HIGH POINT, N.C., July 9, 2018 – Two High Point University students are taking their small business ideas to Raleigh this summer.
Jenna Tarantino, who graduated from HPU in May, and rising junior Quinn Riddle were selected to participate in the RIoT Accelerator Program. RIoT selects 10 businesses from across the United States, making it a competitive and impressive feat for Tarantino and Riddle, the youngest business owners in the program.
Tarantino, from Ridgefield, New Jersey, founded the HotDawg Company and is developing a prototype for a leash that monitors ground temperatures to prevent injuries in pets.
“One day, after coming home from work, I noticed my energetic French bulldog not acting herself,” says Tarantino. “I flipped her paws over and saw blisters on top of her bright red paw pads. I thought I was making her happy by getting a dog walker, but she was being walked during the hottest part of the day on concrete, and I realized I was not the only dog owner dealing with this problem. The infrared thermometer on my product points to the ground and instantly tells the temperature for pet owners.”
Riddle, from Annapolis, Maryland, invented the Eversafe Bracelet, a band that wears like a bracelet to help parents, babysitters and chaperones keep track of children in crowded situations such as playgrounds, airports, festivals or theme parks.
“My idea stemmed from being at the playground while babysitting my cousins,” says Riddle. “There were three of
them between the ages of 4 and 6, so it was challenging to track all of them at once. Eversafe works to make that possible. My product also provides a locking technology that prevents the bracelet from being removed and the ability for parents to send their child messages on the bracelet.”
At RIoT, these two young business owners are learning from the founders of successful startup companies and focusing on major aspects of building a sustainable business.
“RIoT has taught us a lot about customer discovery, prototype development and making sure the details are ironed out in the beginning,” Riddle says.
For example, the experience helped Riddle uncover additional audiences for her product, such as the elderly or large theme parks that could rent the devices.
“They’re guiding us to find out who has the problem our product can solve and who wants to pay for that solution,” says Tarantino.
Both students thoroughly honed and developed their business plans during the past several months at HPU, as well. Tarantino and Riddle traveled with HPU faculty and fellow students to IdeaFest 2018 in Danville, Virginia, to pitch their plans earlier this year. Both pitched their ideas and gained feedback from Netflix Co-Founder Marc Randolph, HPU’s Entrepreneur in Residence, on campus in the spring. Tarantino also competed in HPU’s 2018 Business Plan Competition, where she earned $5,000 in startup funds. Riddle competed in HPU’s Elevator Pitch Competition and won $1,500.
In fact, it was Troy Knauss, assistant professor of entrepreneurship, who has mentored both students and encouraged them to apply for IdeaFest and RIoT. Knauss, a serial business owner and investor in addition to his teaching duties at HPU, knew the programs could be formative opportunities for his students.
“Over the past four years, RIoT has worked with 40 companies that collectively raised more than $275 million and created 400 jobs in North Carolina,” says Knauss. “By going through this program, our students have tremendous opportunities to build their businesses.
“Jenna and Quinn should be extremely proud of this opportunity,” adds Knauss. “Both have done a wonderful and professional job representing their companies and HPU.”
Knauss knows that launching a company, especially as a college student, takes tremendous courage and commitment. But Riddle and Tarantino have demonstrated that over and over.
“The moral of the story is to keep trying and make it work,” says Riddle.