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Ohio's young entrepreneurs prove age no barrier

Paul Milligan, Bryan Huber and Andrew Brush of QueVee in Columbus. Photos Ben French
Paul Milligan, Bryan Huber and Andrew Brush of QueVee in Columbus. Photos Ben French

These days, some of the biggest ideas are coming from the youngest of minds. College students and recent graduates across Ohio are combining bold ideas with bold action, fueling the state's transformation one job at a time. hiVelocity caught up with a few of the young entrepreneurs who are making a mark on Ohio.

Patrick Yovanov, 22
Central Venous Catheter Home Care Device

Like many great ideas, Patrick Yovanov's was born from personal need. While being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia, Yovanov appreciated his intravenous catheter, which made for easier administration of chemotherapy, blood transfusions, and other necessary treatments. What he didn't enjoy was how the catheter looked and felt when he returned to campus between treatments. "The catheter hangs about nine inches from the body," he explains. "It gets caught in clothing, didn't feel sanitary, and was very uncomfortable." Because no formal products existed, the University of Cincinnati industrial design student experimented with various clips to tie up the exposed lumens, or lines. He came up with a folding plastic clip that discreetly stows and supports the lines, eliminating the discomfort caused by gravity. Fortunately, Yovanov no longer needs his own device. But by working with some interested medical device companies, he hopes to ease the distress of other patients in the very near future.

Jason Owens, 23
Owens Technology

"As a kid, I took apart everything my parents ever got me," says Jason Owens, an engineering student at the University of Toledo. These days, Owens is building things complex electronics devices aimed at the alternative energy marketplace, to be precise. A garage tinkerer himself, Owens discovered a need in the freelance electrical engineering domain. "There are lots of people working on leading-edge research in alternative energy that lack proper testing equipment," he says. "The average testing equipment, if it exists at all, is very expensive." Through his company, Owens Technology, Owens sells proprietary products like solid state relay boards that can handle 100,000 cycles per second. He is also working on next-gen residential inverters for use with solar panels and wind turbines. Unlike current models that require complete replacement when broken, Owens' are modular, allowing for DIY repairs. Owens has built working prototypes and has filed provisional patents. He hopes to go into production in the near future. The fact that he accomplishes all this while managing a double major is a testament to his intelligence and drive. The fact that he does so being legally blind well, that's nothing short of inspirational. Owens credits Dean Nagi Naganathan from UT's College of Engineering and Dick Hanson of the university's new Clean and Alternative Energy Incubator as both being instrumental to his company's development.

Nick Dadas, 28
University Tees

Like many of his college pals, Nick Dadas was looking for a way to make some cash between classes. While attending Miami University, where he was a Marketing and Entrepreneurship student, he teamed up with roommate Joe Haddad to sell custom T-shirts around campus. University Tees quickly found its niche between the small mom-and-pop print shops and large online retailers. "Students are more likely to purchase from friends and acquaintances," explains Dadas. "We built our business around relationships." It wasn't long before the business expanded to other Ohio universities, where a student salesperson would duplicate the successful approach. Upon graduation, Dadas made the decision to see how far he could take the company. "I knew that if the business model worked on five or six campuses, it would work on 100 or 200," he says. Presently, University Tees has a presence on 90 campuses, with the goal of being on 300 within three to four years. In addition to his father, George, Dadas credits Miami University professors Dr. Joseph Kayne and Lee Manders with being influential in the company's formation and growth. University Tees is headquartered in Cleveland and employs 15 full-time workers, five freelance graphic designers, and numerous independent campus managers.

Paul Milligan, 21

When he was just nine years old, Paul Milligan was leading computer classes for senior citizens at his local community center. He estimates that within a couple years he taught basic computer skills to more than 300 people. At the ripe-old age of 16, while still attending high school in Powell, Milligan launched his current video production company. Now called Best Light Video, the Columbus-based business specializes in HD filming and post production. "Lately, we noticed more and more people shooting their own video for blogs or websites," says Milligan. "But they didn't have the skills or software to edit the films when they were done. We needed a new solution for this growing base of users." QueVee is that solution. Customers simply upload their video to the site and specify the edits to be done. QueVee's network of video editors does the work and makes the final cut available for customer download. "Our goal is to be quick and inexpensive," adds Milligan. The website is presently in private beta testing. Milligan cites Gary Ralston, of Ralston Consulting, as an invaluable resource along the way. "Gary has helped bring clarity to numerous decisions for me," says Milligan. "He helped me to better understand project management, balancing workload and capacity, and finding out what really matters to my clients, business partners, associates, friends and family."

Danny Stull, 24

"As a kid, some of the best times I ever had were being outdoors with my family," says Danny Stull, a recent graduate of Miami University. "We still take a family road trip out west every year." Clearly an advocate of family adventures, Stull created Venturepax, a website where families can research outdoor activities. User-generated content like stories, pictures and videos will help trekkers delve deeper into thousands of outdoor exploits. "People want to know, 'is this activity ideal for me and my family?'" says Stull. "The information on the site will help them answer that question." Outdoor activities called "ventures" include backpacking, camping, mountain biking, and strolls through the park. Stull got the idea for the site while he was researching a new hobby: fly fishing. "There were no sites that brought all relevant information together," he says. "I saw a problem and wanted to fix it." Stull, based in Cincinnati, recently promoted his site at the Cincinnati Travel, Sports & Boat Show.

Stephanie Rucinski, 34
JoeMetric, Inc.

There's an app for just about everything, as we are so frequently reminded. But of the 100,000-plus smartphone applications on the market, how many actually make money instead of take it? Stephanie Rucinski's JoeMetric pays users real cash for providing simple feedback to curious companies. "Market research is always needed, but the focus groups, interviews and surveys can be very expensive," says Rucinski, who earned both her law degree and MBA from Ohio State University. "People enjoy sharing their opinion. This allows them to make some money while killing time." Users simply select the surveys they wish to complete, earning a couple bucks per questioner. Modern smartphones provide the companies with far richer data, too, by being able to upload photos, videos, voice notes and GPS-stamping. "I decided that I didn't want to follow the traditional MBA path," she adds. "I like the ability to see the whole picture rather than being a cog in the system." Columbus-based JoeMetric is currently in beta testing and will enjoy its official product launch at this year's South by Southwest fest in spring.

(In the photos, from top: Paul Milligan (from left), Bryan Huber and Andrew Brush of QueVee; Andrew Brush (from left), Bryan Huber and Paul Milligan meet at Dupler Office; Stephanie Rucinski of Joe Metric; Danny Stull of Venturepax; Nick Dadas (left) and Joe Haddad of University Tees; Nick Dadas (from left), Joe Haddad and Brett McNally of University Tees.)

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