Innovative ThinkingGAMBIER, Ohio (May 6, 2010) The entrepreneurial incubator at Innovation Greenhouse has energized two start-up businesses with the help of $5,000 prizes.
Laundry Luv will market a laundry service to students and parents and Rhyne Electric Powersports intends to produce electric motorcycles. An advisory board of alumni entrepreneurs awarded the start-ups the Burton D. Morgan Entrepreneurship Prize of $5,000, intended to capitalize the businesses. This is the first year the prizes have been awarded under Innovation Greenhouse, a program funded through the Burton D. Morgan Foundation to cultivate entrepreneurial creativity.
"I'm thrilled with both of these," program director Ted Rice said. "This is great. With the electric motorcycle, we have something that could be started anywhere, and it's being done by one of our students. The laundry idea is a fairly common college-campus business idea, but there's nothing wrong with that. The students gain experience at starting something, managing the costs, understanding the market, and, most importantly, dealing with the customers and selling something."
Alice Adebiyi '11 of London, United Kingdom, and Stephen Haro '13 of St. Louis, Missouri, are the principals of Laundry Luv. Both had ideas about a laundry service, and they formed a team to emphasize selling the service to parents. "I wanted to be business-minded," Adebiyi said. "Mostly, nobody likes to do laundry. You see them. They never look happy."
Laundry Luv plans to launch by the next academic year. Customers can sign up at www.laundryluv.com for the full school year, a semester, or for spot service. Bags provided by Laundry Luv will be fetched from outside room doors, cleaned and dry cleaned as needed through a third-party vendor, and delivered within 48 hours. Many parents who pay premium tuition believe their offspring have higher priorities than laundry, Adebiyi said.
"The most important thing we have to do is sell this to students who will go home and tell their parents, 'I really need this service,'" Adebiyi said. "The biggest achievement will be executing it. I really want to see it happen."
Haro is a Newman Scholar inspired by the story of the late actor and philanthropist Paul Newman '49, who famously ran a laundry business at Kenyon. Haro developed a lawn service and a small photography business when he was in high school. "I like seeing a need and being able to fulfill a need, making something happen," Haro said.
"The main purpose of the service is to provide ultimate convenience. Students have a lot of work at Kenyon and not a lot of time," he said. "For me, it's not work. This is what I like to do."
Jordan Rhyne '13 of New Albany, Ohio, is the chief operating officer and one of two partners in Rhyne Electric Powersports (REP), which is based in Columbus, Ohio. REP was founded to design, manufacture, and market an affordable, attractive and powerful electric motorcycle. The REP team is building a prototype that will be used for data collection and will be entered in electric-motorcycle races later this year.
"We're taking this pretty seriously," Rhyne said. "Right now, the electric motorcycle industry is still pretty small. Nobody has done it quite the way we're looking to do it." REP wants a "sexy and powerful" motorcycle that can reach 100 mph and travel 80 miles per electric charge. Batteries on the prototype now weigh about 170 pounds, but the technology is racing ahead and Rhyne anticipates more lightweight batteries to emerge in the near future.
Rhyne had previously earned money by providing student rides to and from Port Columbus International Airport. He is inspired by environmental concerns, the excitement of the motorsports industry, and, well, money - "a big motivator for me," he said. "Electric vehicles are the future. I think they're cool."
The program also awarded $500 grants in a competition to develop business concepts. These are the winners of those grants: Abhishek Dhawan '13 of Kurukshetra, India, for an Indian jewelry-import concept; Ronald Maheia '12 of Chicago for a street-wear T-shirt idea; Alexandra Patterson '12 of Bowling Green, Kentucky, and Robyn Stype '12 of Upper Arlington, Ohio, for a student care-package service; and James "Jack" Whitacre '12 of Freeport, Maine, for a Kenyon-themed clothing idea.
Innovation Greenhouse has been invaluable, Haro said. "The program and the assistance of Ted Rice throughout the year have been huge for us. He helped move it forward. He let us know who to talk to at Kenyon. He made a connection for us with the Small Business Administration of Ohio."