Business

Student entrepreneurs put their ideas at center stage during Hatch 2018

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Hatchling Sara Clark was on the brink of closing the deal. Clark, of Bowling Green, was the last student entrepreneur to present her idea to a panel of alumni investors at The Hatch 2018 at Bowling Green State University Thursday night. Her invention was the Magnahalter, a halter using Velcro and magnets. The new halter would be easier for para-equestrians, and others to put a halter on a horse. The investors though were more interested in the magnetic fastening than the halter itself, and they were putting the money behind that interest. While Clark was looking for $7,600 to produce 100 prototype halters for a beta test, the investors were offering $20,000. But they’d claim 25-percent equity in the fastening technology.   Clark paused. Could she consult with her mentor, Bob Venzel? She turned to where he was standing on the stage before 1,500 packed into the Perry Field House. Then a voice rose from the crowd. There was a bit of commotion. Someone was offering her $10,000 with no stake. That someone turned out was retired banker Ed Reiter. That was the deal she accepted. Investor Earle Malm mused at how the panel of investors lost out to “door number two.” Kirk Kern, who was master of ceremonies, opined Clark might still want to talk to the investors to get input. As Brian Sokol, who has participated in the Hatch since its inception, said at the beginning that though the program was modeled after the TV show “Shark Tank,” this was live, and that opened up the possibilities. Like most of the other seven products presented, Clark, a major in intervention services in the College of Education and Human Development, drew on her personal experience and field of study to come up with her idea. She is a member of the BGSU equestrian team as well as an educator of people with special needs. The Magnahalter would also be of use to anyone with…


Food truck discussion takes sweet and sour twist

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The discussion over food truck rules in Bowling Green erupted into a verbal food fight Wednesday evening. But when it was over, rules allowing food trucks to operate in the city were ready to move on to City Council. On one side of the dispute was council member Bill Herald, who had spent countless hours covering every possible angle of the mobile food truck issue in a 180-page slide presentation. On the other side were council members Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino, who wanted to move along the process, stop reviewing the slide presentation, and instead discuss a one-page food truck permit proposed by Rowland. “We talked about the size of this report,” Rowland said to Herald, referring to council members asking the committee to move along the process. “It’s taken far too long at this point.” While the committee has held eight meetings, they took place over a condensed space of less than two months, Herald said. He stressed that the one-page permit proposal “isn’t as rich with detail,” as his 180-page report. Herald asked his fellow council members to give him a half hour to get through his executive summary of 21 pages. “I think we’ve been thorough. We’ve been comprehensive,” Zanfardino said. “I don’t mean to be argumentative up here,” Zanfardino said, but added that he wanted Wednesday’s meeting to end with a plan that council as a whole could review. Rowland agreed, and pushed for a product that could go before City Council soon. But both agreed to let Herald start through his executive summary. As they studied the slides, Rowland and Zanfardino pointed out unnecessary specifics or redundancies. For example, there was no need to stipulate that the food sold has to be legal, or to identify the type of vehicles allowed. The locations where food trucks would be permitted was narrowed down to not allow the vehicles on Main Street, Wooster Street or any of the…


Elder-Beerman – anchor at BG mall – set for closure

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   It appears the steady anchor at the Woodland Mall will soon be closing. Bon-Ton is planning to close all its Elder-Beerman stores within the next 10 to 12 weeks. That will leave Bowling Green without a department store, and many employees without jobs. The manager of the Woodland Mall Elder-Beerman said this morning that the store employs between 40 and 50 workers. The news comes as a blow to Woodland Mall, with Elder-Beerman being an anchor at the Bowling Green mall since it opened in the mid-1980s. “This is kind of a shock for everyone,” mall manger Michelle Beaverson said. But the mall is a survivor, and Beaverson isn’t giving up on the anchor store yet. “It’s not over till it’s over,” Beaverson said this morning. There are several bidders in place, that still might save the store, she added. “I hope someone buys them up.” The Elder-Beerman has been a solid draw at the struggling mall. “Their annual sales have been amazing,” Beaverson said. Eric Frankel, of the managing company for Woodland Mall, said this morning that his company is weighing the news. “It’s definitely something we’re concerned about. It’s definitely something we are reviewing,” Frankel said. But he also isn’t ready to give up on the store. “It’s still too early to say what’s going to happen with the brand,” Frankel said, noting the possible resurrection of the Toys R Us stores. “A lot of things are up in the air,” he said. “Nothing’s final. It’s not over till the fat lady sings.” But Bowling Green Community Development Director Sue Clark sees it a little differently – like the fat lady is already singing liquidation. The loss of Elder-Beerman will be a hit to local residents, Clark said. “We don’t have many places that sell professional women’s clothes,” she said. “The demographics of this community match that store. I see it as a loss.” Clark also sees it as tough…


