A pair of Grove City College student entrepreneurs are headed to a national business plan competition with their eyes on a $100,000 prize.
Entrepreneurship majors Hannah Vaccaro ’18, of Merrimack, N.H., and Ross Harrington ’18, of Richmond, Ind., were selected as one of just 25 teams to vie for a win in the competition at EIX’s e-Fest next month. Their aim: To convince the judges that their potty-training aid is a viable venture.
“PeeWee Packs is a potty-training tool focused on exciting toddlers about using the bathroom throughout the entirety of the training process,” the team explains. “The product is a biodegradable, flushable blank sheet that changes color and exposes shapes and designs when children successfully use the toilet. With a wide variety of colors and shapes, using the toilet becomes an exciting game of surprise instead of the otherwise mundane task.”
EIX’s National Business Plan Competition is in its inaugural year at e-Fest, a “celebration of undergraduate entrepreneurs” held April 6 to 8 at the Schulze School of Entrepreneurship at the University of St Thomas in Minneapolis, Minn. The event will feature workshops, an Innovation Challenge and keynote speeches from Schulze himself, who is founder and chairman emeritus of Best Buy, Inc., and "Shark Tank" regular Daymond John, founder of FUBU. To qualify, teams had to submit videos and slides detailing their business ideas. The competition was intense as there were multiple entries from over 80 schools around the country. Finalist teams will compete for $100,000, $50,000 or $25,000 prizes, with additional grants of $10,000 to $2,500 going to the winning teams’ schools.
EIX – Entrepreneur and Innovation Exchange – is an online resource that aims to dramatically raise the success rate of new business ventures. Targeting entrepreneurship students and professors, as well as entrepreneurs and investors, EIX works to present the best research, ideas and practical advice about entrepreneurship in an engaging and accessible way. A non-profit initiative, EIX content is also free of charge, made possible because the site is funded by the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation.
Vaccaro and Harrington learned about the competition from Professor Yvonne English ’97, executive director of the College’s Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation, and were encouraged to enter.
Friends since freshman year, the PeeWee Packs team took their inspiration from an idea Harrington worked on while taking English’s Lean LaunchPad class offered by the College’s Department of Entrepreneurship. 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.
They plan to use their prize money from the e-Fest competition to develop a prototype of their product – a biodegradable, septic-safe, flushable sheet about the size and consistency of a playing card, which is coated with a proprietary chemical that reacts with urine to reveal colors and designs. They are seeking a provisional patent.
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 or offering endless hours of advice and consultation.
“Hannah and Ross rose to the top of this prestigious national competition as a result of their hard work as well as their ability to develop a great business idea. It’s a significant achievement for the team to be honored with the invitation to participate in e-Fest, and I’m thrilled that Grove City College entrepreneurship students continue to be competitive on the regional and national stage,” said English, who will be headed to Minneapolis with the team.
“Our professors have been there for us in a very personal way,” Vaccaro said. “Entrepreneurship majors sometimes characterize the department as a family, and this entire process has made that so evident. The amount of encouragement, support and direction that has been given to us has shown me how valued I am as a student here on campus.”
For more about the entrepreneurship program at Grove City College, please visit www.gccentrepreneurship.com or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and Instragram (@gccentrepreneur).