5 Lessons to Learn from Central Ohio’s Up-and-Coming Student Innovators

When the four finalists for the inaugural VentureNEXT Student Awards took the stage at the LC Pavilion on Oct. 6, Central Ohio’s entrepreneurs and investors were wowed by the pipeline of talent that feeds the innovation economy of this state.

In entrepreneurship, everyone learns from everyone else. Here are some lessons in tenacity, creativity and innovation from the four winners.

Tom Walker

College business plan competitions can be leveraged for experience and capital. Damian Beauchamp, winner of the 2014 VentureNext College Student Award is earning his Ph.D. in chemistry from OSU. As co-founder of KAir Battery, Damian raised $117,750 in the last six months through three highly competitive business plan competitions, including placing first in OSU’s 2014 open track, and earning multiple honors in RBPC, the world’s largest and richest competition. KAir Battery is also the recipient of the Energy Department’s Clean Energy Prize.

In many states, including Ohio, competition winnings can be further leveraged with matching dollars from publically sourced seed stage funds.

Successful startups validate their concepts before they spend time and money building products that they later discover customers don’t want. As a college freshman at OSU, Rosemary Garry, now a sophomore majoring in business, started Stacker, a company based on her idea for a schedule sharing solution.

“Moving from Anaheim, CA to go to college in Midwestern Columbus was one of the biggest transitions of my life,” she said. “I hoped that my freshman year would be flooded with networking and meeting new people, but I quickly realized how difficult it was to make plans with busy people. Dozens of texts or emails were painfully necessary before we would find a time that worked. I knew there had to be a better way.”

As a freshman, Garry and Stacker took second place in the OSU Business Plan Competition in the undergraduate track. Stacker is being developed as a Capstone project by students in engineering at OSU. Garry is a confirmed entrepreneur.

Our region’s outstanding scientific and research institutions create a welcoming environment for innovative research. Mariah Cox, a junior at Zane Trace High School in Chillicothe, is researching ways to lower blood pressure and/or glucose levels in humans. Based on Cox’s award-winning Red Raspberries vs. Gold Raspberries comparitive study, further research has been approved and funded through the OSU food science lab, where she is now engaged as a researcher.

When interest in science is encouraged and nurtured at an early age, remarkable results can occur. Abigail Myers, a sophomore at Big Walnut High School in Sunbury, has been competing in science fairs since she was in the fifth grade. For the last four years, she’s been studying the science of retrieving lost oil from spills. Myers presented scientific posters at the Ohio Academy of Science and was inducted as a Lifetime Fellow of the American Junior Academy of Science.

VentureNEXTWell-rounded achievers with outside interests make the best innovators entrepreneurs. Beauchamp mentors at youth and adult rehabilitation/correctional institutions. Garry has served through Youth Leadership America (YLA) and OSU’s Alleviating Poverty through Entrepreneurship Summit (APTE). In Cox’s “spare” time, she has built houses, installed solar panels and worked on a fish farm in Haiti. She’s also a varsity soccer player. Myers mentors middle school students in science fair prep, and, for as much as she loves science, one of Abigail’s favorite activities was playing one of the pink ladies in the school’s production of Grease. She’s also in the Honors Choir, plays the trumpet and is in marching and concert band.

These remarkable students—two from OSU and two who are still in high school—are people to watch and get to know. They are exactly the type of young people that we need to accelerate the momentum of Central Ohio’s innovation economy.

We are pleased to continue our tradition of identifying and supporting talented students in this region with opportunities and scholarships.

VentureNEXT College Awards are sponsored by Bricker & Eckler with $2,500 in scholarship dollars award to two students attending a college or university in the 15-county Central Ohio region.

VentureNEXT High School Awards are sponsored by TechColumbus with $2,500 placed in a 529 College Savings Account on behalf of two students attending high school in the 15-county Central Ohio region.