Student entrepreneurs pitch their ideas at The Hatch

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS In the spirit of “Shark Tank,” 10 student entrepreneurs will pitch their business ideas to alumni investors during The Hatch on April 19 at Bowling Green State University. The event will begin at 6 p.m. in the Perry Field House on the BGSU campus. In 2017, The Hatch attracted more than 3,500 attendees and was streamed to watch parties across the United States. “Hatchlings” are paired with alumni mentors throughout the spring semester to develop their business ideas. The field includes two Bowling Green natives: Sara Clark and Isaac Rogers. Participating students and their ideas include: Hannah Barth and Elyse Blau, both juniors, are creating Pop-Up Palace, a play structure that is easily assembled, disassembled and modified to reflect a child’s changing developmental needs. Barth is majoring in inclusive early childhood education; Blau is majoring in early childhood education. Nick Bundy and Jacob Hauter, both juniors, are developing Saflee, a hybrid of a traditional safe and a disaster kit. Bundy is double-specializing in finance and sales and services marketing; Hauter is double-specializing in marketing and business analytics. Sara Clark, a senior, is creating Magnahalter, a horse halter that eliminates buckles and clasps by replacing them with Velcro and magnets. Clark is majoring in intervention along with dual education licensure for K-12 students with mild-to-moderate and moderate-to-severe disabilities. Olivier Ernst, a graduate student, is developing Suppleo, a supplement dispenser designed for athletic and workout environments. Ernst is pursuing his MBA. Kristen Grom, a senior, is creating Power Play, an app-controlled dog toy that allows owners to control the toy from smart devices. Grom is majoring in visual communication technology. Marikay Mester, a junior, is developing Bloomzoa, an app that makes childhood nutrition fun and interactive while providing educational tools to successfully manage dietary restrictions. Mester is majoring in dietetics. Rachael Poling, a senior, is creating a wearable device that is an early detector of geriatric diseases. Poling is majoring in applied health science. Isaac Rogers, sophomore, is developing Mchezo,…


BG high senior Emily Wittig has indy book design covered

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News At 18, Emily Wittig has already put the faces on more than 100 books. Wittig operates her own business Emily Wittig Designs. A photographer as well as a designer, Bowling Green High School senior creates book cover designs for independently published authors, giving their work a more distinctive look than they otherwise may have. A serious illness helped to launch the enterprise. When she was 11, she was diagnosed with severe scoliosis, curvature of the spine, and required surgery. Her recuperation involved a year of no physical activity. A librarian at the middle school recommended she check out Goodreads.com as a way of discovering new books. Through the site, Wittig connected with author Micalea Smeltzer. They hit it off. Wittig loved her “Fallen” series of vampire romances. Smeltzer was 18 at the time. “She was the first indy writer I read,” Wittig said. Their conversations didn’t turn to business until Wittig launched her enterprise a few years later when she was 15. Smeltzer had reformatted the inside of her books, and wanted new covers. Wittig took on the job. Typically self-published authors use templates provided by online publishers. Wittig can offer something distinctive. At first, the designer said, she tried to read some of each book she worked on, but that’s no longer possible. Smeltzer “has pretty good idea for what she wants to do with covers. She can be picky. For her it’s easy to get an initial concept because she has an idea of what she wants.” Smeltzer remains one of Wittig’s favorite writers. She finds herself rereading the “Fallen” books. “I really like her style of writing.” She has covers done for two forthcoming Smeltzer books. But most of the other writers “don’t have anything written or aren’t confident enough to share it. They give me a little synopsis.” And “some people have no idea what might work,” she said. Asked what she’s taken away from her business she said: “I…


