Meet the Hatchlings
This year’s Hatchlings represent two countries, five states and five colleges within the University. Their business ideas focus on everything from sports, early childhood development and gerontology to wearable technology and better animal care.
These finalists were selected from more than 100 applicants. Over the coming weeks, they will perfect their pitches for The Hatch on Thursday, April 19, when they present their business ideas to investors in a live-audience extravaganza. This event, in BGSU’s Perry Field House, is free and open to the public; join us!
Hannah Barth, junior
College of Education and Human Development
Hannah Barth, of Upper Sandusky, Ohio, is a junior majoring in inclusive early childhood education through the College of Education and Human Development. After graduation, she plans to teach preschool.
Along with her business partner, Elyse Blau, the team created Pop-Up Palace, a play structure that is easily assembled, disassembled and modified to reflect a child’s changing developmental needs. It is designed for children 12 to 24 months old, offering opportunities to develop fine motor tactile skills, along with stimulating gross motor skills and physical activity with a slide and swing. Even while the Pop-up Palace is disassembled, a chalkboard on one wall is available for children to access. Additional sides and attachments can be purchased separately, offering new, developmentally appropriate options as children grow.
Hatch fact: Hannah remains active in her hometown community even as a college student living an hour away.
Elyse Blau, junior
College of Education and Human Development
Elyse Blau, of Framingham, Massachusetts, is a junior majoring in early childhood education through the College of Education and Human Development. She is a campus tour guide through the office of Admissions; social chair for Hillel, a Jewish student organization; and a member of the multicultural sorority, Sigma Lambda Gamma. After graduation, she plans to earn a master’s degree to become a child life specialist.
Along with her business partner, Hannah Barth, the team created Pop-Up Palace, a play structure that is easily assembled, disassembled and modified to reflect a child’s changing developmental needs. It is designed for children 12 to 24 months old, offering opportunities to develop fine motor tactile skills, along with stimulating gross motor skills and physical activity with a slide and swing. Even while the Pop-up Palace is disassembled, a chalkboard on one wall is available for children to access. Additional sides and attachments can be purchased separately, offering new, developmentally appropriate options as children grow.
Hatch fact: Elyse enjoys rock climbing and aerial silks.
Nick Bundy, junior
Schmidthorst College of Business
Nick Bundy, of Westerville, Ohio is a junior double-specializing in finance and sales and services marketing with a minor in entrepreneurship through the Schmidthorst College of Business. At BGSU, he founded the Financial Investing Club, of which he is president.
Along with his business partner, Jacob Hauter, the team created Saflee, a hybrid of a traditional safe and a disaster kit. During natural disaster evacuation efforts, when every minute can mean a difference between life and death, families struggle to organize critical items as well as cherished personal belongings. Saflee makes it easy to grab survival products like ponchos and water purification tablets, along with family heirlooms and important documents.
Hatch fact: Nick has started two business ventures since coming to BGSU.
Sara Clark, senior
College of Education and Human Development
Sara Clark, of Bowling Green, Ohio, is a senior in the College of Education and Human Development, majoring in intervention along with dual education licensure for K-12 students with mild-to-moderate and moderate-to-severe disabilities. Sara is a four-year member and two-time Top 5 regional competitor on BGSU’s Equestrian Team. She was also a 4-H Advisor and Horse Bowl Coach and has spent many hours teaching children about horses and proper horsemanship.
Sara’s project, Magnahalter, eliminates buckles and clasps on horses’ halters, replacing them with Velcro and magnets. This makes the equipment more accessible to equestrians of all abilities, as well as offering an easier way to put on and take off halters in the winter while wearing gloves.
Hatch fact: Sara is student-teaching at Findlay High School, working with students with emotional and behavioral disorders.
Olivier Ernst, graduate student
Schmidthorst College of Business
Olivier Ernst, of Sint-Kruis, Belgium, is pursuing his MBA in the Schmidthorst College of Business. He graduated from Artevelde University College in Ghent, Belgium, a BGSU partner, with an undergraduate degree in international business management. On BGSU’s campus, he is the treasurer of We Are One Team (WA1T), which has won an NCAA Diversity and Inclusion Award.
