Ohio Wesleyan Launches New Competition to Support Student-Entrepreneurs
Helping children and young adults with special needs to live more independently. Enabling college students to buy, sell, and trade items more securely. Making tabletop role-playing games more fun with custom-created dice and other items.
These ideas earned financial prizes for the Ohio Wesleyan University students who shared them at the first Pitch OWU competition, held Oct. 20 by The Woltemade Center for Economics, Business and Entrepreneurship. Twenty-two students participated, with 16 business pitches presented to a three-judge panel. Participants had three minutes to pitch their ideas and two minutes to answer questions.
Graci Semptimphelter, a first-year student from Franklin, Tennessee, won the $1,000 grand prize for her idea to create Village Crew, which she described as “a way to connect people with special needs to the necessary support they need to live independently.”
“It is an app-based solution that connects people with special needs and their caregivers to a community of villagers so that they can accomplish everyday tasks as well as participate in social gatherings,” said Semptimphelter, a Business Administration (Management Concentration) and Spanish double major and Psychology minor.
She conceived the app in high school when she realized the amount of care and connections needed to help those with special needs to live their best lives.
To support her entrepreneurial endeavors, Semptimphelter also was named a 2022-2023 Ohio Wesleyan Economics Management Fellow and currently is an intern at the Delaware Entrepreneurial Center (DEC) at Ohio Wesleyan University, a collaborative business incubator and education center involving the university, Delaware County, and the City of Delaware.
By the time she graduates, Semptimphelter said, “I plan to hopefully have Village Crew up and running by then. I also plan to own my own coffee shop where I will hire people with special needs.”
Sophomores Ron Netawat of Indore, India, and Clint Johnson of Urbana, Ohio, earned first runner-up honors and $500 for their app Sellit, created to provide “a safer trading platform for college students.”
“It was an idea that I had when I spilled water on my laptop and wanted to get it replaced as soon as possible,” said Netawat, an Astrophysics and Mathematics double major and Computer Science minor. I also figured that everyone faces this problem and so I decided to do something about it.”
The result is Sellit, which Netawat and Johnson, a Chemistry and Mathematics double major, describe as “like Facebook Marketplace, but only for students and much safer, faster, and easier.”
“New users sign up using their .edu emails which guarantees verified users and also leaves no room for trades of illegal products,” they explained. “Every college student has something to sell, and they can post their products on our app for other students to buy. … We mutually decided to not run any ads on our app and, at some point in time, we will charge a flat fee of 50 cents on each product posted by the seller.”
Of their Pitch OWU success, Netawat and Johnson said: “This gave us immense confidence and thus we are going to build it and get it published on the App Store and Play Store as soon as possible. … After we get a good user base, we plan to meet investors or get the app running as a bootstrapped (self-funded) startup.”
Aubrey’s Little Store
Second runner-up, sophomore Aubrey Dunham of Minerva, Ohio, earned $300 to support her existing shop, Aubrey’s Little Store.
“I might not be here to change the world like a lot of my peers, but I am here to change your board game nights,” Dunham, a Business Administration (Management Concentration) major, told the Pitch OWU judges.
Her shop, launched about four years ago, caters to tabletop role-playing game (TTRPG) players by providing custom-created dice, miniature figures, trays, totes, and other items for games such as Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder.
Dunham, who sells online at Etsy and in person at comic cons and renaissance fairs, said she currently is working on two new products that “will be both firsts in the TTRPG community.”
The products include a kit designed to turn the sometimes confusing and costly process of making terrains “into a simple all-in-one kit with easy instructions.” she said. “The other is a bundle kit featuring items from 10 different small businesses, including my own, which will give you everything you need to get started.”
Dunham founded her store before enrolling at Ohio Wesleyan, but said, “OWU has helped me develop my business by helping me connect with others who have provided me with amazing opportunities allowing me to share my business and ideas with more people and also giving me a home in the DEC, where I now spend most of my time working hard in my office space!”
In recognition of her potential as an entrepreneur, Dunham also was named a 2022-2023 Ohio Wesleyan Latham Entrepreneurial Scholar.
Creating Business Leaders
Judging the Pitch OWU proposals were Barbara MacLeod, OWU’s Joseph A. Meek Professor of Economics, John J. Joseph Professor of Business Administration, and managing director for Golden Seeds; Gretchen Murphy, senior campus recruiter for the Columbus office of Schneider Downs; and Omar Nesmith, co-founder and managing director of Columbus-based Venture Combine. The competition was sponsored by First Commonwealth Bank and Schneider Downs.
Destiny Coleman, administrative director of The Woltemade Center for Economics, Business and Entrepreneurship, said she was pleased with the inaugural event.
“We had an overwhelming response of student entrepreneurs and participants for our first Pitch OWU competition,” Coleman said. “The students gained valuable feedback from the judges, and The Woltemade Center is happy to be a pillar for helping student-entrepreneurs create viable businesses.”
Learn more about The Woltemade Center and its mission to enhance OWU’s academic programs and provide real-world opportunities for students at owu.edu/woltemade.