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O’Connell '24 Takes Home $13,000 as the First Mount Union Student to Win "Stark Tank"

April 30, 2024

By Chloe Laszlo '25

CANTON — On April 24, Garrett O’Connell ‘24, public relations major, made University of Mount Union history by taking home the first place prize and a $13,000 check at "Stark Tank" for his invention, H.O.N.K., making him the first Mount Union student to win the regional entrepreneurship competition.

H.O.N.K. is a first-of-its-kind car security device designed by O'Connell that utilizes a vehicle’s alarm. He is currently working on securing a patent to turn it into a real business after he graduates and even has an engineering company that has started producing the product. 

“I really want to get my business off the ground so that nobody can beat me to it. I think this is a winner and so did the sharks,” said O’Connell.

Last year, O’Connell entered a different invention into Stark Tank, but did not win anything. Despite the challenges and disappointment, he used the loss as a learning experience for the next Stark Tank, which certainly paid off. 

The process to submit his invention to Stark Tank took a few months. It began with entering a pitch competition, where he submitted a two-page explanation of his product, target market, and price along with a minute-and-a-half elevator pitch. O’Connell was one of nine finalists chosen to present his invention to a panel of judges. 

“Preparing my final presentation took me so long because I wanted to make sure it was perfect," said O'Connell. "I was stressed all day long, and as soon as I was up, my heart started beating faster. But I did my pitch nice and relaxed and then got to the judges' questions. They had a few hard questions, but I had great answers that really impressed them."  

He said there are a few changes he will make to his product before advancing his business, but he is forever grateful to Stark Tank and will always remember the big check he received. 

“It will be on my wall forever!” He said.

Along with Stark Tank, O’Connell is also grateful to Michael Kachilla, professor of business and director of entrepreneurial studies, for telling him about the competition, encouraging him to submit his invention, and pushing the entrepreneurship mindset out of him. 

“I also want to thank all my friends and family who have listened to me for hours talking about my inventions and believing in me. I am so blessed to have them all on my side!” said O’Connell. 

Stark Tank, based on the popular TV series Shark Tank, is a competition based in Stark County, OH where high school or college students present their inventions to a panel of judges made up of successful local entrepreneurs. The judges will invest in the best idea and those students can use the money they receive to develop their ideas into a reality. Visit Stark Tank’s webpage to learn more about the competition.