The Stacked Deck offers gaming fans a new place to gather in downtown BG

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News When Joe Busch was in high school, playing Dungeons and Dragons had a “Cheetos in the basement” stigma attached to it, so he and his friends used the school chess as a cover. Now role playing games and the card game Magic are more popular and accepted. Busch is out in the open with his love for the games as the new owner of The Stacked Deck, a gaming shop in downtown Bowling Green. Busch said he first got into gaming in junior high. Like many others in his generation Pokémon served as the gateway game. He and his friends heard about Magic the Gathering, which was more complex with deeper back story, so they started playing that. Busch said he loved writing and telling stories, so in high school, he started his own Dungeon and Dragons campaign, conducted under the cover of the chess club, and continued through his college years. The New Jersey native, Busch attended Rowan University where he studied journalism. Summers he’d come home and muster his friends and resume the campaign. That’s the appeal of role playing games in the world of fast paced video play. Video games may have good stories, he said, but those tales are created by someone else. “Dungeons and Dragons moves with you,” he said. “It’s writing a story but with a group of five people all contributing. You can do whatever you want. You’re just having fun telling the story together.” Whether engaged in role playing, another board game, or a Magic, the social aspect of people gathering for fun and camaraderie is part of the attraction. From the beginning Busch knew he wanted to do more than sell games and cards, but wanted to have a place where people could play uninhibited without the questioning looks of people wondering what they were doing rolling those strange dice and talking about fireballs. “It’s not like you’re an outsider doing something like that here,”…


BGSU partners with Texas firm to promote online business degrees

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Bowling Green State University is seeking help to promote its online business programs, even before one of them is launched. The university has signed an agreement with Academic Partnerships, a Texas-based company, to help with the marketing and recruiting of its existing online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree (EBSBA), and to market an online Master of Business Administration, that is still in the process of being created. Acting Provost John Fischer said that collaboration was being sought to try to get more enrollment in the eCampus programs. The university is looking more and more to non-traditional, or post-traditional students, to maintain enrollments when there are fewer high school graduates. The EBSBA is under enrolled, he said, making it a good candidate for such a collaboration. The program is aimed at working adults who want to complete a bachelor’s degree, he said. The EBSBA provides the last two years of the bachelor’s degree. Academic Partnerships is expected to start recruiting for the EBSBA this fall. Academic Partnerships will reach out to build relationships with companies to recruit students, as well as providing some mentoring support for students. They will also help market the program. That will include fine tuning language on the program’s web page. Fischer said prospective students for the EBSBA “want to know as soon as possible how much is it going to cost in its entirety, and how much credit we’ll give them for other coursework they’re bringing in.” They also want to know if they can get credit for prior learning because of their work experience. In exchange for these services, Academic Partnerships will split the revenue 50-50 with the university. The proposed online MBA is meant to address the concern in the drop in enrollment in MBA programs. “Online MBAs seem to be supplanting face-to-face MBAs,” he said. At some institutions that drop has been significant. “Cross country the trend is that those are shrinking,” Fischer said. “But…