Olivier's business idea is Suppleo, a supplement dispenser designed for athletic and workout environments. It contains multiple supplements and flavor agents, which it dispenses in pre-measured amounts to cups of water. This allows coaches and athletes to easily organize and track supplement use.
Hatch fact: Olivier completed an exchange semester at BGSU and fell in love with the University so much that he returned to complete his MBA here.
Kristen Grom, senior
College of Technology, Architecture and Applied Engineering
Kristen Grom, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a senior majoring in visual communication technology in BGSU’s College of Technology, Architecture and Applied Engineering. Kristen is a student ambassador for her college and additionally has partnered with BGSU’s Army ROTC program to create promotional materials. Off campus, she has volunteered over 200 hours with the Wood County Humane Society.
Kristen’s business idea, Power Play, is an app-controlled dog toy that allows owners to control the toy from smart devices. It offers a new way for owners to interact with their dogs, especially owners who face mobility issues or want to encourage their dogs to exercise during undesirable weather.
Hatch fact: Kristen operates a successful eBay business, has completed three internships and has won a national writing award from Scholastic Publishing House.
Jacob Hauter, junior
Schmidthorst College of Business
Jacob Hauter, of Pettisville, Ohio, is a junior majoring in marketing and business analytics with a minor in entrepreneurship through the Schmidthorst College of Business. He is a member of the American Marketing Association and the BGSU Running Club. After graduation, Jacob plans to pursue a career in market research or run his own entrepreneurial endeavor.
Along with his business partner, Nick Bundy, the team created Saflee, a hybrid of a traditional safe and a disaster kit. During natural disaster evacuation efforts, when every minute can mean a difference between life and death, families struggle to organize critical items as well as cherished personal belongings. Saflee makes it easy to grab survival products like ponchos and water purification tablets, along with family heirlooms and important documents.
Hatch fact: Jacob has started two businesses since coming to BGSU.
Marikay Mester, junior
College of Health and Human Services
Marikay Mester, of Chicago, Illinois, is a junior majoring in dietetics in the College of Health and Human Services. She is a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma, where she enjoys participating in philanthropy and service events. Marikay is also a member of the Order of Omega, an honor society focusing on leadership and intra-fraternal activities.
Marikay’s business idea is an app that makes childhood nutrition fun and interactive while providing educational tools to successfully manage dietary restrictions. Children create a virtual pet and customize it to mirror any dietary needs the children might have in real life. By caring for the pet, feeding it and interacting through educational games, children learn how to properly take care of themselves. Parents can create a linked account, allowing them to learn side-by-side with their children and to get ideas to integrate more learning experiences into their daily lives.
Hatch fact: Marikay has been a vegetarian since age 8, which influenced the creation of her business idea.
Rachael Poling, Senior
College of Health and Human Services and College of Business
Rachael Poling, of Avon, Ohio, is a senior majoring in applied health science in the College of Health and Human Services, with a minor in entrepreneurship through the Schmidthorst College of Business. After graduation, she plans to earn her Occupational Therapy Doctorate at The Ohio State University. On campus, Rachael has worked as a learning assistant in an introductory biology course and is currently employed by Woodlane Residential Services as a direct support professional.
Rachael’s business idea is a wearable device that is an early detector of geriatric diseases. By analyzing the way people walk to identify neurological defects, the device can help detect health issues sooner, creating a better quality of life for individuals affected by these diseases.
Hatch fact: Rachael has been very involved with RallyCap Sports, a student-run organization providing sports to young people with special needs.
Isaac Rogers, sophomore
Schmidthorst College of Business and Honors College
Isaac Rogers, of Bowling Green, Ohio, is a sophomore in the Schmidthorst College of Business and in the Honors College. On campus, Isaac is president of Founders Hall Residence Council. He is passionate about entrepreneurship and regularly attends The Hatch, Sebo Series and other entrepreneurial programs.
