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Hatch finalists seek investments for ideas

When Jerrod Witt noticed a Braille sign on an exhaust hood in the Union, he wondered how a visually impaired person could possibly know to check for it there.

Witt, a junior, believes he has a better idea on how to help the visually impaired, and he may have the opportunity to bring his idea to fruition.

The Hatch is an opportunity for students to learn about creating business plans and to potentially get their business ideas funded by investors, said Kirk Kern, director of the Dallas-Hamilton Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.

The Dallas-Hamilton Center includes the Falcon Hatchery, which accepts applications from students with business ideas.

Over 100 applications were submitted this past fall, Kern said. Witt and 11 other students have been chosen to pitch their ideas to investors in The Hatch event on April 9.

Six investors, including four University alumni, will be at the event.

The investors don’t choose a “winner,” Kern said. They individually choose whether or not to invest in each business plan, and multiple plans may receive funding.

Witt is hoping to receive funding for an application to provide visually impaired people with a verbal description of their surroundings.

For example, Witt said they might hear, “You are near the men’s restroom.”

The application can also notify people of elevators, steps and other points of interest, Witt said.

While Witt’s initial idea was to help the visually impaired, he said the idea could be expanded. For example, it could be used in the tourism industry to let people know when they are near landmarks.

This is the second year Witt has submitted his idea to the Falcon Hatchery. When he heard about the Falcon Hatchery, a spark ignited.

“I need to be involved in that,” Witt said.

He was not chosen as a finalist last year, but he was determined to improve his idea and resubmit it.

Freshman Angela Lucarelli submitted her idea for the first time this year and was chosen as a finalist. Her proposal is a “rental business clothing service,” she said.

Many students only need business clothing occasionally, for one interview or one day in class, Lucarelli said. They either have to buy this clothing, as Lucarelli did, or they borrow it, as some of her classmates did with her clothing.

“I spent more than I ever thought I would spend on [a suit] and it really bothered me,” Lucarelli said.

Buying business clothes can be especially difficult for students who barely have the money to attend college and then must come up with more money to “look the part,” she said.

She is proposing her rental service as a less expensive alternative to help those students and others.

Lucarelli submitted her idea to the Falcon Hatchery partly due to its risk-free nature.

“What could you lose?” she said. “The worst is [they could say] no.”

Lucarelli said there isn’t a single bad idea in The Hatch, but this doesn’t worry her.

“Since it’s not a competition, I really hope everyone gets invested,” she said.​

While The Hatch is not a competition, the University community can vote via text message for the winner of the Campus Choice Award.

See the full list of finalists, their ideas and voting codes on the University’s College of Business site:

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