Automation & robotics focus of State of Region Conference

From BGSU OFFICE OF MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS As online ordering giant Amazon adds automated fulfillment centers around the country and fast-food restaurants pilot automated ordering kiosks, questions arise about the impact on jobs and employment. Will more people or fewer be needed, and will robots take over roles usually held by humans in an increasingly automated workplace? The Center for Regional Development (CRD) at Bowling Green State University will address these concerns at the 16th annual State of the Region Conference Monday, April 16. This year’s theme is “The Implications of Automation for Economic Development” and features speakers from Amazon, APT Manufacturing Solutions, SpinGlass and the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. The conference runs from 8 a.m. to noon at the Hilton Garden Inn in Levis Commons, Perrysburg. Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green) will give opening remarks at 9 a.m. following breakfast and networking. Attendance is free, but registration is required. Register at bgsu.edu/crd. The 2018 conference will provide an overview of economic conditions in the region as well as data and analytics on the current workforce in northwest Ohio. It will also provide insights to economic development and elected officials in northwest Ohio about the impact of automation on workforce development efforts. “Our goal with the State of the Region conference is to highlight the critical economic issues facing our region today and in the future,” said Will Burns, CRD interim director. “Increased automation in our lives and work environments has potentially paradigm-shifting consequences for the future of work in our nation and region,” said Dr. Russell Mills, CRD Research Fellow. Giving the State of the Region address will be Guhan Venkatu, group vice president in the Research Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. He leads the department’s regional analysis and outreach group. Venkatu joined the bank in 1998 as a research analyst and has held positions of increasing responsibility, including economist and vice president and senior regional officer of the bank’s Pittsburgh branch. Dr. Eric Daimler, an artificial intelligence expert and…


Workshop at BGSU advocates for socially responsible investing

From SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE INVESTING WORKSHOP Most investors do not know what companies they own as part of their investment portfolios holding mutual funds. That is not good.   To address that problem, a group of northwest Ohio activists has spent a year putting together a two-hour workshop at BGSU. The Socially Responsible Investing Workshop will be held Tuesday, April 24, from 7:30-9:30 p.m. in room 201 in the Bowling  Green State University student union. The workshop is being hosted by: Nick Hennessey, director of BGSU Office of Sustainability; Professor Enrique Gomez del Campo, Department of Environmental Sustainability; Professor Neocles Leontis, Department of Chemistry;  Josh Mudse, CFP Munn Wealth Management; and Professor Emeritus Tom Klein, English Department. Panel members will be: Darren Munn, CFA, Chief Investment Officer, Camelot Portfolios; Owaiz Dadabhoy, Director of Islamic Investing, Saturna Capital; and Robert Huesman, CFA, CFP, Senior Investment Associate, 1919 Investment Counsel. Socially responsible investing is a strategy that had a dramatic birth in the 1970s when investors began divesting from companies operating under South African apartheid.  It has become very popular over the last three decades, considering both financial return and social and environmental good.  Since 2012 such investing has grown in popularity, with a 135% increase in assets under management to $8.72 trillion.  Today there are about 500 such funds. Specifically, it’s possible to promote positive change by investing in companies advocating clean energy, social justice and environmental sustainability.    Many funds give the investor the choice of what to avoid or invest in.   For example, choices can include harmful industries such as fossil fuels, civilian and military weapons, tobacco, GMO producers and nuclear energy; they can also include support for companies that help the poor start businesses such as the work of micro-finance in Africa. The three most important goals of sustainable investing are to protect the planet, protect our communities and families, and protect our portfolios.


Food truck discussion continues to cook up controversy

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   The idea of inviting transient food truck businesses into downtown Bowling Green leaves a bad taste for a stalwart member of the downtown business community. Floyd Craft, owner of Ben Franklin, Ace Hardware and other downtown buildings, said existing downtown businesses pay taxes into a Special Improvement District that supports items such as street cleaning, flower planting and watering, snow cleanup, and weekend trash pickup. Craft pays the SID anywhere from $200 to $1,049 a year, depending on the property. My main concern is the downtown,” Craft told the three council members – Bill Herald, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino – charged with coming up with regulations for food trucks. “I’m very much against having outsiders in our downtown” – people who don’t pay property taxes and would only have to pay a relatively small permit fee, he said. “We can barely cover our expenses as it is,” Craft said of the downtown district. But Craft also noted that he was one of the people behind the start of the Black Swamp Arts Festival, which allows food trucks to set up in a city parking lot for a weekend. The fee charged for that is quite high, he added. The discussion at the previous meetings on food trucks has focused on allowing the vendors downtown for special events – not on an ongoing basis. Nadya Shihadeh, owner of Qdoba in the downtown, said parking is already a problem for downtown restaurants. However, if the city sets specific rules for the location and hours of operation, Shihadeh said she could get behind the idea. “I think food trucks are cool, totally,” she said. “I’m not against food trucks,” as long as they are regulated, Shihadeh said. Garrett Jones, owner of Reverend’s, said the city needs to limit the number and the size of the food trucks. “Some of these vendor trucks are massive,” and would take up too many valuable parking spots, he…


