Grad students win top prizes in New Ventures competition

Amelia Faist (left) and Ross Younger. (Images from Linkedin)
Originally appeared May 24 in UWM Report.

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Amelia Faist doesn’t just want to market hand tools—she wants to promote confidence and tool literacy for women. Faist, an MBA student at UWM, is designing a multi-use tool that will meet the ergonomic needs of the female DIYer, while also providing a web-based video library and app.

The idea for her business came from the realization that she was relying on others, mostly men, to assist with her own home improvement projects. When she undertook the work herself, she said, she had difficulty wielding heavy tools that were uncomfortable to hold.

Amelia Faist shows a prototype of a tool that she designed for use by women. (UWM/Elora Hennessey)

“I see this idea as a means to independence for women like me,” she said. “It will replace that unsatisfactory hardware store experience with an empowering and informative process.”

Faist recently took home half of the $20,000 prize money in this year’s New Ventures Business Plan Competition, hosted by UWM’s Lubar School of Business, giving her a head start on building her business, Piper Tool Co.

The competition, in its 14th year, is made possible by longtime supporters Bill and Sharon La Macchia. Bill La Macchia is the founder of Mark Travel Corporation and Trisept Solutions, global leaders in travel services and travel technology (both recently merged with Apple Leisure Group).

Faist’s prototype multi-tool handle is designed to function effectively in both lever and twisting motions. In addition, her company will offer a video library and quick-access app for lessons on using tools and making common repairs. “It will be a collection of fun, beautiful, easy-to-follow tutorials made by other women who are authorities in the home repair and handywork spaces,” she said.

Three others placed in the competition, which is open to students and recent alumni from any discipline.

Second prize: $5,000

Ross Younger

MBA student Ross Younger’s business plan for a company offering immersive virtual experiences took shape after his previous business stalled because of restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

His firm, Advantage Point Virtual Production Company, is creating professional digital content that can be viewed in 360 degrees and navigated online “as if the viewer were there,” he said. Competitors are mostly targeted toward marketing residential real estate, he said. Using a platform that allows clients to customize the embedded features like logos and on-screen contact information, he can appeal to other businesses.

“I take it beyond this core concept by adding interactive elements, meaning the product doubles as both a tour of a physical space and a presentation tool,” Younger said.