Entrepreneurs flock to University of Oklahoma expo
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) — The OU Tom Love Innovation Hub turned into a trade show floor recently, as the inaugural Entrepreneurship Expo brought out investors, onlookers and plenty of ideas.
Some came with established ideas, such as Real Kitchen Salsa, the Loveworks, Inc. facilitated company run by middle schoolers. OU alumni living nearby brought their ideas and innovations to share.
“The idea was truly to build and bring together the community to create an ecosystem of entrepreneurship,” Denise Parris, assistant professor of entrepreneurship at the Price College of Business, told The Norman Transcript . “People from OU, Moore Norman Technology Center, and everybody from the community. There’s many organizations in Oklahoma that are really and truly seeking to make a difference, and at the Price College of Business, our goal is to have an impact on Oklahoma through entrepreneurship and innovation, being at the center and bringing everybody together.”
There were also plenty of OU students who showed off their brand new ideas to potential investors, many for the first time. Some, like Calla Hamlin and Addie Cox, had been developing their idea in class and were now finally able to show it off in a real-world setting.
Hamlin and Cox presented Bridal Wave, a web-based facilitator for wedding planning. Hamlin said she developed the idea at another Innovation Hub event.
“I went to the Startup Weekend here at the Innovation Hub, and I had a totally different idea going in,” Hamlin said. “I was actually standing in line talking to this guy about it, and he said ‘Well, that’s never going to work.’ So kind of to spite him, I got up there with a new idea, and I knew I was interested in the wedding industry so I wanted to give it a try.”
Bridal Wave brings soon-to-be-married couples to match with the vendors most appropriate for their ceremonies.
“Couples can go online to our website, take quick a five minute survey based on their preferences and needs, and we connect them to relevant vendors according to their needs,” Cox said. “A lot of times, you’re having to call all these vendors, trying to get in contact with them, it’s a lot. So this way, it brings vendors to their anonymous brides based on those needs. So say they want to spend a certain amount, it’ll be within their price range.”
Hamlin said their market research showed weddings average 15 vendors each, and managing that can get complicated for those who do not employ a wedding planner. Bridal Wave helps to manage that for couples.
“It allows you to plan your wedding efficiently,” Hamlin said. “It’s a platform that facilitates interactions between couples and vendors.”
Other ideas on display included Universal Cuisines, LLC, which seeks to bring diners and international dishes together in a central location. Cody Moore, one of three OU students working on the project, said they want to create a new kind of dining experience that is like food trucks and street food, but without the street.
“We’ll have a location where we’ll contract to 15-20 different vendors, and we’ll encourage them to cook with the most basic stuff, build their own woks, and cook a good street food meal,” Moore said. “Whatever they think of.”
All they need is a location large enough that also includes a stage area for some live music. It’s been in the works for a few years, and the group already has a website set up.
New products were also on display, such as the Spinning Wing by Andrew Harris and Josh Stokesberry. He said that while conducting market research, the pair heard from a lot of managers that tossing wings was the most time consuming and biggest inefficiency problem facing those types of restaurants.
So they are creating a bowl with carefully placed ridges that will make wing tossing easier, enabling employees to get more wings out faster and boost productivity.
Then there’s Garrett Hanska’s Arklahoma Stand Co., which produces the first-of-its-kind stand-alone bike rack that also doubles as a hitch. Avid cyclists can use the hitch to haul their bikes back from, say, a trek down the mountains, un-hitch it from their vehicle and immediately stand up the bikes in a garage.
Hanska said he’s already making sales.
“This is a space for students and entrepreneurs, alumni; if you have a new venture concept, you can come present that and get feedback from the community, from investors, and you can conduct pre-sales or sales,” Parris said. “It gives everybody experiences of what it’s like to be at a trade show. They get the experience of designing and standing at a booth and interacting.”
The experience could prove invaluable to students, alumni and community members who received the trade show experience for the first time.
“This is our first trade show like this, or anything,” Moore said. “I think it’s going well so far. It’s great to get our name out there. There’s a lot of different investors coming through today, so it’s great to share with them our mission and our goals.”
Information from: The Norman Transcript, http://www.normantranscript.com