Senior Justin Lonis is among the top student entrepreneurs in Northeast Ohio.
After tying for first place in Hiram College’s ideaBuild! competition last month, his idea “Advanced Balance Board,” took third at ideaLabs, a regional competition, on April 3, 2014.
Eleven schools making up the Entrepreneurship Education Consortium – Ashland University, Baldwin-Wallace, Case Western University, Cleveland State University, Hiram College, John Carroll University, Kent State University, Lake Erie College, Lorain Community College, University of Akron and University of Mount Union – sent their top team/individual business concept to compete at ideaLabs. Lonis won $1,000 for participating in the competition and $1,000 for placing third.
Standing out among the strong competition gave him validation he is doing something right.
“It was affirming to know that you can really put your heart and everything you’ve got into it,” he said, “and the fact that I placed means someone else thinks I should move forward with my idea.”
Lonis, a student-athlete, said the idea for “Advanced Balance Board” first came to him when he injured his ankle playing basketball last summer (2013). He was also starting to think about a senior project for his entrepreneurship minor, and the timing was right.
“I’m always asking, ‘Is there a better way to do this?’” he said.
And in this case, he was searching for a better way to treat and diagnose ankle injuries. When he arrived in August for his senior year, Lonis dove head first into making this concept a reality.
The best part about Hiram College’s entrepreneurship curriculum and resources, he said, is the amount of support and networking opportunities available to make ideas come to life. Dave Kukurza, academic program director for the Center for Integrated Entrepreneurship, connected Lonis with LaunchHouse, a business development firm in Shaker Heights. There, he built a prototype for “Advanced Balance Board” and got feedback from marketing professionals, product engineers and more. He has also made connections with Cleveland Clinic doctors and explored patent possibilities.
“Now that my senior year is coming to an end, everybody is asking me, ‘Would you do it again?’” Lonis said. “Absolutely. The relationships I’ve developed and the advancements in my career so far, I wouldn’t be able to do at any other place.”
And he doesn’t plan to let these ideas die after graduation. After watching his father – one of the hardest working people he knows – get laid off recently, he is determined to make his own way.
“There’s nothing guaranteed in life,” he said. “You can work really hard and get laid off, and that’s what started fueling this entrepreneurial spirit.”
Lonis is an accounting and communication double major, with a minor in entrepreneurship. He is from Mentor, Ohio.
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