FHSU students win 2020 Kansas startup

FHSU Press Release

A group of Fort Hays State University students who got to know each other as members of the Tiger track and field squads teamed up for a different competition last month.

Mark Faber, Faith Little, Ryan Stanley and Anthony Ventura designed “MeHe,” a phone app centered on maintaining positive mental health, and won the 2020 Kansas Startup competition with their presentation.

Kansas Startup – founded by Henry Schwaller IV, instructor of management at FHSU, in 2013 – was run over a weekend since its beginning. This year the event took place in two parts because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The first part was a workshop on Nov. 7 in the Memorial Union, facilitated by Dr. Rick Edgeman, chair of the Department of Management. The workshop – Concept to Customer: A Creative Path to Success! – focused on creating successful entrepreneurial ideas. The second part took place a week later, when teamspresented one at a time in Dane G. Hansen Entrepreneurship Scholarship Hall, and the judges watched and asked questions via Zoom.

Members of the winning team for Kansas Startup 2020 are, from left: FHSU students Faith Little, Ryan Stanley, Mark Faber and Anthony Ventura.

Schwaller is one of the major sponsors of the event, along with Commerce Bank of Hays, Midwest Energy, NetWorkKansas and Peter Werth, an FHSU alum, for whom FHSU’sWerth College of Science, Technology and Mathematics is named.

In the past, the experiential, hands-on experience featured students and community members who are interested in starting a business or non-profit or solving a community problem and helps guide participants through the process of generating ideas and refining those ideas into a viable opportunity.

This year’s participants were all FHSU students. The second-place team’s presentation was “Tiger Sweets,” Teammates Jade Artzer, a general studies major from Goodland; Grace Carder, art education major, Concordia; Kimberly Stone, English major, Ottawa; and Ronald Storrer, business administration major, Hays.

The third-place team of two students from Kansas City, Kan. – Ethan Fleming (finance major) and Rheijan Villegas (information networking and telecommunications) – developed “ISO – Kinesis kit,” a training device/motion tracker for athletes and trainers.

Although the event took on a different look in 2020, Schwallerwas pleased with the outcome.

“Our judges are always pleased with how creative our students are and the innovative ideas they come up with,” Schwaller said. “This year, I noticed how compassionate the teams were, that they were all about helping people.”

Little – a communication major from Holton – recruited her teammates with specific goals in mind. Stanley is a business major, while Faber and Ventura are both pre-med majors. Faber had experience with Kansas Startup as a member of last year’s second-place team, and Ventura also is experienced in the technology of coding and programming.

Little said she thought the diversity of her teammates’ backgrounds and majors would prove beneficial. The team brainstormed for about two hours before coming up with their idea for the competition.

“We know that mental health is an issue that is especially relevant now during the pandemic,” she said.

The app concept they developed features a daily mental health survey for the user and a way for them to connect with friends to see how they are doing. It includes five questions about mental health indicators.

Stanley said another team goal is to provide a better understanding of mental health.

“We’ve all identified with having friends with mental health issues,” he said. “Right now, people are struggling with isolation while being quarantined because of the virus.”

Little said she learned a lot during the preparation for her team’s presentation.

“The biggest thing for me was realizing that anyone can see where there are gaps in our society, and everyone has the opportunity to take action to help the community," she said. "Anyone can make a difference." 

Little and her teammates are excited about building the app to go live.

“We want to be able to help make people’s lives better,” Ventura said. “We wanted to capitalize on overcoming the stigma of mental health issues. It’s really important now with the virus.”