Junior Austin McCleary claims top spot in first round of PioBiz

Austin McCleary headshot

Austin McCleary ’22 (Marietta, Ohio) is studying actuarial science and may one day have a career as a budget analyst, insurance underwriter or a cost estimator — maybe even all three.

As someone who grew up in rural Ohio, McCleary has been tossing around a business idea for months and he finally got to share it publicly during the first round of Marietta College’s PioBiz competition on March 11.

And his idea, Car Library, was voted the top idea during the entrepreneurship competition and he received $190 to help him do even more work on his idea.

The nonprofit concept is designed to temporarily provide cars to individuals in financial need so they can travel to and from work to help them save money to buy their own car.

By the end of their borrowing, they will have the option of returning the car to the library so that others could utilize it — similar to the way we return and use books from libraries, or they could choose to purchase the car at a fair market price,” he said. 

He believes the service is needed in both urban and rural communities alike.

“In rural communities, public transportation is basically non-existent, and thus transportation becomes a serious barrier to employment,” McCleary said. “In urban areas, public transportation can often be unsafe, unreliable, and limit one's employment options since the times they can work is limited by when public transportation is available.”

In the first round of the competition, students were asked to identify a problem and propose a solution. Each competitor was given up to three minutes to pitch their idea and then take questions from a panel of judges in a webinar format.

“I really enjoyed the PioBiz experience,” he said. “I think participating in events like this is important to building confidence as a presenter and understanding how other people, the judges in this case, perceive you and your ideas. I definitely recommend it for everybody regardless of major or career outlook.”

A total of 14 students participated and they presented 10 ideas.

Finishing second and receiving $180 was Sydney Stek ’23 (Canal Winchester, Ohio) with Muddy Hands Clay Studio, a creative safe haven for community members to create original art with fresh clay as well as premade bisque ware.

“I want to be in contact with local organizations such as The Boys and Girls Club, Betsy Mills, nursing homes and senior living centers,” she said. “I believe art is important and vital for our brain’s development and clay is not your typical medium. It is important for those who are often ignored to be creative as it can have many benefits.”

Stek, who is majoring in Psychology, hopes one day to have a physical studio where she can host continuous classes and house all the necessary supplies and equipment.

“My experience with the PioBiz competition so far has been so much fun and I cannot wait to develop my concept even further with the help of Dr. Jackie Khorassani and other amazing entrepreneurs,” she said.

Allison Barnes ’24 (Lancaster, Ohio), who is majoring in Entrepreneurship, finished third and received $170 for her presentation on Enjoy Art. Barnes said she is proposing a service that brings art classes to the learners, and the company would have a simple mission: to help people Enjoy Art.

“Enjoy Art sets up an art studio close to home to hold art workshops,” she said. “The workshops are meant for people who don’t necessarily want to be professional artists, but want to create art for themselves, find happiness within their artwork, or simply pick up a new hobby.”

The other projects to be recognized were:

  • Fourth place: Chasten Coleman ’23 (Yadkinville, North Carolina), who is majoring in both Marketing and Theatre, with Secura-Cup; $160.
  • Fifth place: Amadeus Perry ’24 (Williamstown, West Virginia), who is undecided on a major, with Putnam’s Place; $150.
  • Sixth place: Tanner Hurst ’24 (Marietta, Ohio), who is a Petroleum Engineering major, with Personalization Through Laser Engraving; $140.
  • Seventh place: Nathan Ritchie ’24 (Fleming, Ohio), who is undecided on a major, with Car Tray; $130.
  • Eighth place: Nathan Hanning ’21 (Nelsonville, Ohio), who is a Finance major, with Tiny Homes; $120.
  • Ninth place: Aubrey Teer ’21 (Williamstown, West Virginia), who is majoring in Psychology; Ethan Snyder ’23 (Dover, Ohio), who is majoring in Marketing; and Austin Armstrong ’24 (Orrville, Ohio), also a Marketing major, with CampDash, $110.
  • 10th place: Tommy Ferger ’23 (Glen Burnie, Maryland), who is majoring in Environmental Engineering; Max Brown ’24 (Dublin, Ohio), who is majoring in Finance; and Marvin Moore ’23 (Pickerington, Ohio), who is majoring in Petroleum Engineering, with Shoe Fan; $100.

Each judge assigned a score between zero to 30 points to each project. Also, each webinar participant had one vote (one point). The top ten ideas were determined by adding up the judges’ points to the webinar participants’ points.

The judges were Christian Long ’15, Director of Operations at Northwestern Mutual; John Martin, former CEO/Founder of Optimum Companies and Co-Founder of Vines on Hillside; Chris Pfeiffer, Chief Operating Officer at Danser, Inc.; and Paula Pitasky ’96, Owner and President of Encompass Marketing.