Student entrepreneurs patent OTC footwear technology product
Thunlwyn Garcia, an entrepreneurship major at Mount St. Mary's University, and his soccer teammate Anthony Milazzo have founded a company called Ascent Sporting Innovations, which is setting itself up to bring a footwear technology product to market.
An Archbishop Curley High School graduate, Garcia excels on the soccer pitch as a forward in MSMU's NCAA Division I soccer program. However, he and his teammate Milazzo, a midfielder and junior biochemistry major, noticed flaws in their performance on the pitch during adverse weather conditions. Garcia and Milazzo's creativity and innovation led to the filing of a patent for footwear technology. The patent describes structurally sound inserts that can provide thermoregulation to alleviate pain. Their continued investigation revealed that this solution is more broadly applicable than they first thought.
The inventors leveraged their mentors and contacts at MSMU, including faculty, students and alums, to build a team that could bring this invention to the market. Driven by the hope that this project might be the genesis of something great, Garcia and Milazzo persevered to create Ascent Sporting Innovations and file their first patent.
“I am so impressed by our students' innovations," said MSMU president Timothy Trainor. "This is the magic of the Mount: faculty working with students to find the intersection of their passions and talents and carving their path to living a life of significance in service to God and others."
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As Garcia engaged in his coursework at MSMU, he saw an opportunity to integrate his studies with his passion for innovation. Through the foundational courses as an entrepreneurship major, Garcia learned the importance of having a team and worked to recruit the principal members of Ascent Sporting Innovations.
Garcia and Milazzo looked for an experienced engineer who could assist in product development with practical solutions and technical advice. Dennis Garcia, a senior nuclear engineer specializing in thermodynamics, became the first board member.
Aware that he needed help filing for intellectual property, Garcia found mentorship through associate professor Garth Patterson, former chair of the MSMU Science Department. Patterson is now the director of the Palmieri Center for Entrepreneurship and a valued mentor to the Ascent Sporting Innovations team. At the time, Patterson had Milazzo as a student in his class. He helped Milazzo and Garcia with the technical development of the product as well as leveraged his experience with patents to guide Garcia with filing for intellectual property protection.
Michael Wysong, CEO of CARE Pharmacies Cooperative, and treasurer of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, also brought his expertise in developing growth strategies to the team. He is a long-time mentor to Garcia.
"Thunlwyn and Anthony are passionate about helping Ascent Sporting Innovations bring new products to the market that are transformative for athletes and consumers. Young leaders need mentors and peers encouraging them to find new ways to organize chaos in the service of other people. I am lucky to play that role, and have been inspired by their exuberance, commitment and dedication to making a difference," Wysong said.
"Having Mike as a mentor has not only played a significant role in our early success as a venture, but has played a role in our personal development. Mike’s ability to have the foresight at the beginning of this venture was a key reason for making our thermoregulating footwear inserts universal and not just for athletes, but instead for all consumers. He is a true luminary, and I am proud to have him involved in this company," Garcia said.
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To realize the product described in the patent, Garcia also knew that he would need to expand his board's technical expertise further to best assist in achieving the company's vision.
Jeffery Link, a 1999 MSMU alumnus and managing partner at Quillion Wealth Management, has become a valued addition to the board, offering trusted financial guidance to the company. Link serves on several boards throughout the Baltimore region.
Once formed, the board identified the need for legal counsel. It reached out to Alicia Russo, a 1986 MSMU alumna, and co-chair of intellectual property at Venable, a nationally recognized law firm. Russo filed the company's first patent application.
Given the broad application of the patent, Garcia knew he and his team needed to identify the specific target markets the product could penetrate by gathering and analyzing quantitative data. So they decided to hire research interns.
Professor Nancy Kimble, MSMU MBA director with business management and marketing expertise, identified internship candidates with the qualities needed for this project. Nathan Stricker, C'24, a business major concentrating in marketing; Mitchell Gallo, C'23, a business major concentrating in finance and Sophia Culmone, C'23, a business major concentrating in marketing with a business analytics minor, were selected as part of the intern team to leverage their expertise in financial and marketing research. Garcia also hired first-year trade apprentice Samuel Yakim, a hometown friend and fellow Archbishop Curley alumnus, to help with technical development and maintenance of prototyping equipment. The MSMU interns are led by another Archbishop Curley alumnus, Anthony Dragisics, now a senior at the Villanova University School of Business and a lifelong friend of Garcia. Dragisics brings leadership and coursework experience in financial analytics to the intern team.
"The potential that this product might be the genesis of something great has been my constant inspiration for this endeavor," Garcia said. "The passion for delivering hope and promise has only grown with this amazing team. I am proud to be a part of realizing our company's potential."
Ascent Sporting Innovations looks to grow as the start-up venture progresses toward granting its patent and getting solutions to market.