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Daniel Wilson - 1492 Entrepreneur

The next million-dollar idea may have been hatched in Eibling Hall.

Dan Wilson and his business partner Rick Sayman are competing in 1492, a business startup competition to find and foster the next hot startup in Central Ohio. Their company, Capstone Innovations, relies heavily on skills Wilson learned at Columbus State.

1492 is an intense, 12-week boot camp for entrepreneurs. At the end, five teams will emerge with $20,000 in startup money and a new business on the launch pad. Along the way they'll get mentoring from TechColumbus, Columbus College of Art & Design, Ohio's Third Frontier and Columbus State.

1492The $20,000 will help, but Wilson says 1492's coaching has been invaluable. Wilson is the design mind at Capstone Innovations and Sayman has sales skills, but navigating the business side has been a "minefield."

Capstone's innovation is a unique system for a vital piece most people never think about: shipping pallets. Capstone's pallets are modular, so they can be scaled up or down depending on the size of the item being shipped. Shipping companies charge by how much space a pallet takes up on a truck, so Capstone's modular pallets will save companies money. The company has already gotten inquiries about the pallet, even though they're not in production yet.

Wilson started at a community college in Toledo more than 10 years ago, learning computer aided design (CAD). He got an internship, got hired, and never finished that degree. After getting laid off, he moved to Central Ohio and got a contract position with Honda R&D's shipping department in Marysville.

"I knew I needed to get a career path going, so I went to Columbus State," Wilson says. "I always say that the 19-year-old version of me was not the version who could go to school and focus on classes."

Sayman was Wilson's supervisor at Honda, and the two dreamed of coming up a killer idea. "He said give me the next million dollar idea that I can spend $10,000 on."

The start of Capstone Innovations came then, but it took several Columbus State classes to bring it to fruition. He developed the idea in 2D CAD class, then through 3D CAD and Parametric CAD. He learned injection molding in a Manufacturing Process class, and is currently taking a technical writing class to help develop a business plan.

"When I got done with my homework, I would stay after and work on the idea," he says. His professors, including Shane Bendele and Dan Carson, helped refine the concept. He and Sayman also got some assistance from the Small Business Development Center, a college-hosted program that provides free or low-cost assistance to entrepreneurs.

Carson says he isn't surprised at Wilson's success. "He was a great student, who always seemed to have a vision of bigger things."

Wilson plans to graduate this Winter with a degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology. Capstone Innovations will "graduate" from 1492 in January and, after that, his brainstorm could be traveling the highways of America.

"We're just trying to work the details out and enjoy the ride," Wilson says.

Columbus State's Mechanical Engineering program teaches students skills to work in advanced manufacturing, such as CAD, robotics, hydraulics and troubleshooting. The college also offers Business classes, including an Entrepreneurship degree, in addition to the Small Business Development Center.