Jake Officer, a Sparta native and freshman manufacturing engineering technology major at Tennessee Tech University, won first place and a $10,000 scholarship at Tech’s recent Eagle Works Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition.
The Shark Tank-style event featured eight Tech students who competed before a panel of five judges. Each student developed a business concept, created a trade show display, delivered a presentation and answered questions from the judges, who then determined the winners.
The contestants were part of an original pool of 50 Tech students who began the year developing ideas and honing their business pitches with Eagle Works staff.
Officer’s proposal, Crate Buddy, is a device that securely fastens a milk crate to the back of a bicycle and allows it to be used as storage. Officer has already developed a prototype for the product and applied for a patent.
“The bicycle is a great alternative to gas-powered vehicles,” explained Officer in his presentation. “I ride a bicycle every day to and from class. But there’s one critical problem with bicycles: storage capacity.”
Officer added that the Crate Buddy offers better affordability, greater sustainability, and more storage capacity than bicycle storage bags that are already on the market.
In remarks at the competition, Officer reported that he would seek to market the Crate Buddy in both the U.S. and overseas, including countries where cycling is a more dominant form of transportation. He added that, with small changes to the manufacturing process, he could secure an 88 to 92 percent profit margin on the product.
Officer says the idea for the Crate Buddy came from his own personal struggles with finding adequate bike storage and was formed when he came across a pile of milk crates in his grandmother’s barn.
(Photo above) Sparta native and Eagle Works first place winner Jake Officer is pictured with his $10,000 scholarship prize alongside Eagle Works manager Andrea Kruszka. Photo credit: Emily Armstrong.
Eagle Works manager Andrea Kruszka highlighted the significance of Officer’s win as a Tech freshman.
“The fact that he is a freshman just blows my mind,” Kruszka said. “He is already working so hard. He has a protype, he has a great marketable idea that is patentable, and he is one of those students that you think ‘I’m going to watch you take over the world in four years.’ He is going to do great things.”
Officer credits his White County roots as part of his success story.
“Winning this award has shown me that where you come from doesn’t hold you back but gives you the drive and determination you need,” he said. “To me, Sparta has made me who I am. I wouldn’t have wanted to grow up anywhere else.”
Officer, who is also a student worker in Tech’s Office of Communications and Marketing, says he hopes to continue his education following completion of his undergraduate studies but adds that, “right now, I am still working to shape my future.”
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