[email protected] helps community for over 4 years


Kelsii Kyto

Celebrating its four years of existence on Oct. 16, [email protected] continues to help people across the country take their ideas to the next level, because according to their motto, “all ideas are worth exploring.”

[email protected]’s unique five-step process starts with a free “quick explore,” where the Invent team makes sure the idea is feasible and unique. Following the “quick explore” is validation, where clients get feedback from an advisory panel and look at competitors on the market. Then, the Invent team will put the idea down on paper and the idea goes back to the client, and then they decide whether or not to move forward.

“After that, we can help with anything and everything from actually doing prototyping and design work to manufacturing, to helping you source a manufacturer if it is for a product,” program manager Rachel Barra said.

Although the other processes apart from the “quick explore” cost money, NMU students are able to apply for a scholarship from a generous alumnus who donated to [email protected], Barra said.

“If someone has something that they want to move along but don’t think they can afford it, still come see us,” Barra said.

Barra and others will continue to help their clients through marketing and design work for logos and helping create things for the new business, Barra said.

Clients can choose the speed at which they’d like to work, which can range from three months to two-and-a-half years, Barra said.
Apart from the six full-time employees, there are 15 students on staff who help with anything from design work to marketing.

[email protected] has a 100 percent job placement rate within six months of graduation, Barra added.

“It’s a great way for students to either take ideas to us, or also on the flipside it’s a great way for students to get real-world experience,” marketing coordinator Kylie Bunting said.

Opportunities that students have at [email protected] look great on a resume, Bunting added, and students are working with real clients on real projects on real things that can end up on the market, Bunting added.

“We have a really good team manager who has patience because we’re still learning,” Chelsey Bassett, senior human-centered design major and industrial designer for [email protected] said.

[email protected] also launched kiosks, which Bunting described as free-standing computers. The team launched its first kiosk in Geogebic county, at which people can submit ideas for products. The kiosks were invented by NMU students, Bunting

“It was a labor of love,” Bunting said.

Clients are able to submit their ideas and get a quick explore, which is a free 15-minute analysis of their idea, and [email protected] employees will respond in three business days.

“Our goal is really to expand specifically throughout the entire Upper Penninsula,” Bunting said.

[email protected] will be launching its second kiosk in Calumet, and a third will be in Negaunee in January.

Recently, Patagium, a sustainable outdoor gear sewing company on Third Street, started by Cathe Hahn opened thanks to [email protected]

“She originally came in with a stand-up paddleboard sale, and she realized that she’s got these great sewing skills, why not actually open a sewing shop and do other outdoor gear repair,” Barra said. “So we helped her with a lot of that.”