2018 Hatchling galloping into success with Magna Halter
Sara Yarger '18 invents equine accessible technology
As a senior at Bowling Green State University, Sara Yarger ’18, was planning a wedding and looking forward to a career as an intervention specialist working with children.
The College of Education and Human Development graduate didn’t expect to become an entrepreneur along the way.
It was the combination of a class project and a bitterly cold winter that gave her the idea of the Magna Halter, which uses a set of strong magnets rather than clasps and buckles for haltering a horse.
“We had an assignment to come up with a way to make something more accessible in one of my classes,” Yarger said. “I thought about a couple of options, and then one day working in the horse barn I realized that because my fingers were so cold, I couldn’t get the halter on my horse. It dawned on me that people who have problems with fine motor skills would probably have the same issue. I just wanted to make that easier.”
A former member of the BGSU equestrian team, Yarger has been able to combine her two passions of helping children with disabilities and horses. Working at Serenity Farms in Luckey, Ohio, northeast of Bowling Green, exposed her to equine therapy and how it can help people with physical and cognitive disabilities.
She built a prototype for the magnetic halter and submitted it to The Hatch competition. BGSU student entrepreneurs, or Hatchlings, present their business ideas to alumni investors during The Hatch as they vie for funds to launch their businesses in a format similar to the popular television show “Shark Tank.”
What sets The Hatch apart from similar events is that the BGSU alumni investors make equity investments providing real money for students to incubate real businesses. To date, more than $800,000 has been committed to student startups.
“There are so many possibilities it makes it hard to pinpoint our next direction. But whichever way we go, it will be following the theme of accessibility.”
The Paul J. Hooker Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, serving as "Hatch headquarters," is one of 20 centers worldwide recognized by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Each Hatchling is paired up with an alumni mentor who guides them through the entire process. Yarger's mentor and current business partner is Mark West '90, who is the retired president of SharedClarity LLC, a company that works with hospitals in identifying the best medical devices for patients.
As a member of The Hatch class of ’18, Sara was ready to accept an offer from the investors of $20,000 for 25% of her company. But then the unexpected happened when a member of the audience, Ed Reiter ‘62, made her a no strings attached proposal of $10,000. By the end of the evening Hatch investor Earle Malm ’71 had added another $5,000 to the pot.
Yarger made the most of the investments by working with the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship and the United States Equestrian Federation to refine the product and test it in more than 20 states. She’s also been able to enlist the help of Heather Smith, a gold-medal winning equestrian in para-reining, in the testing process.
“We really want to make sure it fits the needs of those using it,” she said. “And we’ve received very favorable reviews on it.”
The next step was a Kickstarter pre-order fund which added another $5,000 in capital to take the Magna Halter into production.
“We’ve been able to work with a number of U.S. based manufacturers,” Yarger said. “They take care of the bulk of the process, but I still do all of the final assembly myself.”
In addition to her teaching career, Yarger said she has started going to tack shows for equestrian equipment in Ohio and surrounding states for direct sales of the Magna Halter and has set up an e-commerce site.
“We have been very fortunate in that many of the sales we did through the Kickstarter fund were then donated to equestrian centers around the country,” Yarger said.
She sees the Magna Halter as just the beginning.
“I would love to apply this technology to other equine products beyond halters,” Yarger said. “There are so many possibilities it makes it hard to pinpoint our next direction. But whichever way we go, it will be following the theme of accessibility.”