KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Student entrepreneurs from Western Michigan University are being recognized for their innovative business ideas.
Industrial and entrepreneurial engineering student Tyler Skibicki, of Lake Orion, and mechanical engineering student Noah Schultz, of Washington, Michigan, received the $10,000 Brian Patrick Thomas Entrepreneurial Spirit Award for Ethereal Motion, LLC.
In addition, industrial and entrepreneurial engineering students Megan Gesler, of New Hudson, Anthony Mastro, of Oak Lawn, Illinois, and Conor Mulhearn, of Jackson, received the $5,000 Wendell Christoff Award for Gel Sleeves.
Diligently working in Starting Gate, WMU's student business accelerator, the students have had access to an array of resources for student entrepreneurs throughout their ventures.
ETHEREAL MOTION, LLC
Ethereal Motion, LLC, is a motorcycle technology-based company focused on creating innovative products to enhance the riding experience. The company is backed by a highly knowledgeable team that is constantly working to develop new technology for the motorcycle industry. As the business grows, the team intends to release new lines of products specializing in sportbikes and supersports. The products are designed to provide a more comfortable and superior riding experience.
“Noah and I are very honored and thankful for the Brian Thomas Award,” Skibicki says. “This past year in Starting Gate has provided great learning opportunities for us and has set us up for success. The funds will be used to fuel our growth over the upcoming years.”
“We are super grateful to receive this award, having competed against very high-level competition,” Schultz adds. “We will use a portion of this money to start the manufacturing process.”
Gel Sleeves hopes to enter the growing senior care market with their customizable arm and hand wraps, which contain protective gel pockets for individuals who bruise easily due to the use of blood thinners. The company’s cutting-edge design incorporates gel pockets into a soft cotton/Lycra material, strategically placed over high impact areas of the body. This design works to prevent bruising before it happens, rather than treating the bruising after the fact.
“We are very excited to have been selected for the Wendell Christoff Award,” Gesler says. “It comes at a great time for us since we have been using our extra time while sheltering in place to work on perfecting our Gel Sleeve prototypes. We will use the award to advance Gel Sleeves by creating a large set of prototypes that we will release to our committed trial users. In doing so we will put our design to the test, learn more about what the users need and improve our design.”
BRIAN PATRICK THOMAS ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT AWARD
Now in its sixth year, the Brian Patrick Thomas Entrepreneurial Spirit Award recognizes businesses that aim to promote a higher social purpose. It is awarded annually to a company from Starting Gate.
Thomas is an alumnus of WMU who earned his degree in industrial marketing in 1996. He joined OtterBox in 2003 and was eventually named CEO where he was responsible for leading global expansion efforts. During his tenure, Thomas received the Mid-Market CEO of the Year in 2014 from CEO Connection and was named one of the Top 100 CEOs in the country by Chief Executive Magazine. Thomas' passion for entrepreneurial thinking and social entrepreneurship sparked his desire to establish this award to support student entrepreneurs. Thomas is currently the CEO of his own independent consultant business working with startups and entrepreneurs.
WENDELL CHRISTOFF AWARD
The Wendell Christoff Award honors students in Starting Gate who use their talent to create opportunities for others through their entrepreneurial endeavors.
Christoff is an alumnus of WMU who earned his degree in business administration in 1968. After graduation, Christoff joined the U.S. Air Force and served as a pilot. Following his service, Christoff returned to the family business, C.J. Christoff & Sons, beginning in the sales department. In 1997, they merged with Litehouse Inc., where Christoff was vice president and vice chairman. Litehouse produces salad dressing and sauces and was named a Top 100 privately held company by Entrepreneur magazine.
Starting Gate, WMU's student business accelerator, gives students rich and valuable resources to develop their startup companies. It is located in downtown Kalamazoo and operated by the Haworth College of Business Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in partnership with the WMU Office of Community Outreach. The accelerator is open to all WMU students through a competitive application process during which students must demonstrate a promising idea for a product or service that can be launched within a short period.