Kettering University students received funding boosts to creative business ventures, thanks to the Kettering Entrepreneur Society.
After students presented to KES in the summer last year, four were granted seed grants totaling more than $3,300 to help them pursue their business ideas.
Eric Stuckey ‘18 received $830 for his business, RigWorks. Jonathan Blanchard ‘16 received $982.44 for his business, Stemletics. Jeff Lehto ‘16 received $355 for his business, L&L Outfitters. And Trevor Bennett ‘19 received $1,154 for his business, Media Muncher.
Blanchard, a Flint native, wants to be able to pair STEM education with basketball and other sports to teach kids that there is more to sports while also teaching them how to be healthy from a young age.
Blanchard recently started his business Stemletics (www.stemletics.com) to combine those passions.
“I’m hoping that they’ll see there’s more to sports than just picking up a basketball and shooting. There’s all types of science, math and technology that can be infused,” said Blanchard, a Business major. “I love working with youth and mentoring youth. I strongly believe they are the future of the world.”
His program includes using the 94Fifty Smart Sensor Basketball to teach students the science behind basketball. The interactive basketball connects via Bluetooth to any smartphone or tablet to track shot arc, release speed, backspin, dribbling speed and control.
Blanchard is launching a pilot program at Genesee STEM Academy, where he currently works for his co-op. After presenting at the Green Light Flint Business Competition at the Flint Farmers' Market in January, his business caught the attention of the Crim Fitness Foundation and plans on implementing the program in the Flint schools this coming up fall and summer.
Lehto, a Mechanical Engineering major, started L&L Outfitters to fix a problem that he and other hunters have experienced.
L&L Outfitters is a business developed for hunting wild game. Hunters can often have trouble attracting game to their locations, Lehto said, so L&L Outfitters will build upon existing hunting products such as game calls and aerosol scents to create new, patent-eligible products.
“The aim of the products will be to improve hunters' odds and overall hunting experience,” Lehto said. “I am a hunter and became interested in this type of business when a friend mentioned that products such as game calls and scent dispersal methods do not always work properly.This can be due to a variety of different factors such as weather, design, and simple wear and tear. I decided that I would build a new device that eliminates the current issues and share it with other hunters if possible.”
Lehto will use the funding from KES to build and test a prototype and expand his knowledge of design and business concepts.
Stuckey, majoring in Mechanical Engineering and Electrical Engineering, started RigWorks to specialize in aftermarket accessories for pickup trucks and off-road vehicles.
“When I first applied for the seed fund, I was interested in making DIY steel bumper kits for pickup trucks,” said Stuckey, president of the Kettering SAE Baja team. “I wanted to make an affordable kit that someone could assemble with basic tools and a welder on a weekend to make their truck more unique and fit their personal needs, without having to pay astronomical prices for a fully assembled big name brand.”
That is still a focus for Stuckey, but he has also been building roof racks lately under the RigWorks brand and they have been taking off, he said.
They are easy to design and simple to customize, as well as roof rack interest in the aftermarket truck community is increasing dramatically, Stuckey said.
The KES funding will help toward initial prototypes of new ideas. The bumpers and roof racks are just the beginning. Stuckey said he has plans for other products that will be released next year.
Bennett, a Business major, wanted to design a phone app to help organize his phone in a simple way -- put all his social media into one app.
Introducing Media Muncher. Still in the design phase, Media Muncher would allow for Facebook, Instagram, Vine and Twitter to be viewed on one app.
“It’s a more simple interface and more user friendly than similar apps out there already,” Bennett said. “On my phone I have a folder with all my social media accounts in it - a huge folder with six to eight apps in it. I thought to myself, ‘Why can’t all this be consolidated with just one app?’”
The money from KES is helping make that reality. Bennett plans to use the seed funding for app development, educational resources and promotion among other things.
The hope for Bennett is that this app can help keep things more simple for the growing amount of social media out there.
Getting the funding was exciting for Bennett, but he also learned a lot throughout the presentation process as KES members gave crucial critiques and advice.
Every term students who are KES members are given the opportunity to present their ideas that they wish to pursue as a venture to the membership body.
Membership then offers valuable feedback that can make their ideas better as well as decide as a society whether or not the line items are essential in the pursuit of these ventures. The total of all approved items is what gets offered to the students in the form of a seed grant.
“The basic idea behind the seed grant is to allow these budding entrepreneurs to learn from their successes and failures gained from their business pursuits. They then share these experiences with the rest of the society so that they can learn as well,” said Janese Jackson, the graduate student manager of KES.
There are three phases of the seed grant: proof of concept phase, exposure phase and established phase. The maximum amount awarded is $1000, $2500 and $3000-$3500 respectively.
Stuckey encourages more students to take advantage of the seed funding opportunity.
“I was very excited to be able to get the funding. But I immediately started wondering why other students don't apply for a seed grant,” Stuckey said. “On a campus full of the smartest engineers in the world with the greatest minds and ideas and nobody even thinks twice about putting together a small presentation to apply for funds for that idea.”
The Kettering Entrepreneur Society is open to all Kettering students, faculty and staff. Meetings are held on Thursdays at 8 p.m. in the KES idea room on the 5th Floor CC.