A large group of people stand in rows on a stage
Hatchlings and alumni judges celebrate on stage at The Hatch 2024. (BGSU photo/Haven Conn '22)

BGSU students pitch innovative entrepreneurial ventures at The Hatch 2024

Estimated Reading Time:  

Students propose a diverse range of products and solutions from unsinkable tools to scam-proof global college searches before a panel of distinguished alumni judges

From unsinkable hand tools, to scam-proof international college searches, to a novel approach to graphic novels and more, seven Bowling Green State University students, or Hatchlings, pitched their products and ideas to alumni judges during The Hatch 2024, part of Entrepreneurship Week in the Schmidthorst College of Business.

In total, 16 students from various BGSU majors undertook the 10-week Hatch journey, hatching their entrepreneurial ideas, creating their business plans and perfecting their pitches, all with the guidance of mentors. Of the 16, nine Hatchlings presented their ideas before the start of the live show and seven Hatchlings were chosen to present during the broadcast on Thursday, April 11.

Dr. Jennifer Percival, dean of the Allen W. and Carol M. Schmidthorst College of Business, welcomes The Hatch audience. (BGSU photo/Haven Conn '22)

Schmidthorst College of Business Dean Jennifer Percival and Courtney deVaudreuil ‘17, new director of the Paul J. Hooker Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, welcomed The Hatch audiences both online and in person at the Schmeltz Atrium in the state-of-the-art the Maurer Center.  

“Thank you all for your support of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial thinking across BGSU. Students at The Hatch really do represent the cross-section that we have all across the University, from philosophy, art and design, architecture, technology and business,” Percival said. “This is one of the things that makes The Hatch truly special – this is an opportunity to see students come together to support each other over an entire semester.

“Each one of these presentations has countless hours of practicing those pitches in front of each other, in front of a mirror, in front of friends. For all of you who are part of these Hatchlings’ support systems, we would like to thank you for giving them the courage to come up here this evening.”

The Hatchlings who presented live were:

  • Jacob Litsey, a junior majoring in supply chain management, whose idea was “The Everyone Bar.” He was mentored by Bill Wersell, small business consultant.
  • Quan Le, a business administration graduate student, who debuted “WhereWorldU.” She was mentored by Khory Katz, financial advisor with Edward Jones.
  • Owen Thompson, a junior majoring in systems engineering, who presented “Topwater Tools.” He was mentored by James Haggerty, retired financial services industry professional.
  • David Timm, a junior majoring in economics, whose idea was “IronClad Comics.” Timm’s mentor was Steve Russell, associate vice president of corporate partnerships at BGSU and executive director of the Michael and Sara Kuhlin Hub for Career Design and Connections.
  • Everett Weaver, a senior majoring in philosophy with a minor in psychology, who introduced “Fold-n-Stroll.” Weaver was mentored by Jim Murray, president of Tiburon Company real estate group.
  • Cortney Smalley, a doctoral student majoring in organizational development and change, whose idea was “Unity Community Barbershop.” He was mentored by Greg Shephard, national sales training manager at ZOLL Medical Corporation and the owner of Stadium Salsa.
  • Ryan Lothamer, a sophomore science education major, who presented “The SPARK Foundation.” Lothamer was mentored by Eric Curley, owner and president of Vintage, the Collection, and Craig Burney, CEO and architect of Engage Studio Architects.

Derek van der Merwe, director of BGSU Athletics, kicked off The Hatch, taking on emcee duties for the second year in a row. He noted the many resources that Hatchlings have access to throughout the semester as they developed and prototyped their ideas as well as a plan for post-Hatch development so they can continue their businesses.

“Not only are the students outstanding human beings, the best part of it is what has inspired their pitches,” van der Merwe said. “For each one of these individuals, it’s a personal journey that brought them to the proposal that they bring tonight. It’s very personal to who they are.”

The audience takes in The Hatch presentation at the Schmeltz Atrium in the state-of-the-art the Maurer Center. (BGSU photo/Haven Conn '22)

The Hatch welcomed a distinguished panel of BGSU alumni as judges to hear the pitches and weigh in on the best entrepreneurial ideas. Serving as judges were:

  • Lead judge Mike McDaniel ’01, vice president and general manager of Global Workplace and Mobility at DXC
  • Bruce Fisher ’68, retired vice president of Hayward Pool Products
  • Marilee MacAskill ’86, area director and certified Dale Carnegie Trainer at Dale Carnegie Training of NE Ohio
  • Suheb Haq ’00, president of Fuel Cell System Manufacturing LLC
  • Tony Drockton ’88, ’96, chairman and chief cheerleader at Hammitt

A panel of five judges sits in chairs on a stage
The Hatch judges heard pitches and engaged in question-and-answer sessions with Hatchlings before making their decisions. (BGSU photo/Haven Conn '22)

The judges were given the opportunity to help seven BGSU Hatchlings get their businesses off the ground after hearing their pitches with funding support from Wood County Economic Development Commission and PNC.

The pitches

The live pitch format consisted of the Hatchling presenting their idea for a maximum of four minutes, a four-minute period for questions and answers by the judges and Hatchling, judges’ deliberation and then funding awards were announced.

Jacob Litsey presents his idea for The Everyone Bar, a protein bar suitable for people with food allergies. (BGSU photo/Haven Conn '22)

Litsey, of Spencerville, Ohio, pitched his idea for The Everyone Bar, which is an allergy-friendly protein bar free from the top nine food allergens. Litsey deals with food allergies himself, which prompted the idea to find a good-tasting, allergy-friendly bar for all those who have food allergies.

