‘U’ Student Entrepreneurs Create The Toepener

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Some students at the University of Minnesota are getting a “hands on” experience by learning how to build a business from scratch. But their actual product will help keep your hands off something you might not want to touch.

You can teach history and science in the classroom, but how do you teach an entrepreneur?

John Stavig does it by sending his students into the real world.

“The assignment is to solve a problem and build a business that will provide good learning for the students in the class,” said Stavig, the director of the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the Carlson School of Management.

Students break into teams and create new products. In the past, they’ve sold iPod covers, organic shampoos and Gopher chopper gloves. This year it’s something called the Toepener.

“It’s interesting how there are so many problems out there that have such simple solutions,” said University of Minnesota senior Maxwell Arndt, CEO of Toepener.

The students found their problem in public restrooms, where after washing their hands, a lot of people worry about touching a door handle that could be covered with other folks’ germs.

So, they came up with Toepener, which is basically a door handle for the foot. But when the students went to sell it, they got odd looks.

Still, the Bulldog in Northeast Minneapolis bought in along with some other Twin Cities restaurants.

“What are these goofy door openers,” said Bulldog General Manger Amy Baskerville. “I don’t know, it sounds cool, let’s give it a try.”

And they’ve been surprisingly well received by employees who need to wash their hands frequently and by customers, as well.

“I’m kind of a germ freak too, so I think it works good,” said Jason DeJoy of Prior Lake.

The Toepener sells for $49.95.

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