Composer Maria Schneider warns students about the future of the music industry

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Maria Schneider is an award-winning composer with Grammys in jazz, pop, and classical. She’s also a pioneer in crowdsourcing her music. And she’s a champion for artists’ rights, rebelling against the current music business model. Schneider has written about the issue, appeared on CNN, and testified before Congress. She helped launch musicanswers.org with other composers, performers, songwriters, and producers to advocate for their rights. “I’m really doing it for your future,” she told students at Bowling Green State University, Friday in a session of digital music rights. She’s established enough that she could sit back and live off what she’s already created. Her model, ArtistShare, works well for her. Through the platform, fans help finance the $200,000 it takes to produce one of her recordings. She makes her living from her music, but she’s concerned the new generation of musicians may not have that opportunity. “I’m really doing it for your future.” She apologized for presenting such a bleak “outlook.” The session came on the last day of her three-day residency at BGSU, which concluded with Schneider conducting Jazz Lab I in a concert of her music. (Click to read interview with Schneider.) Her outrage at the compensation started when she’d made her first recording, and found out just how little she would earn after the record company took its share. She contacted older musicians, such as Bob Brookmeyer, one of her mentors in composition, and guitarist Jim Hall. They basically shrugged in resignation. Looking back on it, those payments were generous compared to the pittance that musicians get through the streaming model. Not surprising given Spotify was created by Daniel Ek who got his start in the illegal download business. When he launched Spotify he needed content so he went to the three major record labels, Sony, Universal, and Warner. In exchange for 6 percent of equity in Spotify, which will go public next week, they gave Spotify the rights to their catalogs….


Climate change poses threat to coffee business

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Climate change may increase the cost of your morning coffee. Kelly Wicks, who owns Grounds for Thought in Bowling Green with his wife, Laura, was quoted in a recent Business Forward report saying that climate change is “adversely affecting the long term outlook for coffee, putting additional burdens here at home and putting small farmers in potential financial peril in all the major growing regions worldwide.” Early this year, the Wicks family and a couple key employees traveled to the Siles Farm in Matagalpa, Nicaragua to get a first-hand look at how their main product is grown, and the challenges facing the  farmers, small business owners like the Wicks family, who provide it. Coffee growers, Wicks said, are battling “rust,” a pathogen that can have devastating effects on a coffee plantation. The disease thrives at warmer temperatures. Even a temperature increase of a couple degrees can promote the disease and that can reduce the crop dramatically. The Siles farm is large enough with several thousand acres, that the growers can, for now, combat the spread of the disease by moving production to higher elevations, where the trees are less susceptible. “They have some ability to combat the challenge from climate change,” Wicks said. Siles also has its own dairy herd. The whey is used to produce a material to help protect the trees from rust. The milk is given to their employees. “It’s small growers who have no option.”  While Siles produces thousands bags a year, a small farmer may produce 20-30 bags. “They can’t say we’re just going to go up the mountain,” he said. “And if their well runs dry, they’re out of luck.” While rust is a problem wherever coffee is grown, it is a particular issue in Central America. Should the region’s coffee crop be devastated, that would put a million people out of work, Wicks said. Coffee harvesting and processing is still a labor intensive process, Wicks said. “It’s labor intensive…


