Grove City College Entrepreneurship majors Hannah Vaccaro ’18 and Ross Harrington ’17 are on a roll.
Vaccaro and Harrington’s pitch for PeeWee Packs, a toilet training aid, earned them one of 25 coveted spots in the EIX’s e-Fest National Business Plan Competition. The top 25 teams in the competition were chosen from the pool of more than 160 teams from 81 schools that submitted videos and slides describing their business ideas to a panel of 32 judges.
The PeeWee Packs team travelled to e-Fest at the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship at the University of St Thomas in Minneapolis, Minn., April 6 to 8 for the competition. Yvonne English ’97, their advisor and executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at Grove City College, accompanied them.
Before the main event, students from all of the qualifying schools participated in a unique innovation challenge in which they were assigned to teams with individuals from other schools. These new teams were challenged to solve a problem in the world using autonomous technology. They had three hours to put together a business model and presentation for the faculty judges. Harrington, of Richmond, Ind., was part of the ad-hoc team that won first place at e-Fest’s Innovation Challenge, which came with bragging rights and a $20,000 prize.
The event also featured workshops and keynote speeches from Richard M. Schulze, founder and chairman emeritus of Best Buy, Inc., and "Shark Tank" regular Daymond John, founder of FUBU. It is sponsored by EIX (Entrepreneur and Innovation Exchange) – an online resource that aims to dramatically raise the success rate of new business ventures.
On the competition day, the 25 teams competed in a semi-final round to arrive at the final five teams. PeeWee Packs had a strong showing and made the final five, which gave them the chance to compete in the final round to an esteemed panel of judges including Richard Schulze. While they ultimately did not win the competition, the team made several key contacts and stirred up investor interest at the event.
PeeWee Packs contain dissolvable, flushable blank sheets that expose colorful designs when children successfully use the toilet. The idea is to make potty-training “an exciting game of surprise instead of an otherwise mundane task,” according to Vaccaro, of Merrimack, N.H.
Friends since freshman year, the pair took their inspiration from an idea Harrington worked on while taking English’s Lean LaunchPad class. While researching the viability of his team’s plans for a men’s urinal game utilizing similar technology, a better idea emerged.
“A potential customer suggested the product be incorporated into potty training boys, which then led to the pivot of the idea to ‘PeeWee Points,’ a potty training tool for boys. Since then, we have adjusted the idea to be universal for both boys and girls, increasing the market size and providing a very unique training tool,” Vaccaro said.
Harrington and Vaccaro said support from the entrepreneurship faculty was vital to the success and progress of their idea, whether it was staying up late into the night to work on the submission video, offering endless hours of advice and consultation, or running out to print last-minute business cards and get cough drops during the e-Fest competition.
The team also worked with the Grove City College Department of Chemistry, specifically Dr. Charles Kriley, for the initial chemical research. “We are seeing an increased level of cross-disciplinary collaboration in the name of entrepreneurship and innovation on our campus,” English said. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
For more about the entrepreneurship program at Grove City College, please visit www.gccentrepreneurship.com or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instragram (@gccentrepreneur).