Transferring to USI may turn out to be a game changer for senior Logan Hayford. Not only is he a student, intern, and football coach, he is now a business partner in H&H Heating Sources, LLC and creator of the Cuisine Caterer, an alternative flameless heat source for use in the food industry. He attended the University of Indianapolis his freshman year to play football but decided to return home to Newburgh, Indiana, and transfer to USI. He continued with classes toward his major in computer science, and in his second semester he signed up for Management 352 because he needed another class and “entrepreneurship sounded like fun!”
The class divides into teams and chooses one of three Crane Naval military patents from which to develop a potential commercial product. Logan’s group examined the heat-producing thermal target patent, and repurposed it on a larger scale into a hotter heat for the catering industry. The unique ideation process taught by Mr. Bryan Bourdeau, instructor in business, and Dr. Kevin Celuch, professor of marketing, really got Logan thinking about possibilities. The idea behind Cuisine Caterer was born!
The following semester in Management 353 Logan continued the idea with a different group of students. An actual prototype was created and students sought feedback on the product. The third class in the entrepreneurship minor program is Management 354, which teaches financials and feasibility analyses for businesses and ideas. Meanwhile, Logan’s friend, A.J. Hale, got involved and was as caught up in the idea as Logan. The two decided to move forward with a partnership and developed H&H Heating Sources, LLC. “This is when we legally became a business,” said Logan. From there family members who were small business owners in other industries began providing mentorship and guiding them in the right direction to get their business off the ground. “Talking to people who have been business owners all their life who showed confidence in our product improved our confidence in our product.”
Computer science major and business partner Logan Hayford shows the stages of the prototype for the Cuisine Caterer, a flameless heating alternative for use in the food industry.
The Cuisine Caterer is a unique alternative designed to keep food warm in chafing dishes. It heats up when exposed to air and eliminates the need for multiple electrical outlets. With no open flame, it is much safer than candles and won’t burn through aluminum and stainless steel dishes. H&H Heating Sources was one of five startups to receive funding from Eagle Innovation Accelerator, a recent initiative at USI that helps launch local startups to profitability. Once the small business becomes financially stable, it repays the investment so the Accelerator can fund another startup. Logan networked with entrepreneurs from the other startups and says he learned so much about business just being part of the Accelerator experience.
A.J. found a manufacturer in California in May, one they felt comfortable with almost instantly because of its family atmosphere and focus on values. They are currently negotiating a contract to mass produce the Cuisine Caterer. Once the samples are in hand, H&H will begin testing with the local early adopters: caterers, restaurants, hospitals, and universities. If the product samples provide the necessary heat and duration, their goal is to enter the Catersource Tradeshow in March 2016, a nationwide catering show, in Las Vegas. It will be a huge opportunity to get the H&H Heating Sources name out there and the Cuisine Caterer product into the hands of more than 7,000 representatives from some of the nation’s largest catering companies.
Entrepreneurship may seem daunting to some, but Logan describes his trek into the world of small business as smooth overall. “The stars seemed to have aligned just right for us, and most things fell into place along the way – the right people, the right mentors. The biggest hurdle was finding a manufacturer that was willing to take a chance on us or was already making something similar but wasn’t willing to change the ratios of the chemical mixes.” Logan believes his product wouldn’t be where it is today if it wasn’t for the Romain College’s entrepreneurship minor program, and he tells others to take those classes because it makes students think so differently. Each class teaches a piece of the puzzle for budding entrepreneurs and small business owners – how small business works, prototypes, entrepreneurship, pitching ideas, financials. “It really gets students in the entrepreneurial mindset,” he said. “Also, the faculty really care and provide a supportive environment. They want a company to come out of the program.”
As he gets ready to graduate in May and leave his college career behind, Logan’s advice to other students is that college is the perfect time to take a chance to be your own boss and do something for yourself instead of working for someone else. “Take a chance and see where it goes.”