“I want to be able to lead the change and give people something they can rely on that’s safe and they don’t have to worry about what they’re putting into their bodies,” Litsey said.

Quan Le says her online platform, WhereWorldU, will prevent international students from being scammed by illegitimate colleges. (BGSU photo/Haven Conn '22).

Le, an international student from Vietnam, brought her idea, WhereWorldU to the stage. She explained that her product fights a problem that first-time international students face: the fear of being scammed and wasting thousands of dollars by not choosing a legitimate college overseas.

“The tricky part is we were half of the globe away so it was not very practical to go on tours and see the campuses for ourselves,” Le said.

Her product, WhereWorldU, is designed to be an all-in-one platform with free and subscription plans that houses all the tools and information that prospective international students would need.

Owen Thompson displayed one of his buoyant hand tools as part of his Topwater Tools line of products. (BGSU photo/Haven Conn '22)

Thompson, of Oregon, Ohio, pitched Topwater Tools, which are buoyant hand tools that are easily retrievable when dropped in water, handy for fixes around lakes and ponds.

“With our product, end users will save time and money and have peace of mind knowing that a tool dropped is not a tool lost,” Thompson said. He also said a goal for his tool business is to create, design and develop products that are new and useful, functional, affordable and patentable.

David Timm discusses the venture he and partner Cody Karamol started, IronClad Comics. (BGSU photo/Haven Conn '22)

Timm, of Waterville, Ohio, gave comic books to the judges as he outlined his plans for IronClad Comics, an idea hatched with his lifelong friend and University of Toledo student, Cody Karamol.

The pair discussed their business, IronClad Comics, which is a graphic novel publisher to help “those who have been left behind by the industry,” Timm said. This new model makes comics “bingeable” and streamlines storytelling, which is something the pair says is a consumer want.

Everett Weaver's Fold-a-Stroll stroller design was inspired by their experiences transporting their 4-year-old daughter. (BGSU photo/Haven Conn '22)

Weaver, of North Baltimore, Ohio, brought their pitch of Fold-a-Stroll to the Hatch platform, which was inspired by their 4-year-old daughter and the challenges her strolled posed.

“Parents today have two options when it comes to strollers - either heavy, bulky, expensive and hard to store strollers like my Graco or ‘umbrella’ strollers, which are lightweight, and inexpensive, but lack the amenities of larger strollers,” they said.

Weaver’s stroller design solves the problems of storage and portability issues by converting the stroller into a backpack.

Cortney Smalley pitches his Unity Community Barbershop plan, which would create the first transgender and LGBTQ+ barbershop in Detroit. (BGSU photo/Haven Conn '22)

With his idea for Unity Community Barbershop, Smalley, of Detroit, gave his pitch to the judges. He cited his Detroit roots as part of his idea, pointing out that the city is one of the largest hair capitals in all of the Midwest. Smalley’s idea particularly aims to help members of the trans community and the overall LGBTQ+ community who can encounter difficulties when trying to find the right barber or stylist.

“The problem exists with discrimination when this population looks for cosmetology settings,” Smalley said. “There have been reports and also news articles about this population facing discrimination and also removal of services just to look for a simple haircut.”

The Unity Community Barbershop, though, aims to establish the first transgender and LGBTQ+ barbershop in Detroit that will provide inclusive haircuts and hairstyling that promotes self-expression, personality and identity.

Ryan Lothamer presents his idea for The SPARK Foundation. (BGSU photo/Haven Conn '22)

Lothamer, of Defiance, Ohio, brought his idea for The SPARK Foundation before the Hatch judges. His foundation aims to provide hands-on, experiential science learning for students in underserved and underrepresented communities.

“You don’t really learn unless you’re interested, and you can’t be interested if you’re never exposed to your interests,” Lothamer said.

The Spark Foundation already has been welcomed by several Ohio school districts and received a sponsorship from Carson Optical for equipment. Lothamer sought funding to provide more science materials for students and to expand the experiential learning model into other academic areas.

The awards

The Hatch presented seven awards to students in the following categories:

  • Best Overall Pitch – Quan Le
  • PNC Community Impact – Ryan Lothamer
  • Innovative Technology – Owen Thompson
  • Market Potential – David Timm
  • Honorable Mentions – Jacob Litsey, Everett Weaver, Cortney Smalley

The audience also played a role in the awards, voting for the 2024 Eggy recipients, as people’s choice awards for best poster boards and live presentations.

The first of two Eggy awards went to Mackenzie Hennagin, a senior management major from North Canton, Ohio, for her poster presentation of Heat Safe. Heat Safe is a device placed on a pot or pan to detect the pre-set maximum temperature, and the device will sound an alarm when a stove or oven gets too hot. The second was presented to Quan Le for her WhereWorldU pitch.

Mackenzie Hennagin accepts the Eggy Award for her idea for Heat Safe. (BGSU photo/Haven Conn '22)
Quan Le was a double winner, taking home honors for Best Overall Pitch and the Eggy Award. (BGSU photo/Haven Conn '22)

Each Hatchling was paired with a mentor who helped them work through their ideas and pitches to get them ready for The Hatch event. This year’s mentors were:

  • Ed Leedom
  • Kyle Smith
  • Bill Centa
  • Cole Sonner
  • Khory Katz
  • Bill Wersell
  • Erin Curley
  • Craig Burney
  • Ebony Carter
  • Greg Halama
  • Rich Myers
  • James Haggerty
  • Steve Russell
  • Jim Murray
  • Brian Powers
  • Bob Thompson

Related Stories

Media Contact | Michael Bratton | mbratto@bgsu.edu | 419-372-6349

Updated: 04/15/2024 12:39PM