Meet the Second Half of the 2022 Hatchlings and Their Mentors

The Hatch is a 10-week immersive program that helps students and alumni take their business ideas from their brains to the stage, all while trying to impress the judges and secure equity investments to incubate their businesses. To date, more than $800,000 has been committed to student startups.

Written by Ellie Barnett, Schmidthorst College Communications Intern

Erin Thomas

Erin Thomas Betkas, a 1998 Graham High School graduate, will be launching a gift box company she hopes will have an online presence and nationwide brand. Thomas’ business idea is an e-commerce platform that curates the products available at local businesses to create gift packages for customers who wish to support local businesses. The idea was developed when Betkas discovered there was no way to create and send gift packages comprised of local products from multiple businesses online. Her business will work with established local business co-ops throughout the country as well as curate products in cities where co-ops do not exist.

Betkas graduated from Wittenberg University in 2002 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in American Studies. After spending most of her professional life working in county government, Betkas decided to pursue further education at BGSU and is currently enrolled in the Graduate Technical Writing Certification program.

Betkas’ mentor, Eric Nowlin

Eric Nowlin is a Private Equity board member, advisor and investor. He currently serves as an operating partner and chairman of the board for Surewerx Industrial. He has previously served on the Board of Directors for American Plastics, Reliable Parts Holdings, Arrowhead Engineered Products and Questco PEO. His corporate career spanned more than 30 years, including roles as president of Grainger Canada, and leading more than 7,500 team members in Grainger’s US business in branch operations/e-commerce and inventory management. His previous corporate roles include vice president of sales (West) for Maytag and vice president of national accounts for Maytag.    

He currently resides in Corona Del Mar, California  

Suzi Saunder-O’Herron

Suzi Saunders-O’Herron, of Bowling Green, Ohio, is a doctoral student in the Leadership Studies program. On campus, Suzi works for the Office of Human Resources. Saunders-O’Herron’s business idea, Everlasting Story, is a digital living history memorial curated by individuals for their loved ones. The memorials would be filled with images, videos, stories, personally recorded messages, and more that will serve as everlasting tributes to deceased loved ones. The platform would be accessible through web browsers or QR codes laser-etched into Quartzite squares and affixed to gravestones or urns.

Through the Hatch program, Saunders-O'Herron hopes to grow her entrepreneurial skills; network with talented individuals; learn creative ways to innovate, design and launch products; and change the trajectory of her life along with the lives of her husband and children. Suzi is also a published children’s book author.

Suzi’s Mentor, Ed Leedom

Ed Leedom retired in 2019 after 30 years in the financial services industry, having served most recently as senior vice president of Harbor Funds Distributors in Chicago, IL, where he worked with endowments, foundations, retirement plans and their investment consultants. 

Leedom is a member of Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity and currently serves as treasurer for the Alpha Sigma Phi Foundation. He is also a member of the BGSU College of Business Leadership Council and the Division of Student Affairs Leadership Council. Leedom received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from BGSU and a Certified Financial Planner designation from the College for Financial Planning in Denver, CO in 1994.

Nina Tylutki

Nina Tylutki is a sophomore at Bowling Green State University studying aviation with a specialization in flight training and operations. She will be presenting a three-in-one device called the Travel Safe Anywhere (TSA). The TSA is a portable, handheld device that can be used while traveling that detects bedbugs, hidden cameras, germs, or stains. “I thought of this idea on the fly when I wanted to connect something to my future career,” says Tylutki, “The first thing I thought of was a traveling aspect and what I could create with that in mind.”

Nina looks forward to becoming an entrepreneur and furthering her experience with an exciting product. Nina hopes to become a professional pilot after graduation. “I always say, “wherever the wind takes me” (pun intended)” she said.

Her biggest goal in life is to travel the world, so she wanted to connect her product for The Hatch to her daily life. Through the Hatch program, Tylutki hopes to develop her entrepreneurial skills and eventually be able to bring TSA to market. Outside of her involvement with The Hatch, Nina is involved in Women in Aviation and Club Volleyball here at BGSU. 

Nina’s Mentor, Paul Hooker

In 1977, just two years after graduating from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Paul J. Hooker purchased the New York City-based luxury household linen importer, SFERRA, from the last of two family members who started the firm in 1891, Enrico and Albert Sferra. 

Hooker recognized the need to maintain the company's identity and encourage growth within the luxury market. With that in mind, he took SFERRA from a one-room office on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan to a 35,000-square-foot distribution facility in Edison, New Jersey, plus a beautiful showroom just off of Madison Square Park in New York City. In the process, he grew annual sales from $250,000 when he bought the business in 1977 to more than $30 million in 2011.

Hooker's tireless focus to develop new business, and his attention to detail, have established SFERRA's leadership position in the luxury linens industry and galvanized the company's emergence in the new global economy. Today SFERRA presents the most comprehensive range of luxury home textiles for the bed, bath and table in the world.

Hooker umpires varsity high school baseball and was the varsity baseball coach at Red Bank Catholic High School from 1974 to 2000. In 1990, Hooker, along with his wife, founded a not-for-profit sports program for children with disabilities, named RallyCap Sports.

Updated: 03/18/2022 03:07PM