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Horizon Fund Wraps Up Second Year With Success

Horizon Fund | April 27, 2012 | Comments Off

$500 may not seem like much on the balance books of any college – even a private liberal arts institution like McPherson College. But micro-grants of just $500 or less through the college’s Horizon Fund have made a significant difference in the lives of enterprising MC students.

Now having completed its second year, the raw statistics about the fund during that time are staggering – 72 distinct ideas have received funds with approximately 75 students benefitting, either as individuals or as part of a group – this on a campus of about 600 students. What’s more, about half of these ideas have seen full success or significant progress as of fall 2011, with 13 ideas receiving multiple grants as the concepts have grown and developed.

Ideas have included initiatives to improve campus life, clothing companies that give back to charity, new automotive restoration businesses, recycling programs, fundraisers and artistic ventures.

In addition to the funds, students who receive Horizon Fund grants also get personalized advice and guidance from Dr. Kori Gregg, executive director of entrepreneurship at McPherson College. Dr. Gregg said the Horizon Fund was the first aspect of the college’s “Freedom to Jump” entrepreneurship initiative, and it remains central to the program by helping students have the resources to pursue their ideas.

“There’s this quote from T.S. Eliot,” Dr. Gregg said. “‘Between the idea and the reality, between the motion and the act falls the shadow.’ I think what he’s saying is that before we can make our dreams real, we have to deal with this scary thing called ‘the unknown’ – the shadow. The purpose of the Horizon Fund is to give students a little light to see into that darkness.”

For one student, the fund helped take a childhood passion for drawing and turn it into a possible business.

Jonathan Wickramasinghe, junior, Hesperia, Calif., got his artistic inspiration from a textured ceiling, in which he imagined the rough outline of a monkey’s face. He refined that initial design and created others to propose a design T-shirt company called “Iffy” – a slang term for cool. He’s wanted to make a business of the designs for years, but only with the Horizon Fund has been able to afford to pursue it.

“When I got here, I thought, ‘What am I going to do with my life?’” he said. “Now I know how much I like graphic design and can put my work out there.”

Katherine Doffing, senior, Conway Springs, Kan., plans to start her business with something fake – namely “fake cakes.” The idea behind “Strawberry Fields” is that many couples want the look of a beautiful wedding cake, but not the expense. Doffing plans to sell wedding cakes that are really made of Styrofoam and fondant frosting for the look of an expensive wedding cake at about a third the cost. Guests would eat sheet cake, also provided by Strawberry Fields. Because a fake cake ships well, most of her business would be online.

“I’ve always been obsessed with weddings and always wanted to do something in that field,” Doffing said. “With the Horizon Fund, it’s nice to be able to start early. It makes me more determined and Strawberry Fields more of a priority.”

Natasha Chaney, sophomore, Edgerton, Kan., got her first Horizon Fund grant of $75 in October 2010 to help her raise money for her elementary school. By working with a local bakery to create a fundraiser allowing parents to buy cookies for their students at MC. She turned that $75 into more than $380 for Edgerton Elementary School – more than five times the original amount.

Now she’s pursuing a business concept called “Just the Place.” Three nights a week she sets up shop just inside the doors of her residence hall, selling snacks, school supplies and personal items to students at a price that’s competitive with retail outlets and more convenient for students. Without the Horizon Fund, she said, she’d have had the ideas but not the startup money to begin them. It’s been an eye-opening experience of what small businesses have to do to succeed.

“Running a business is definitely a lot more work than I thought,” she said. “It’s a learning process, that’s for sure.”

Aurore Joigny, junior, Deuil-la-Barre, France, brought with her from France a knowledge of how to make macarons – colorful, sweet, meringue based confections.

“I think it’s a new taste, a new texture they’re not used to,” she said. “Once people try it, they usually love it.”

With a Horizon Fund grant to purchase baking supplies and use of the theatre kitchen, Joigny has turned her passion for baking into a business called “Sucre.” She’s been making macarons to order for events and private groups ever since. She said the grant convinced her to take a risk and try her idea.

