Innovators test their products, ideas at entrepreneurial expo 

Steve and Beverly Stewart of Allied H20 Inc. stand in front of their table at the Entrepreneurial Expo at the OU Innovation Hub on Thursday. Allied H20 Inc. is one of 40 vendors who showcased their products on Thursday.

Jesse Crittenden

The Transcript

Innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship were in the air at the University of Oklahoma's Tom Love Innovation Hub on Thursday afternoon.

People of all ages were in attendance at the second Entrepreneurial Expo, where innovators from throughout the community were welcome to show off their prototypes, products and business ideas. Participants ranged from middle school and high school students, college students, business leaders and interested investors.

Denise Linda Parris, assistant professor of entrepreneurship at OU's Price College of Business, said the idea behind the expo is simple: give local entrepreneurs an opportunity to showcase their talents.

"The question is, 'how can we get more of the community involved?'" Parris said. "One of the hardest things (for entrepreneurs) is the transition from prototyping to actual selling. So the idea is to host an actual trade show where people can get feedback on their idea and develop selling skills, and if they are able to sell their product, then sell."

About 40 individuals and groups set up tables on the first floor of the Hub, with some showcasing finished products, others looking for feedback on prototypes and some looking for investors in their business.

Some groups participated last year, such as Loveworks Inc. Loveworks Inc., a company that focuses on developing entrepreneurial skills in middle schools students, showcased their company Real Kitchen Salsa last year. This year, they came with their new company Wristworld. Wristworld is an augmented reality game, developed by middle school students, that allows users to access the game through a wristband.

Others, such as Allied H20, Inc., came looking for feedback and potential investors on their prototype. Allied H2O was formed to advance the development and distribution of an innovative water-pump system designed for smallholder farmers in developing countries. This pump system is designed to reinvent and mechanize historic water-lifting methods to provide access to deeper reserves.

Steve Stewart, Allied H20's managing director, said the water-pump system could allow farmers the opportunity to more than double their yearly production, moving them from subsistence to cash-crop farming.

"Because (smallholder farmers) are growing about one crop a year, and they're relying on a rain-fed crop, they're all selling the same crop with their neighbors, so they have to market the lowest possible price," Stewart said. "About 65% of that crop rots before it's eaten or sold. It's just a death spiral. Being able to control it with irrigation, they can keep their crops alive and bring on new things like livestock and grow two to three staggered crops and not grow what their neighbors are growing."

Other groups, such as Ivy Boards, came to the expo looking to sell their products. Ivy Boards, comprised of OU students, specializes in making laser engraved wooden skateboards, along with other wooden items such as earrings, and frames.

"One of our group members is actually an architect, and he had this idea as we were pivoting from one of our previous ventures," said Zach Reynolds, Ivy Boards team member. "What sets us apart is our products are completely student designed. The goal today is to sell all of our skateboards, and we're taking preorders for anyone who wants a specific design."

As the Innovation Hub continued to buzz with excitement on Thursday, Parris said she hopes the expo helps people meet their goals.

"We wanted to create something that was for all ages," Parris said. "It doesn't matter what your age is, everyone is capable of being creative and becoming an entrepreneur."

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