An enthusiastic and personable mechanical engineering senior who enjoys solving problems has created an idea with a sophomore industrial engineering major. The team, from the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, has made it to the finals of the West Virginia Statewide Collegiate Business Plan Competition, a competition designed to encourage college students statewide to turn their ideas into real businesses.
Keegan and Kadee Mueller have created the Cone Enhancer, a ring-shaped device that slides down onto a caution cone, resting on the upper part of the safety device. By the way, the two entrepreneurial teammates are brother and sister.
Keegan said the Cone Enhancer has three values to customers.
The Cone Enhancer has three specific functions: it has LED flashing lights to make the cone visible; there are holes on all sides to secure signs, flags or glow sticks; and there are T’s on all sides so caution tape can be secured.
Keegan said the idea came from their father, who saw a need for a product that could perform these tasks. From this idea, Keegan and Kadee took the concept, materializing and patenting it over the past year.
Now one of only 15 finalist teams, the siblings said the competition has given the idea an edge that was not there before. Keegan said he is confident in what they will do if they win the competition.
“Competition usually does a great job at fostering growth and that has been the exact outcome so far,” he said. “If we are to win the competition, we will be able to enter manufacturing without the assistance of investors and would retain 100 percent of our ownership.”
This is the 13th year for the West Virginia Statewide Business Plan Competition, hosted by the BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the John Chambers College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University. Efforts to bolster entrepreneurship and small business creation have been identified by WVU as a goal for the West Virginia Forward initiative to advance the state’s economic future.
Kadee said the main demographics her team will be focusing on are law enforcement agencies, utility companies and the military. The groups were chosen due to their push of safety practices and likeliness to use the product.
“So far, I have loved seeing how other ideas in the business plan competition are thought of and it amazes me how there are things in this world that we still haven’t thought of creating,” she said.
Keegan now has big plans for his future, as he has already accepted a position at the Procter & Gamble plant outside of Martinsburg, West Virginia, but he said he did so knowing it would not interfere with the plans he and Kadee have of keeping up the momentum of their business idea.
Kadee said that, following the competition, she has already accepted a co-op with Hershey for the fall 2019 semester, but her end goal is to be her own boss, as she is fascinated with putting products in the world that she is proud to have her name on.
“A problem to most is seen as a bad thing, but to engineers it as seen as an opportunity to grow and expand their knowledge,” she said. “Seeing what we have accomplished so far gives my future career a whole new direction and meaning.”
WV Forward is a statewide collaboration led by West Virginia University, the state Department of Commerce and Marshall University to help grow the economy by adding jobs, investing in education, and improving health and wellness to create the most prosperous West Virginia possible.
The BrickStreet Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is part of the WVU Innovation, Design and Entrepreneurship Applied (IDEA) Ecosystem, a university-wide network of centers, offices and programs that fosters and supports innovation and entrepreneurship among WVU students, faculty and staff while engaging the statewide community. A visual map of the full ecosystem and detailed information about the resources included can be found at the IdeaHub site.