Public hungry for solution as food truck talks continue

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Bowling Green officials hope to recreate the winning recipe used by other communities where food trucks co-exist with brick and mortar restaurants. A group of three council members – Bill Herald, Sandy Rowland and John Zanfardino – has now held four meetings on the topic of food trucks. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday, at 4 p.m., in the city council chambers. “I really would like us to start to put some meat on this,” Herald said about food truck regulations. During last week’s meeting, Municipal Administrator Lori Tretter explained the city’s current process for allowing food trucks on private property. At the committee’s request, Tretter also outlined public owned lands, such as city parks and parking lots – areas that could potentially be used for food trucks under new regulations being considered. Tretter also outlined the city’s special event permits, such as those used for food vendors at the annual Black Swamp Arts Festival. The 14-page permit is extensive, and sets requirements on insurance, litter control, security, locations, host organizations, parking and other issues. The Wood County Health Department inspects the actual food service operations. “This is a very extensive permit process,” Tretter said. “This is like gold,” Herald said. “It’s so comprehensive, there’s nothing left out.” Zanfardino questioned if the food vendors will have to avoid the downtown area, due to concerns from brick and mortar restaurant owners. He also suggested some pilot projects, “to see if it truly works for vendors who want to serve Bowling Green.” Both Zanfardino and Rowland pointed to food truck information from the National League of Cities. “There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel,” Rowland said, suggesting that Bowling Green also build on the success of communities like Perrysburg and Toledo that allow food trucks. “We know there were trials and tribulations at the beginning, but it works well now,” Rowland said. Rowland pushed back at the idea that food trucks should avoid…


Glass company named Corporate Citizen of the Year

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Few people know what goes on in the huge, sprawling plant on the banks of the Maumee River in Rossford. But countless people around the world look at – or through- their products every day. Corporate officials have heard the plant referred to as “Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory” because of its mysterious nature. But the magic behind the walls of NSG Pilkington was revealed Thursday evening when the company was named Wood County’s Corporate Citizen of the Year. The company, one of the largest manufacturers in the glass industry, started out as Libbey-Owens-Ford – the last names of three inventors in the glass business – Edward Drummond Libbey, Michael Joseph Owens and Edward Ford. The earliest roots reach back to 1818 in England. Todd Huffman, plant manager, accepted the Corporate Citizen of the Year award and talked about the float glass and advanced assembly plant that sits on 148 acres in Rossford. The mission of NSG Pilkington, the company’s current name, is to produce quality glass with world-class yields, he said. “We focus all of our efforts to satisfy our customers,” Huffman said. The company has 350 employees at its highly robotic Rossford plant, and another 120 engineers and finance employees at its Northwood location. Many of the workers are multi-generations of the same families. “We have an outstanding workforce,” he said. And the company has a great safety record, he added. “These are some of the best glass people in the world.” The company sells to automotive customers around the world, as far away as South Korea and Turkey. The glass is also used in architecture as windows and shower doors, Huffman said. Some of the newer uses for NSG Pilkington’s glass are found in electronics, such as touchscreens and TV displays, as solar panels, and as refrigerator doors. Since the high heat furnaces can’t be shut down, work at the Rossford plant goes on day and night, every day of…


Ohio Signature Food Contest seeks innovative culinary ideas

From CENTER FOR INNOVATIVE FOOD TECHNOLOGY Ohioans with a strong passion for the food industry now have the opportunity to land their product on grocery store shelves with the Ohio Signature Food Contest, running now through May 31, 2018. Sponsored by the Center for Innovative Food Technology (CIFT) and Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF), the contest will showcase new, innovative products from across the state. “This unique contest serves as a catalyst to the growth of the food industry in Ohio,” said Rebecca A. Singer, president and CEO, CIFT.  “There is such a deep history of great products that started right in this state, such as the iconic Dum Dums lollipops, Quaker Oats, Bob Evans sausage, and Life Savers candy.  The creativity and innovation we have seen each year means there is a bright future ahead toward launching the next signature food item that can in turn enhance the economy and create jobs.” The economic benefit from a food manufacturing company can be significant based on the number of people employed, use of Ohio resources for products, the increased income potential realized by an existing business/restaurant advancing a “signature item” consumers recognize, and the trained base of resources already available within the region. Entering is simple and quick.  Contestants complete a simple online form outlining the basic details of their product, and food industry experts will judge each based on the viability of the product, commercialization potential, business strategy, marketability and overall appeal to the marketplace.  Emphasis is placed on products integrating Ohio ingredients when possible.  Finalists will then be invited to present their business concept and product to a panel of judges. The Ohio Signature Food Contest winner will be announced during a special ceremony in late July at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, Ohio. Following the announcement, the winner will receive: Technical and business development assistance to help advance a product to the marketplace Production of product to be used for consumer feedback Nutritional analysis Shelf life/stability testing Review…