Isaac’s business idea is a web-based, interactive game for children with chronic diseases. The game is an incentive system to motivate children to learn good health habits like taking medication on time and completing specific treatments. It also has a social aspect where children interact and compete with other children who have the same chronic disease. The app improves children’s control of their disease and provides social connection and support, which could lead to improved quality of life and reduced health care costs.
Hatch fact: Isaac credits dyslexia, ADAH and cystic fibrosis with inspiring him to think and see things differently.
Gary Dible '97
Gary Dible owns Biggby Coffee franchises in Bowling Green and Maumee. Prior to this venture, he held positions of product manager, engineering manager and supply chain manager for the D.S. Brown Company, an Ohio-based bridge component manufacturer in North Baltimore, Ohio. He is actively involved in his communities both personally and professionally, and understands the key to success is giving back. Dible holds a bachelor's degree in construction management technology from Bowling Green State University.
Paul Hooker '75
In 1977, just two years after graduating from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Paul 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 over $30 million in 2011.
Hooker's tireless focus to develop new business and his attention to details have established SFERRA's leadership position in the luxury linens industry and galvanized the company's emergence into the new global economy. Today SFERRA presents the most comprehensive range of luxury home textiles for the bed, bath and table worldwide.
Hooker umpires varsity high school baseball and was the varsity baseball coach at Red Bank Catholic High School from 1974-2000. In 1990, Hooker, along with his wife, founded a not-for-profit sports program for children with disabilities, named RallyCap Sports. Today, RallyCap Sports assists over 150 families with programs in basketball, soccer, Little League softball, golf, flag football and tennis. Hooker plans to take RallyCap Sports national, making his volunteer run program available to children with special needs nationwide. He worked with BGSU student Luke Sims to launch RallyCap Sports at Bowling Green State University.
Rich Iler '80, '82
Rich Iler is a principal with Point Management Group, a consulting firm that helps clients operationalize strategy through leveraging critical elements of the supply chain, operations and technology. He is also the principal owner and chairman of a software company, Northpoint ERM. He holds two degrees from Bowling Green State University: a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a production operations and procurement/materials management major, along with an MBA in management information systems.
Laura Jajko is President at American Frame Corporation (americanframe.com), the first company to sell professional, DIY custom framing supplies and fine art printing services direct to the consumer. As a second generation leader in this family firm, Jajko has guided it’s transformation from a direct mail catalog company into a multi-channel resource for artists and photographers nationwide. As such, she is an advocate for a well-planned, strategic approach to building the American Frame brand, utilizing both high and low tech solutions for sustaining strong customer relationships while delivering a superior user experience.
Jajko is a native of Toledo, Ohio and holds degrees in International Business and Marketing from the University of Washington in Seattle. She is an active participant with the BGSU School of Art and the BGSU Foundation helping to raise $80K for the Robert D. Mazur Scholarship Fund. She also serves on the Board of the Toledo Arts Commission.
Tom Shehab, M.D. '90
Dr. Tom Shehab is a managing director of Arboretum Ventures, an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based health care venture-capital firm. He draws upon his extensive clinical, health care administration and operational experience to invest in medical device and IT-enabled health care companies that focus on improving patient outcomes while decreasing health care costs. In addition to holding an MD from Wayne State University, he earned a master’s degree in medical management from the Heinz School of Management at Carnegie Mellon University.
Bob Venzel '76, '78
Bob Venzel graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration specializing in marketing from Bowling Green State University in 1976 and an MBA from BGSU in 1978. In 1991, he became the co-owner of Venzel Communications, Inc., an advertising and public relations agency, based in Perrysburg, Ohio. The company’s work encompasses a variety of non-profit and for-profit clients in a cross-section of industries including: business, manufacturing, education, health care and municipalities.
