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A new product will be hitting store shelves soon thanks to an idea developed by three students who met at Penn State Hazleton.
Micro Mitts is a silicone attachment to prevent burns when removing a hot dish from the microwave. The product is the brainchild of Michael Paranich Jr., who has just finished his sophomore year majoring in finance at Penn State Hazleton and developed the product with David Acker and Ramkumar “Ram” Jayaveerapandian, his business partners who transitioned to University Park after their first year at Penn State Hazleton.
The three met in an economics class during the first year and realized their skills complemented those of the others.
“I had the product idea and I pitched it to them and got them excited about it. I had no business or engineering knowledge and knew I needed some help and they seemed knowledgeable and clever,” Paranich recalled. “Dave is skilled in CAD and engineering and Ram’s dad is a business owner so he had knowledge of business structure and legal aspects. I was the creative, innovative guy.”
The trio dove right into their project, spending countless hours figuring out how to create the product and take the next steps. They were introduced to the first resources they needed at Penn State Hazleton and found support from Erik Angel, information resources and services support specialist, and Paul McDermott, Penn State Hazleton’s business program coordinator.
“Our first year, we met in the library for hours almost every day we were free. We were also on the phone until early in the morning for four or five months straight. We brainstormed a lot of ideas and used the 3D printer at the campus to make the first prototype. That was really a crucial piece, since we were able to have something tangible to display our ideas,” Paranich said.
“Mr. McDermott was very knowledgeable and supportive. He believed in us and that was really a key,” he said. “Mr. Angel was also very supportive and shared his experience with entrepreneurship. He was a great source to talk about ideas and assist us with the 3D printer.”
McDermott told Paranich and his partners about tecBRIDGE, an organization that facilitates entrepreneurship in northeastern Pennsylvania, and its business plan competition. Through tecBRIDGE, the partners were introduced to Jerry Lisman, chief executive officer of Lisman Holdings.
McDermott said, “I suggested tecBRIDGE because I believe in the process and I really wanted to see someone from our campus present their product. I thought it was a great opportunity for Penn State Hazleton to be represented and for this team to get a lot of good input from investors, lawyers and others involved in the business world. And as a result, they have a product, licensing agreements, manufacturers and people who want to buy their product.”
Paranich said through the mentorship he received from Lisman, he was able to turn his idea into a real possibility.
“My freshman year I knew nothing about business, yet this was all moving and developing as I was learning. Through his experience, Jerry helped us license the product, which we determined was a more viable and profitable solution than creating and selling it ourselves,” he said.
Micro Mitts is currently in a “soft launch” phase with the licensor, GTV, accumulating orders from larger customers such as big box retailers and specialty stores featuring kitchen utensils. The product was recently on display at the International Housewares Trade Show in Chicago and will be manufactured and distributed for a full-scale launch once enough orders are accumulated.
Lisman said he was impressed with Paranich and his partners from the time he met them.
“They had done all their homework and were willing to learn, listen and get the work done,” he said.
He said Paranich’s story demonstrates the benefits of the partnership between tecBRIDGE and universities such as Penn State Hazleton.
“Through the business plan competition and help sessions, tecBRIDGE provides a vehicle for ideas that are percolating at the university to get out into the real world and it also exposes students to the real world of business and helps them get closer to a business environment,” Lisman said.
McDermott said working with organizations such as tecBRIDGE is one of the ways the University supports entrepreneurial-minded students.
“All the business faculty members also continue to have conversations with the students about their projects to make sure they are still moving along and not stalled in any way, shape or form,” he said.
Penn State Hazleton is also developing a hub for entrepreneurship called the Hazleton LaunchBox powered by THInC (the Hazleton Innovation Collaborative), which is supported by the University’s Invent Penn State program.
“When we open the center, it’s going to be a place for any and all young student entrepreneurs to get together, have group conversations and formulate their ideas with faculty help. It’s going to be like our campus incubator,” McDermott said.
Paranich has had a heart for entrepreneurship since his younger years, first founding his own lawn care business at age 13 after neighbors noticed the work he did on his own lawn.
“It was a nice summer business and I was hooked. I never wanted to do a regular job. Entrepreneurship is awesome because this is my way of letting my creativity show,” he said.
Lisman described Paranich as “a fountain of ideas, adding, “Michael has a business mind, particularly for a young man. He’s more advanced for his age in understanding business than many of his peers and people who have already graduated from a university. I think Michael can do whatever he sets his mind to do.”
McDermott said, “Michael is an excellent student and has gotten off on a good foot, so I think the sky is the limit and he has a great future. I would expect him to continue on from this to other product ideas.”
Paranich is already continuing on his entrepreneurial path. He, Acker and Jayaveerapandian have launched a business focused on helping others achieve financial freedom.
“In my eyes, it’s amazing to me that as a college freshman, when I knew nothing, with hard work I could shape reality and put a product into the world. Regardless of the money made, the big takeaway is the process of taking an idea and inspiring people to believe in you,” he said.
Paranich is one of a set of triplets, and his sisters Nicole and Ashley are also students at Penn State Hazleton. “I want to inspire my family, especially my sisters, to chase their dreams,” he said.