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Entrepreneurship and innovation equals free education

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CANTON — Creativity and good business sense has landed two high school students in Clarkson University, free of tuition.

Through the school’s Reh Center of Entrepreneurship and Shipley Center for Innovation, Evan A. Jennings, 17, Lowville, and Briar E. Bonadonna, 18, Honeoye Falls, have been offered the opportunity to attend Clarkson tuition free, thanks to a business plan competition.

Through a combination of merit-based financial aid and a purchase by Clarkson of 10 percent equity in their firm at fair market value, Mr. Jennings and Ms. Bonadonna presented their existing business plans and commercialization opportunities to a panel of experts in the competition, which concluded earlier this semester.

Mr. Jennings won the 2013 Young Entrepreneurs Award for his business the E3cubestore Rubik’s Cube and Puzzle Shop. The business is an e-commerce site that sells puzzle cubes designed for speed solving and competition. He will begin as a freshman at Clarkson in the fall.

Having received scholarship offers from other schools, Mr. Jennings said the grant money helped seal his decision to attend Clarkson, though it was not the only reason.

“Clarkson stood out not only because of the money they offered but the opportunity to turn equity in my business into a college education free of tuition charges,” Mr. Jennings said. “The whole time I am there they are going to be working with me on my business and hopefully have a big sign of growth in my company.”

“Recognizing an opportunity in the puzzle cube market, Evan started E3Cube store when he was just fifteen years old,” said Erin Draper, director of operations of the Reh Center for Entrepreneurship. “He embodies the traits we look for in a young entrepreneur — passion, strategic thinking and a deep understanding of his market.”

Ms. Bonadonna, who will also begin as a freshman at Clarkson in the fall, was named the winner of the Young Innovators Award for her business idea of the PodBottle, which she has a provisional patent on.

“This is a huge step because now I can start my business and I have a lot of support from the community members and Clarkson University,” Ms. Bonadonna said. “Also, they are so personal at the school.”

Ms. Bonadonna said her PodBottle, which can store items like keys, a phone and accessories, is the result of her involvement in cheerleading.

“I always lose my earrings during practice when I cheer and so I wanted to come up with a place where I could store them,” Ms. Bonadonna said. “I decided that, for other athletes too, that a water bottle would be convenient because everybody drinks water during practice.”

Shipley Center for Innovation Deputy Director Matt Draper said Ms. Bonadonna brings an enthusiasm and passion for her technology and the process of commercialization to the Young Innovator’s Program.

“Her professionalism and preparation set her apart in the competition and her innovation strikes at an everyday market need with tremendous potential for growth,” Mr. Draper said.

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