Steve Zirkel '84
Throughout Steve Zirkel’s 30 years of executive and leadership experience, he has conducted business in more than 30 countries, traveled to over 65 countries, and lived in London, England and Tokyo, Japan.
He has leveraged that diverse experience to drive growth at several global companies from making acquisitions in Japan and Australia to innovating and launching new global products for the automotive, appliance and chemical industries and establishing vision and strategies.
Zirkel has chaired or participated in key industry conferences/symposia in North America, Europe and Asia and featured as guest lecturer to graduate and undergraduate students in International Business at BGSU.
He has served on the Board of Directors for Paramount Insurance, American Red Cross, American Chamber of Commerce in Japan, and the Planning Commission of Malvern, PA. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Schmidthorst College of Business Leadership Council at BGSU. Steve received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1984 from BGSU.
John W. Ziss, Jr. '03
John W. Ziss, Jr. is the general manager of Kurtz Bros., Inc., in Independence, Ohio. Kurtz Bros., Inc. is a multi-faceted industry leader committed to provide innovative solutions to the waste-to-resource and soil-related industries. John has 11 years of corporate finance experience. After graduating from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, finance major, he earned his MBA from the University of Notre Dame with an MBA degree in 2014.
J. Douglas Miller
Nico Cottone '92
Nico Cottone, a resident of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, is the owner/CEO of SurfTech Inc. and Euclid Refinishing Company. His background and experiences range from start-ups to ‘big 5’ management consulting. A serial entrepreneur, he has focused the last 15 years of his career on start-ups and turnarounds. Nico graduated from Bowling Green State University in 1992 with an accounting degree.
Michelle Drerup '00
Dr. Michelle Drerup is director of Behavioral Sleep Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Sleep Disorders Center. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Bowling Green State University in 2000 and completed a doctorate in clinical psychology at Indiana State University in 2005.
She focuses on the treatment of insomnia and other sleep disorders, as well as other health conditions linked to disturbed sleep. Dr. Drerup is a licensed psychologist and board certified in behavioral sleep medicine. She is involved in teaching, research and clinical services at the Cleveland Clinic. She serves on the Practice Committee of the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine and as a senior representative for the Women's Professional Staff Association at the Cleveland Clinic.
One of her most recent ventures has been development of Go! to Sleep, a six-week, web-based program to help people improve their sleep.
Michelle is married to her Falcon Flame, Matthew Yourkvitch and are the first married investors to participate in The Hatch!
Earle Malm '71
Malm began his career with RCA where he held senior executive positions in sales, marketing and general management. He was responsible for revitalizing RCA’s consumer services business, expanding RCA’s commercial television business and leading the development of new business ventures into communications and services businesses.
Prior to joining ValueClick, Malm embarked in the investment industry with GT Capital Management, Inc. Initially he was responsible for developing GT Capital’s Institutional Business and later he assumed responsibilities as Chief Operating Officer for the GT Global Mutual Funds.
After successfully completing the ValueClick IPO, Malm returned to the investment industry as President and CEO of HighMark Capital Management, Inc., a wholly-owned registered investment advisory firm of Union Bank located in San Francisco. During his tenure, Malm was chairman of HighMark’s Board of Directors, president of HighMark Funds and a trustee of the HighMark Funds Board. In addition, he was a member of HighMark’s Investment Policy Committee and a member of Union Bank’s Fiduciary Management Committee.
Since retiring from an active senior executive role in 2012, Malm has been devoting his time to entrepreneurial, consulting and advisory activities through NVMLI, Inc., his private investment company. He serves as a member of the Service Marketing Institute Business Advisory Board for the Schmidthorst College of Business Administration at Bowling Green State University (BGSU). He was one of five inaugural alumni investors in BGSU’s entrepreneurial program, “The Hatch”.
Malm earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in 1971 from Bowling Green State University. In 2008, he was honored as one of BGSU’S Accomplished Graduates from the Schmidthorst College of Business. He has been named to Who’s Who in Finance and Industry.
