BG goes ‘back to the egg’ with ‘The Hatch’

Twelve students break out new business ideas April 9

hatch-finalists

By: Ed Hunter

Year two of the student entrepreneurial program “The Hatch” is shaping up to be even bigger and better than the inaugural event. Developed by The Dallas-Hamilton Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at BGSU, this “Shark Tank”-like competition raises the stakes in 2014, putting more “real money” on the line as 12 students are slated to pitch their business plans to a panel of actual investors – live in front of more than 1,000 expected attendees and thousands of online viewers.

While other universities have similar events, BGSU is the only one in the United States that awards actual startup funds for student entrepreneurs.

It’s an event that Kirk D. Kern, director of the Dallas-Hamilton Center, promises will deliver a unique experience for both the student and the audience.

It’s really a ‘win-win-win.’ The students win. They get guidance. The University wins because they are developing the student and they are developing a business. And the local community wins because ultimately some of these businesses are going to start and thrive here.”

- Mentor Bob Venzel, Venzel Communications
“This event is quickly becoming something that the entire campus looks forward to being a part of,” he said. “Students from all majors are welcome to participate. This isn’t limited to just College of Business students, so the event generates excitement for everyone.

“This year, out of the 100 ideas that were submitted, we selected 12 entries, so you know it’s pretty exclusive,” Kern said. “It’s important to remember that, unlike in other competitions, the investors are not here to award a ‘gift.’ They are doing it as an investment.”

The “unexpected” is one of things to expect at “The Hatch.” Entrant Krysten Jablonowski experienced this firsthand when she was funded for her “Cribs on Campus” business (her startup plan to deliver futons, microwaves and mini-fridges to students on campus) in 2013.

“Last year, the celebration started and then my mentor called me and said, ‘Yes, I’ll definitely be in for that last ten-thousand. Let’s get this rolling.’ So it was a very surreal moment,” Jablonowski said.

Supporters of “The Hatch” have said that, as valuable as the program is for students, it perhaps means as much to mentors as it does to the University and the local economy as well. Bob Venzel ’76, a 2014 mentor now in his second year, spoke of the pioneering nature of the program and its impact on Bowling Green.

“It’s really a ‘win-win-win.’ The students win. They get guidance. The University wins because they are developing the student and they are developing a business,” Venzel said. “And the local community wins because ultimately some of these businesses are going to start and thrive here.”

“The Hatch” is first and foremost a real competition, so it is going to produce its share of winners, as well as those who will be forced back to the drawing board.

Kyle Dickman, a 2013 “Hatch” finalist, has these words of advice for this year’s competitors: “Eliminate anything that is not absolutely necessary. That way, you’re asking investors for what you need instead of what you want.”

That spirit extends to this year’s group of finalists. As 2014 competitor Jerrod Witt said, “You can’t pay for what I’ve learned. It’s been the culmination of my entire college career.”

In addition to serving as a “Hatch” mentor, Mariana Mitova, a lecturer in the School of Family and Consumer Sciences, shared her son’s and her time assisting Witt, whose business plan is based on creating a mobile application for use by the visually impaired. Mitova’s 12-year-old son, Alex, has been blind since birth.

“For Alex, it’s just exciting that he’s the expert adviser in this — helping give Jerrod a unique perspective on how blind people do things,” Mitova said.

“You can’t pay for what I’ve learned. It’s been the culmination of my entire college career.”Not every student will come away from “The Hatch” with funding and be declared a winner, but then, there really are no losers, either. Morgan Nicole Smith, one of this year’s 12 contestants, says she plans to continue her efforts regardless of the outcome.

“If I don’t get funding from that board of investors, there are a lot of other people interested,” Smith said.

Even if 2014 finalist Robert Striblen doesn't get funding for his idea, a belt system for boxes and plastic totes that it turns any box into a TSA approved suitcase, he will still come away with the lesson of a lifetime. "I've learned that passion for your vision can become a successful reality."

Fellow 2014 “The Hatch” finalist, Alan Michael Eschweiler, echoes that sentiment, saying, “If you really believe in what you are working on and can show proven value, investors will fall in line … you might be surprised how a simple connection can really propel your business.”

“The Hatch” will take place on April 9, 2014 in the Lenhart Grand Ballroom of the Bowen-Thompson Student Union. You can register for the event at www.bgsu.edu/thehatch.

2014 “The Hatch” Finalists:

Loren Branch (Junior, College of Education and Human Development) is pitching an exclusive line of pocketed t-shirts featuring Detroit-themed artwork with a percentage of generated revenue donated to Detroit-area charities and organizations.

Nicole Braxton (Senior, College of Business) is presenting a business plan for a travel-inspired, internationally themed dining establishment incorporating international cuisine and entertainment from around the world.

Alan Eschweiler (Sophomore, College of Business) is presenting a mobile application that sends text alerts and sales messages to customers based on their proximity to corresponding products within a target retail location. 

Caitlin Flack (Fourth-year student, College of Arts and Sciences) is pitching a business idea for a cell phone charger that harnesses kinetic energy generated from the motion of pushing a shopping cart in grocery stores.

Taylor Frazer (Sophomore, College of Business) is appearing with a new textbook highlighter product that allows the user to temporarily mark rented textbooks without leaving permanent ink marks.

Stefan Grdic (Senior, College of Health and Human Services) is presenting an idea for interchangeable gloves that attach to coats providing more insulation and warmth.

Grant Kirkey (Freshman, College of Business) is pitching a concept behind the development of a disposable plate, also designed to hold a cup, in a new, reinvented approach to an established idea.

Angela Lucarelli (Freshman, College of Business) is introducing a concept that provides undergraduates with an inexpensive way to rent professional clothing as needed.

Sara Scacchi (Freshman, College of Business) is presenting a lightweight, protective glove (including a detachable and refillable eraser) for artists to help them prevent smudges while fixing their mistakes.

Morgan Smith (Freshman, College of Business) is presenting a mobile application for residence hall students allowing them to check the availability of washers and dryers, as well as set timers and notifications.

Robert Striblen (Student, BGSU Firelands) is pitching the idea of a prototype belt system for boxes and plastic totes—a visionary concept that will turn any box into a suitcase.

Jerrod Witt (Junior, College of Business) is presenting an easy-to-use RFID location device for use by the visually impaired to make navigating through unfamiliar places easier, aimed at public businesses, buildings and universities.