“It encouraged me to jump in and do it,” she said. “It’s been a great opportunity for me.”

Other new ideas to receive funds in the 2011-2012 academic year include:

  • Brice Carlson, senior, McPherson, Kan., plans to create parts for vintage Volkswagens, in particular a part allowing a new transmission to be placed in a vintage Volkswagen. The grant will fund the first production run of parts.
  • Colton Stewart, junior, Augusta, Kan., and Rusty Andersen, sophomore, Hastings, Minn., want to create a new automotive restoration business called “Stewart Custom and Restoration.” The grant will help them purchase a welder and set of body hammers.
  • Austin Grabowski, junior, Upland, Calif., would create a comprehensive automotive and motorcycle repair and hot rod shop called “Gunslinger Speed and Custom.” The grant will help him purchase equipment.
  • Pat Knapp, junior, Basking Ridge, N.J., and Michael Rhodes, freshman, Perrysburg, Ohio, will expand an existing automotive repair shop in McPherson run by students called PM Auto Repair, specializing in weekend and evening hours to better fit people’s schedules. Two grants will help with advertising and software updates for their scanner (allowing them to work on newer-model cars) equipment and business paperwork.
  • Kalila Haddad, senior, Kansas City, Mo., plans to create an automotive history publication called “Streamline to Salvage”, merging articles with art and history. The grant will help with the purchase of a camera and starting a blog site.
  • Chase Ozbun, senior, Rose Hill, Kan., would like to create a green MC apparel shop on campus in conjunction with the bookstore. It would bring team-specific T-shirts to the fans watching that sport, with 90 percent of profit going to that team. The grant will help him conduct a feasibility study.
  • Nick Wilde, sophomore, McPherson, Kan., will explore making housing available on campus for married couples. The grant will allow Wilde to make a feasibility study.
  • Ryan Polson, sophomore, Long Valley, N.J., will turn a hobby into a business called “Gearing for Go”, buying used axels and rebending them to create a low-rider style car affordably. He received two grants to help him purchase equipment.
  • Michael Rhodes, freshman, Perrysburg, Ohio, and Miriam Roof, sophomore, Perrysburg, Ohio, are starting a full-service motorcycle repair shop called Mac Cycles. Their grants will help with advertising, initial shop supplies, securing a location and business paperwork.
  • Karl Bittner, freshman, Rushville, Mo., plans to start “Fine Lines Trim and Upholstery”, working primarily on automobile trim. The grant funds his first inventory of fabric.
  • Nelson Rose, sophomore, Athens, Texas, is creating a 24-hour roadside and home repair and service business called “AT Home Mechanic.” The grant helped with the purchase of specialty tools.
  • Mikhail Perez, junior, Chanute, Kan., plans to start a business called “The Detail Doctors”, an automotive detailing service for cars. The grant will help purchase a buffer and supplies such as waxes, polishes and soaps.
  • Casey Maxon, junior, Lawrence, Kan., is helping Miller Library on the MC campus to organize its collection of automotive restoration materials. The grants helped pay for archival quality page protectors for periodical clippings from the 1900s through the 1950s.
  • Shane Dresser, junior, Kearny, N.J., plans to create durable tooled leather belts, key chains, wallets briefcases and bags. He’ll use the grant to help pay for supplies and a sturdy work table.
  • Tarek Khalidi, senior, Augusta, Kan., wants to start a DJ Business called “Entertainment Guru” to provide DJ services at weddings, proms and dances. The grant will help with equipment and marketing.
  • David Parry, senior, Morganville, Kan., plans to start an automotive restoration shop focused on Ford Mustangs called “Parry Restorations.” The grant will help him with the purchase of basic tools.
  • Miriam Roof, sophomore, Perrysburg, Ohio, is starting a business selling antique furniture, Depression-era glass, used books, vintage clothing and accessories. The grant will help with starting a storefront and moving inventory from Ohio.
  • Geverton Ost, junior, McPherson, Kan., has plans to create a sports agency called “OST” (Original Study and Travel) to be based in Brazil to help student-athletes in the country to find good college matches in the United States. The grant is helping with a website and marketing materials.
  • Aspen Ulrich, sophomore, Sylvan Grove, Kan., is working to start a summer camp for middle school students called “M-Powered” to help them experience college life and envision themselves as college students. The grant will help with registration paperwork, printing fees, T-shirts and other miscellaneous costs to help keep the cost of the camp affordable.
  • Colby Patton, freshman, Maize, Kan., is looking to create a nail painting business called “Paw Prints.” She will be able to buy nail polish and supplies with the grant.
  • Thiago Silva, freshman, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, plans to expand a virtual online store selling sporting goods, especially for tennis, called TMS Sports. The grant will help with online and email marketing, direct marketing such as posters and catalogs and market research to expand the catalog.
  • DaMarcus Trotter, junior, Kansas City, Mo., has received two grants to pursue ideas. The first is to research and develop a small add-on device for the iPad, which would allow printing photos taken on the iPad on-the spot. Second, Trotter received a grant to develop and market a lawn mower that runs off solar power called the “Solar Mow.”
  • Justin Biegger, junior, Fuquay Varina, N.C. is starting a business called “Pillows to Die For” creating pillows that look like the 20-sided die used in tabletop roleplaying games. The grant will help pay for materials and embroidery.
  • Garrett Sharp, junior, Chanute, Kan., wants to start a business called “Garrett’s Gadgets”, a business creating mobile phone applications for Apple and Android devices. The apps would help automotive reference and parts companies put paper catalogs into digital form, allowing them to be easier to use and more easily updated. The grant will help Sharp create an limited liability company, enroll in the Apple Development Program and make technology updates.

