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Purdue Univeristy student Jacob Nolley and Ball State University student Collin Clevenger, co-presidents of The Graphite Lab and developers of the GripIt mobile device holder.

Purdue University student Jacob Nolley and Ball State University student Collin Clevenger, co-presidents of The Graphite Lab and developers of the GripIt mobile device holder.

by Teresa Koltzenburg, Purdue Libraries

Purdue University senior Jacob Nolley is in no danger of lacking entrepreneurial ideas and endeavor. Nolley—a dual marketing and management major in the Purdue Krannert School of Management and president of the Purdue Honors College Mentor Council—and his business partner and best friend, Collin Clevenger (who attends Ball State University), have both embodied the entrepreneurial spirit since they were in fourth grade together many years ago. Back then, the Shelbyville (IN) natives started a business selling lollipops and pencil erasers to their elementary-school classmates. The pair’s business partnership continued into their high school years, when they founded a headband business together and sold their headband products to fellow students and friends.

The GripIt Mobile Device Holder

The GripIt mobile device holder

Most recently, Nolley and Clevenger started the product-development venture The Graphite Lab, through which they hope to help other young entrepreneurs take their product ideas to market successfully. As a proof of their product-development company concept, Nolley and Clevenger have developed their very own product, the GripIt, a holder for mobile devices, which they describe as “the most comfortable, customizable, and care-free way to hold your device.” Sleeker (for carrying a device in one’s pocket) than the popular pop-up holders—and still creating a more secure grip on one’s valuable mobile device—GripIt attaches easily to mobile devices (including tablets) and features 16 different band colors. Nolley said, too, those who order GripIt in bulk orders (for giveaways and brand awareness “swag”) will have even more customizable options (e.g., printing the bands and/or more color options).

Recently, the pair launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to help them purchase start-up capital, including a printer so they can make some of the product pieces themselves. But before they could start marketing GripIt (and the services of The Graphite Lab) and launch their Indiegogo campaign, Nolley and Clevenger needed a product prototype to show to prospective investors and to take to manufacturing partners. That’s where the 3D printing resources in the Purdue University Libraries’ Data-Visualization Experience Lab of Purdue (D-VELoP) proved to be integral. (D-VELoP is part of the Library of Engineering and Science in the Wilmeth Active Learning Center.) After creating a design using OnShape online product-design software, Nolley used D-VELoP’s 3D printing resources and the D-VELoP staff members’ expertise to help him hone the prototype.

(Top photo) Purdue Libraries Instructional Developer Aly Edmondson wearing a prototype pair of 3D-printed earrings she and her fellow Library of Engineering and Science (LoES) personnel (faculty and staff) produced. To demonstrate the resources in the Libraries' Data Visualization Experience Lab of Purdue (D-VELoP), Edmondson and LoES personnel offer a number of Mobile Making activities and events throughout the regular academic year at Purdue University. (Bottom photo) D-VELoP offers a number of data-visualization tools, including 3D printing, for research and development. Paired with the expertise of the LoES faculty and staff, D-VELoP offers many learning and research resources, tools, and services within the Purdue Libraries' Wilmeth Active Learning Center (WALC).

(Top photo) Purdue Libraries Instructional Developer Aly Edmondson wearing a prototype pair of 3D-printed earrings she and her fellow Library of Engineering and Science (LoES) personnel (faculty and staff) produced. To demonstrate the resources in the Libraries’ Data Visualization Experience Lab of Purdue (D-VELoP), Edmondson and LoES personnel offer a number of Mobile Making activities and events throughout the regular academic year at Purdue University. (Bottom photo) D-VELoP offers a number of data-visualization tools, including 3D printing, for research and development. Paired with the expertise of the LoES faculty and staff, D-VELoP offers many learning and research resources, tools, and services within the Purdue Libraries’ Wilmeth Active Learning Center (WALC).

“Libraries personnel, like [Instructional Developer] Aly Edmondson helped me a great deal,” Nolley explained. “I talked with her and other D-VELoP personnel about what they would recommend for this particular prototype design. Through this process, I learned how to design a product to be manufactured, as there are lot of different things that need to be implemented in this type of design—one that will be 3D printed and injection molded— for it to work. I went through about 25 iterations before I came to the final prototype design, and every time I sent a design to be 3D printed, I got it back promptly, and they gave me great feedback, which was super helpful,” he added.

Nolley—who is also minoring in creative writing and completed Purdue University’s Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program—not only credits D-VELoP’s resources and personnel for helping him and his partner get to this point with the start-up The Graphite Lab and the GripIt product, but he also noted that many people, resources, and services at Purdue have been invaluable during his college career.

“No one has helped me more at Purdue than Debbi Bearden, my academic advisor in the Krannert Leaders Academy. She has helped provide me with all the many, wonderful opportunities I have benefited from as a Purdue student. Debbi has made my time at Purdue absolutely the most fruitful experience I have had in my life,” he noted.

Nolley also took advantage of Purdue University’s Foundry, which, according to the Purdue Foundry website, “exists to help Purdue students, faculty, and local alumni move ideas to the marketplace more quickly.”

“My freshman year at Purdue, I founded ‘Jacob’s Loom,’ a start-up project that I ended up closing because of financing problems, which is part of the inspiration for using the crowdfunding approach for Collin’s and my current start-up project,” he explained. “The resources at the Purdue Foundry and the staff there—like Tim Peoples, Purdue Foundry managing director, and John Hanak, managing director of Purdue Ventures—were pivotal in providing me with the skills to be successful with The Graphite Lab and GripIt.”

Nolley also credits his former Purdue instructor Beth Carroll (who now works in the retail sector)—who taught courses in Purdue University’s Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program—for helping him learn and hone his entrepreneurial knowledge and skills.

Purdue University student Jacob Nolley and friends demonstrate how the GripIt product works to take a selfie.

Purdue University student Jacob Nolley and friends demonstrate how the GripIt product works to take a selfie.

“She is one of the most helpful faculty members I have ever worked with,” Nolley said.

Nolley and Clevenger launched their Indiegogo campaign just this week, and they only have short window, about a month, to get to their fundraising goal of $15,000. The good news is that, as of June 1, they already have close to 100 backers and have raised more than $1,000.

“We used Indiegogo because we wanted to show it is possible that you do not have to sell your ideas and efforts to get your company off the ground. That is what we want to do with our customers of The Graphite Lab,” Nolley explained. “So, when people bring their products to us, we want to help them get their ideas off the ground and sell their products through our sales channels, but we do not want to own their products. Many times, what happens with young entrepreneurs, in order to get their ideas to market, they have to ‘sell their souls to the devil,’ so to speak, and sell off their companies and product-development ideas and efforts. So, in the long term, they do not earn those profits. We want to lead by example, and we are trying to show young entrepreneurs that they do not have to sell their companies and/or ideas. We are providing them with another option through The Graphite Lab.”

For more information, check out the GripIt Indiegogo campaign at www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-gripit-iphone-security#/ and/or contact Nolley at JacobNolley@gmail.com or Clevenger at CollinAClevenger@gmail.com.