(Posted June 12, 2019)
By Dedra Cordle, Staff Writer
It was nearing the end of a long and cold hunt and all Jacob Clark wanted to do was go home, eat and take a hot shower. Before he could enjoy such pleasures, though, he had to tend to his more than four dozen decoys bobbing in the water.
The London native is no novice to this time-consuming task. He has been hunting waterfowl on the lakes in Madison and Clark counties since childhood. But as he began to hand-wind his decoys, the lines got tangled and he discovered that most were caked in muck and needed to be cleaned. Knowing he would be at this for hours, the normally mild-mannered Clark was overcome with irritation.
“I was cussing up a storm out there,” he said with a laugh.
As he stood in the water, trying to get it over with as quickly as possible, he began to imagine a product that would, in essence, get it over with even more quickly.
“I came up with a retractable weight system that could be attached to any decoy,” said the 2013 London High School graduate.
Feeling as if it had the potential to be a viable product on the market, Clark, 24, a senior this year at Bowling Green State University, used it for a business course assignment. His professor encouraged him to submit his idea to The Hatch.
The Hatch is a competition similar to the popular television show, “Shark Tank.” Students present business ideas to alumni investors in front of a live audience, said Kirk Kern, director of the Paul. J Hooker Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership in the College of Business.
“What makes our program so unique,” he explained, “is our alumni investors make equity investments to a select number of our students to help them on their way to building a business or building upon their idea.”
Kern said that to date, more than $500,000 has been committed to student startups through The Hatch.
Upon the advisement of his professor, Clark submitted his idea to the program. He was under no impression that he would be selected.
“I actually forgot I submitted it,” he admitted.
But the committee members who select the ideas for The Hatch did not forget about him.
“We receive hundreds of applications and unfortunately only eight applicants are selected to present their idea in front of our alumni investors,” Kern said. “Our committees have to do a lot of whittling down throughout this process, and Jacob’s idea was in the top 15 on everyone’s list.”
After weeks of debate, the committee made their selection and then informed the students via email of their decision.
“I was surprised, but I thought it was really cool to be selected,” Clark said.
With the help of alumni mentor Gary Dible, the tourism, leisure and event planning major got to work designing the product, doing market analysis and preparing for the presentation, which took place in April.
“I was really nervous to be up there,” he said. “I had confidence in my product and research, but I am not a public speaker.”
For four minutes, Clark, wearing chest waders, pitched DecoyL, the retractable weight system that can attach to any duck decoy, to six alumni investors. He spoke of how time-consuming it is to wind up decoys, how the lines get mucked up and tangled, how having an efficient mechanism would cut the time in half, and how untapped the market is.
He requested $5,000 for 5 percent company share and, once again, expected nothing to come from it.
“In the back of my head, I was hoping someone might help me out,” Clark said.
Each of the six investors expressed interest in DecoyL, but it was Mark C. West, CEO of SharedClarity, who snatched up the product.
“The terms of the deal were, on top of the $5,000 for 5 percent of the company, for each thousand dollars invested he would receive a 1 percent share at a cap of 25 percent,” Clark explained.
He said he was in disbelief that his idea found investment at The Hatch and is still in shock at the events that have transpired since. Those events include patent applications, business meetings, and engagements with industry leaders who have expressed interest in DecoyL.
“It just keeps moving forward,” he said.
Not every step has been smooth, Clark added.
“There have been some design challenges, but that is to be expected when you’re dealing with something that is in the elements.”
He said he looks forward to the future and seeing what may come of DecoyL.
“I’m excited to see if it can make it on the market,” he said. “I think it can, and I believe it will be a huge help to waterfowl hunters.”