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President’s Buckeye Accelerator boosts students’ entrepreneurial ventures

Students to pitch ideas to receive funding, support

Ohio State University undergraduate, graduate and professional students who are participating in the first-ever President’s Buckeye Accelerator receive skill-building support, mentorship and funding to turn their ideas into real-life business ventures.

“The greatest challenge Ohio State faces in research and creative expression is not in generating ideas – our students and faculty do that as naturally as breathing,” Ohio State President Kristina M. Johnson said when the President’s Buckeye Accelerator began accepting applications last fall. “It is making sure that those ideas move quickly into the world where they can do best.”

Students who were selected through an application process completed all Boost Camp sessions on March 2. Ten Boost Camp participants will be selected to pitch their entrepreneurial ventures later this month. Six students will be selected to be part of the President’s Buckeye Accelerator first cohort.  

Throughout Boost Camp, successful entrepreneurs in a variety of industries spoke to the students and provided insights on how to launch and sustain a business. The sessions took place at Ohio State’s Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship,  a campus-wide hub for the development of startup ventures.

The goal of the President’s Buckeye Accelerator is to help students who found startups to test their ideas in the marketplace while pursuing a degree, said Scott Griffin, the Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship’s director of Entrepreneurial Programs and Talent.

Andrew Gilgen, a third-year marketing major whose team is launching an oral care brand named Yulo, said he’s learned how to make the company’s products environmentally sustainable. 

“Essentially, it’s a toothbrush with cleaning attachments. It reduces plastic waste by 80% while also making it easier and more accessible to have a complete clean,” Gilgen said. “It combines brushing, flossing and a tongue scraper into one product. We hope to use this platform to launch into parallel products, such as our toothpaste chews – basically a jellybean with toothpaste in it.”

Garrett Carder, a fourth-year computer and information science major, said Boost Camp demonstrated the importance of identifying consumers’ problems and tailoring products and services to provide solutions.

“I think this has made me take six whole weeks to really define the problem we’re trying to solve and talk to people about the problem and make sure we really know what we’re trying to solve before we just make some haphazard solution,” said Carder, whose team is launching A Cube Design, a design firm that is working to reduce barriers to employment for individuals with vision problems by making screen readers more accessible.

Isaiah Boateng, a second-year biomedical science major, said participating in Boost Camp helped him acquire entrepreneurial skills to supplement his knowledge of the healthcare field.

“Everything was new to me, coming from a completely different background, and I had no idea about some of the different business language that you have to know in order to give a pitch, how to assess the market,” said Boateng, whose team founded a nonprofit organization that aims to improve eye health literacy. “You know what a market is, but you don’t really know what it is until you sit down in this room and they explain, ‘A market is a group of people who are willing to pay money for your product.’”

Blaise Tayese, a third-year neuroscience major, said he learned through Boost Camp how to translate ideas into budgets and data.  

“It’s really easy to have a big dream in your head, and if the numbers don’t make sense to create a viable business, then it won’t be possible to continue with your venture,” said Tayese, whose team is building an artificial intelligence application that can scan students’ notes and convert them into digital flashcards. “That’s what I’ve learned, is just doing the research and being proactive.”

Craig M. Chavis Jr. is a Columbus-based business coach and author who will serve as one of the pitch session judges. He spoke at the March 2 Boost Camp session about his experience running enterprises in Peru and other parts of the world. He said he was impressed by the students’ incisive questions and their drive to acquire knowledge – essential skills for an entrepreneur.

“I thought the questions were very engaging and not just surface-level kind of questions,” Chavis said.

Jason Roehrs, a first-year finance major, said the Boost Camp guest speakers served as role models for how to take an idea from concept to in-demand product.

“The speakers have been really helpful,” said Roehrs, whose team has launched JSR Jewelry, which repurposes antique dining utensils into custom-made rings. “They’ve talked a lot about the entrepreneurial mindset that you have to have to be successful in a space – the process it takes to get there, as well as what a startup has to have to succeed.”

The 10 students and their entrepreneurial ventures who have been selected to pitch at President’s Buckeye Finale on April 6 are as follows:

·         Anjali Prabhakaran, College of Education and Human Ecology, EmPower Health

·         Yasmeen Quadri, College of Arts and Sciences, ServUS

·         Andrew Gilgen, Fisher College of Business, Yulo

·         Garrett Carder, College of Arts and Sciences, A Cubed Design

·         Tessa Cannon, College of Arts and Sciences, For the Love of Primates

·         Addam Jensen, College of Arts and Sciences, Holocron Technologies

·         Clyde Compton, Fisher College of Business, Common Interest

·         Amani Djouadi, College of Pharmacy, SmileChild

·         Adithya Ramaswami, College of Engineering, FireFight Aero

·         Anita Nti, College of Engineering, Electrion

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