[email protected] aids inventors and entrepreneurs

Winter Keefer

[email protected] has provided services ranging from marketing a local resident’s paint brush scrubber to solving a filtration issue for the Marquette-based  company Easy Ice in its past 17 months of operation.

A new Products and Propulsion page for [email protected] was added to the NMU website last week, highlighting its client success stories.

[email protected] welcomes ideas from all stages of the invent process, offering services to a spectrum of clients from the corporate end all the way down to people who have an idea that they have been working on in their garage.

This program started as an experiment, Founding Director of [email protected] David Ollila said. In the business world there were a lot of people hunting for “Unicorns,” or quickly growing companies’ worth over $1 billion, and these received the most investment dollars.

“That really excludes a lot of ideas from the opportunity,” Ollila said. “So our model was like this: What if everyone had a chance, and what if you made it more accessible to innovators and not necessarily just the entrepreneurs?”

Innovators and inventors have a lot of ideas but do not always have the entrepreneurial skills needed to get products out on the market, Ollila said.

Of all the projects brought through the doors, 75 percent have come from community members and the rest from students. NMU students can come through the first stages of the “Invent process” for free.

The program is mostly run by student employees, said Emma Finkbeiner, senior public relations major and public relation specialist at [email protected] There are about 12 student workers, with only one full-time and two part-time professional  staff members.

The student staff is composed of an assortment of majors including mechanical engineering and technologies (MET), graphic design, business and public relations.

“I think that it is such a great success for NMU to be housing a program like this because it really shows that when these sort of hidden-gem programs at NMU come together, they can really create success,” Finkbeiner said.

[email protected] is unique in the way that it works with both the community and the students, Austin Morris, MET major and mechanical engineer at [email protected], said of the organization.

“We can help them, and they can help us,” Morris said, “because it gives us the experience and gives them the product or idea that they’re looking to come up with.”

Editor’s Note: For transparency, Emma Finkbeiner is the assistant news editor at The North Wind.