrastructure to sustain growth on NasaClip.com.

How does Dr. Clayborne “do it all” as a business owner and mother of two kids under four? It can be exhausting, she admits, but she protects her Mondays as rest days, and she makes a point to celebrate her little wins along the way. One little win coming up that she’s looking forward to? Debuting her product as an exhibitor at ACEP23!

Though she’s focused on growing her company for now, she is already thinking about her exit strategy. Dr. Clayborne wants to use her entrepreneurial success to inspire others, both as a keynote speaker and as an angel investor.

“I’d love to be able to have that capital to reinvest in other women and people of color,” she said. “I truly think this is a way to build true generational wealth within these communities that historically have not had good access to capital in this country.”

She has two pieces of advice for fellow emergency physicians who have a business idea they want to pursue. “You have to believe in yourself first. If you don’t truly believe in your idea and you don’t believe in yourself, you aren’t going to get anyone else to back. You have to have that enthusiasm first. That fire has to come from you,” she said. “The second one is just take one step forward instead of thinking about the 20 steps that you need to accomplish in order to maybe make this idea come to fruition. Think about what are the three most immediate steps I need to take to get to the next level and work on those.”

Five Fun Things with Dr. Clayborne

Currently watching: I watch junk trash TV like the Real Housewives when I need to not think about anything, and that usually happens instead of sleeping. Then every morning I wake up and say to myself, ‘I should have just gone to bed.’

Listening to: The “Founders” Podcast. The host reads autobiographies or biographies about famous founders and translates it into what the key takeaways are with an entrepreneurial lens.

Candy you’re stealing from your daughters’ Halloween haul? I like Butterfingers… I cannot see myself going to the store and buying, you know what I mean? It is kind of like you judge yourself. Am I really buying a Butterfinger right now?

Drinking: I’m half Irish! I will have a good scotch and cigar. I like McAllen in particular.

Looking forward to: Closing this next round of fundraising…It’s an extraordinarily difficult time to fundraise period right now with the economy and interest rates and the SVB bank situation…I’m looking forward to meeting this huge milestone.