A number of ideas that had received grants last year also received additional funds to advance and expand. They include:

  • Blake Jett, senior, Fort Worth, Texas, and Samuel Tucker, junior, Thornton, Colo., creating stylish T-shirts in support of charitable causes with their business “Mute Point Apparel.” The two grants helped fund new printing runs and marketing.
  • Brittney Shoulders, sophomore, Rialto, Calif., received another grant to assist with her business, Cherry Doll Purses, which creates stylish custom retro purses made from recycled vinyl. Two new grants will help her with marketing, a website and filing as an LLC.
  • Casey Maxon, junior, Lawrence, Kan., has started his own photography business called “Cacklefest Photography.” The business focuses on quality photographs for auto enthusiasts and restorers. The business will specialize in restored automobiles and the restoration process. A new grant helped him purchase a tripod for use with the business.
  • Eric Wasson, junior, Mount Airy, Md., received a grant to build a prototype skateboard and develop a business plan for his idea called “Drop Lite Skateboards.” In addition to selling to skateboarders, Wasson wants to donate boards to at-risk kids in need as an alternative to gangs and violence. This second grant will help pay for materials.
  • Jared Coho, sophomore, Bellwood, Pa.; Taylor Adams, junior, Ashland, Va.; and other members of a Model T build team build a Model T from a pile of parts in less than 15 minutes as a demonstration to promote McPherson College. This second grant helped with the purchase of a more complete Model T.
  • Steven Ast, senior, Williamson, N.Y., started a television repair and used television business, called MYTV Television Repair, recovering televisions that might otherwise have ended up in the garbage. A second grant helped with the purchase of diagnostic tools.
  • Evan Tomer, senior, Tulsa, Okla., started Precision Automotive Detail, an affordable detailing and cleaning service to bring a vehicle to showroom condition. A second grant is helping his plans to serve boats and RVs as well.
  • Emily James, junior, Westminster, Colo., with Lara Neher, freshman, Grundy Center, Iowa, as a partner, started a community garden on the McPherson College campus. An additional grant is helping with the purchase of hoses, wheelbarrows and other tools.

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