Brian Sokol '82, '84
After receiving his MBA from BGSU, Sokol joined Loctite and served in marketing and sales management capacities over the next nine years. As vice president of marketing, Sokol was responsible for the commercialization of automotive aftermarket products in international markets, ranging from Venezuela and Mexico to Japan and Europe.
Later, Sokol joined Blue Coral, a privately held auto appearance products business. As president, through a combination of new consumer products and innovative direct response advertising, his management team grew the company from $33 million to $76 million in annual revenue culminating in a sale to Quaker State in 1996 for over $100 million.
As a corporate executive with Quaker State Oil Company, Sokol was responsible for the acquisition and merger of four consumer products businesses, which, along with targeted marketing initiatives, resulted in a growth of the enterprise to over $150 million in revenue.
Quaker State was sold in 1998 to Pennzoil Lubricants, and Sokol was named president of the consumer products group, where he dramatically reduced costs by integrating supply chain logistics and creating a 350,000 square foot world class manufacturing/distribution facility for the specialty chemical consumer products business.
Sokol invented or co-invented six patented appearance products, and his company received numerous Vendor of the Year awards from major retail partners such as Canadian Tire, Autozone, and Advance Auto.
In 2001, Sokol founded The Idea Institute. His business created and commercialized new products for such clients as Kimberly Clark, Slazenger Golf, and Activity Targeted Supplements.
Sokol earned his MBA in 1982 from Bowling Green State University.
Mark C. West '90
Mark C. West is an executive with more than 25 years of experience in developing and implementing high-performing procurement and supply chain organizations. His proven leadership capabilities came through experience in key roles with multibillion-dollar companies, specializing in the re-engineering of procurement organizations due to mergers, acquisitions or historical underperformance.
West joined SharedClarity LLC in 2011 after serving as vice president of supply chain management for UnitedHealthcare since late 2009. He is responsible for the launch of SharedClarity, focused on improving the quality and cost of medical supplies industry-wide. SharedClarity became operational in early 2013.
From 2005 to 2009, West was executive director of supply chain management for the Cleveland Clinic Healthcare System. His re-engineering efforts challenged industry-wide health care purchasing practices, yielding bottom-line cost savings nine times historical levels. He also implemented state-of-the-art technologies to improve materials management processes, highlighted by the deployment of a new 230,000-square-foot service center.
West was also the founder and president of Purchasing Partners Incorporated, a purchasing services company dedicated to helping companies reduce their cost of acquiring goods and services. His experience also includes serving as the vice president of corporate purchasing for US Airways and corporate director of operations support for Honeywell International.
He received a Masters in Business Administration in Marketing from Cleveland State University, and a Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Management from Bowling Green State University. He is also Green Belt certified in Six-Sigma and sits on the Board of Managers for SharedClarity LLC.
MATTHEW P. YOURKVITCH '99
Matthew P. Yourkvitch, Esq. received his B.A. degree in Psychology from Bowling Green State University in 1999 and his Juris Doctorate from Cleveland Marshall College of Law.
He is a founding partner of Moore Yourkvitch & Dibo, a boutique law firm in downtown Cleveland that provides a range of legal services, including business counseling, formation, contract drafting, venture capital financing, and real estate acquisition and development.
He is passionate about the redevelopment of Cleveland and works with various community development corporations on real estate acquisition and redevelopment, tax credit financing, and small business advising. Since 2011, his law firm has been a funder and legal service provider at the Incubator at MAGNET, working with product-focused technology start-up companies in Northeast Ohio.
He has served as an adjunct professor of law at C-M Law, in the Urban Development and Transactional Law Clinic. He is a frequent speaker on community development lawyering and Nuisance Abatement Actions under O.R.C. Section 3767.41. He serves on the Board of Directors of Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation, a non-profit that serves the neighborhood surrounding the Cleveland Clinic.
Matthew is married to his Falcon Flame, Dr. Michelle Drerup-Yourkvitch and are the first married investors to participate in The Hatch!