Awards & Events

3T Takes Top Prize in eAcademy Competition

HERMITAGE, Pa. – Jonah Montgomery, a senior at Hickory High School in Hermitage, says he plans to pursue a career in electrical engineering at Youngstown State University next year.

The only distraction toward achieving that goal would be if the company he and three fellow high school seniors started this year really took off, diverting his interests into building a successful business.

Montgomery, Kathleen Kosmowski, Allana Bell, and Bailey Shepard are co-founders of 3T, a startup company launched within the confines of the Entrepreneurship Academy, or eAcademy, a program administered by the eCenter@LindenPointe in Hermitage.

3T emerged as the winners of the Academy’s “demo day,” in which high school seniors present their ideas and prototypes of products, services, and concepts before a panel of four judges. The top prize was $2,500 for first place. The runner up – a startup business named Adaptasole – received $1,250.

One of those judges was yours truly.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. What I did discover was that these young people representing six new businesses possess the drive and creativity that powers the entrepreneurial spirit in the Mahoning and Shenango Valleys.

The projects were assessed according to the startup’s presentations, market feasibility, financial projections, vision statement, and prototype development. The competition was held Thursday at Buhl Park Casino.

Win or lose, all 22 students participating in the eAcademy take home something even more valuable, and that’s firsthand experience of what it takes to become an entrepreneur, said Gary Gulla, Hermitage’s assistant city manager.

“This is the first step to see what is available to them, and what opportunities await them,” Gulla said.

Part of that learning experience is failure, the assistant city manager said.

Throughout the entire school year, 22 students representing 10 high schools throughout Mercer and Lawrence counties, spent a large portion of their time learning the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. Over the course of the school year, students from different high schools create teams and formulate ideas for new companies, while engaging in visits to area businesses ranging from pizza parlors to manufacturers.

Ultimately, the goal is to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem in which young people choose to stay in the region once they complete their degrees or select to start a business of their own, Gulla said.

“We want these young people to stay close to this region,” he emphasized, and exposing them to opportunities in the service, manufacturing and entrepreneurial sectors of the local economy is a start.

3T’s idea, for example, is manufacturing a new mobile phone case that is incorporated with special insulation that keeps the battery warm during the cold weather months, and is especially targeted to construction workers and electrical contractors. The company expects to price the case at $89.99, and by its fifth year in business, projects to earn $230,800 in revenues.

Adaptasole’s product features an interchangeable sole on a standard athletic shoe. The idea is to reduce the cost of purchasing a different shoe for a specific sport such as track or basketball. Instead of buying a $200 shoe for each activity, you could purchase Adaptasole’s shoe retailing a $50, and interchangeable soles at $10 apiece. An official prototype could be ready over the next several months.

Other new ventures include Blue, a company that distributes an official “breakup box” that is sent to a boyfriend or girlfriend filled with confetti and other novelties to express in no uncertain terms that the relationship is over; Connect Technology, which has developed a low-cost electronic tablet that is specifically geared to underserved markets such as Third World countries; Get Faded Highlighters, a company that produces a highlighter marker that fades on its own; and Crystal Clear, which has invented an apparatus that automatically cleans your toilet.

“This program has taught me things about business and entrepreneurship that I would’ve never known about,” said Dylan Marlowe, a principal of the Crystal Clear startup.

Indeed, Marlowe says that once he graduates, he’s moving directly into the working world at an insurance company in Wexford, Pa.

“I’ve been presented with an opportunity, and I’m willing to take the risk,” Marlowe said. “One thing this program has taught me is to take that risk.”

Pictured: Jonah Montgomery, Allana Bell and Kathleen Kosmowski, co-founders of 3T.

Copyright 2019 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.