Archive for ‘News’ Category


2018 FastPitch Competition Draws Nearly 40 Participants

Friday, October 5th, 2018

Dental Hygienist wins with Innovative New Toothbrush

Rockford, Ill. —The 12th annual FastPitch Competition was a colossal success with 38 eager presenters sharing their ideas, products, services, and apps vying for over $7,500 dollars in prizes and presenting, possibly, the Next Big Thing!

Rachel Lolling took home the $5,000 first prize for her FitsBrush product. With 20 years of experience in the dental field, she is on a mission to ensure that people are brushing correctly and practicing proper oral hygiene. When she’s not working at her fulltime position in the Rockford Public Schools system, she’s in one of the nine local stores which carry her toothbrush, educating people on different products, proper brushing & flossing techniques, disease awareness, and answering any questions people may have on dental treatment and procedures. FitsBrush is currently sold to dental offices, online, in nine local stores, and can also be used as a fundraiser for schools, clubs, and organizations to promote good oral hygiene. Visit for more information

Annie Mohaupt took second place with Mohop, an on-demand, custom footwear designer and maker. Mohop combines cutting-edge digital fabrication with traditional artisanal techniques to make beautiful, comfortable shoes that reflect your style. Good news for the region: the Mohaputs have just purchased a 10,000 square foot building in Rockford to manufacture Mohop products!  Visit for more information.

AnnDee Nimmer took third place with her product, RoomTagz.  RoomTagz visually enhances schools throughout the nation and Canada, assisting visitors, parents and first responders to easily navigate school hallways. As a former teacher, she understands the importance of signage that is easily changed to assist with employee updates and creates a welcoming and safe environment. Visit for more information.

The 2017 FastPitch Competition winner, Dr. Trevor Gibbs of Naperville, gave the event’s keynote address. His product, Anestand, which provides a space for anesthesiologists’ tools in the operating room, was created with the assistance of NIU EIGERlab’s Center for Product Development.  He is set to get his product into the marketplace this year. He delivered a thought-provoking keynote speech injected with humor and shared his enthusiasm from being energized by all of the talented, passion-filled presenters at Rockford’s version of “Shark Tank.”

Entrepreneur Addie Ford took home the Dale Falconer Spirit of Entrepreneurship award including a six-month complimentary coworking membership at NIU EIGERlab’s LaunchPad! coworking space at NIU-Rockford with her distillery, the Grant View Distillery. Grant View Distillery is set on 22 acres complete with a craft size vineyard and orchard, and it’s the first distillery in this area since prohibition. They plan to open Grant View, which includes a tasting room, in 2019.

Click here for the complete list of presenters and their products.

For more information on the FastPitch Competition, visit the NIU EIGERlab website at fastpitch. For additional information, call Sherry Pritz Enderle at (815) 753-2192.

Our View: FastPitch shows off region’s innovative spirit

Thursday, October 4th, 2018

By The Editorial Board / Rockford Register Star

Innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit are alive and well in Winnebago County.

There were 38 contestants in Northern Illinois University EIGERLab’s FastPitch competition, a “Shark Tank”-style event that gives people an opportunity to show off their products and their ability to pitch them.

Those competitors all had great ideas, but the best was winner Rachael Lolling’s FitsBrush, a custom-designed toothbrush.

The FastPitch participants are living the legacy of the great inventors who built this region. They might not become the next Howard Colman, but their ideas, dedication and persistence will serve them well as they refine their products.

Participants have only three minutes to sell their ideas, so deadline pressure and the ability to handle it come into play as well.

FastPitch, which is in its 12th year, encourages innovators and gives them a vehicle to get their product out to a wider audience. That first bit of exposure can go a long way for someone who has taken a product from idea to production.

Stephenson County also boasts a “Shark Tank”-like competition. Freeport Fish Tank had two strong years in 2016 and 2017 and is on a bit of a hiatus until May 2019. That contest is more business focused. Winners have included entertainment services, a restaurant and security services.

These contests, along with networking opportunities like 1 Million Cups in Rockford and Mastermind in Freeport, encourage entrepreneurs to aspire to great things.

Kudos to Sherry Pritz Enderle, marketing and events coordinator for the NIU EIGERlab Innovation Network, for making FastPitch the success it has been. We look forward to lucky year 13.

Entrepreneurs show off inventions at FastPitch competition

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

ROCKFORD (WREX) – On Wednesday night, entrepreneurs had three minutes to make a strong impression to the judges about their inventions.

Northern Illinois University EIGERlab’s FastPitch Competition was held at NIU Rockford. Several entrepreneurs presented their ideas about products and services they invented. Participants also got an opportunity to network with investors. The winner at event got $5,000.

“NIU is very interested in supporting an innovation culture in the Rockford area,” Rena Cotsones of NIU Division of Outreach, Engagement, and Regional Development said. “I think you see it around town. We have wonderful innovators in the manufacturing companies that have made new products and processes. And we’re doing everything that we can to support those innovators and entrepreneurs.”

Rachel Lolling took home first place for FitsBrush. It’s a toothbrush with a flexible neck for better cleaning.

WREX’s link

NIU EIGERlab Center for Product Development to host event

Thursday, September 13th, 2018

HopperStand Launched at NIU EIGERlab | Product developed with help from EIGERlab Center for Product Development

LOVES PARK (WREX)- An inventor from the Chicago Suburbs unveiled a new product at Northern Illinois University’s Eigerlab Center Wednesday.

Santosh Arcot introduced the HopperStand, which is described as the “Swiss Army Knife” of utility tables.

It comes with detachable parts and accessories, it also serves as a universal bag holder.

The HopperStand was developed with help from the Eigerlab’s Center for Product Development.

“There are many utility tables out there,” Said Arcot, the President of HopperTopper Inc. “If you go to any of the dot coms, [there are] about a hundred of them. Likewise, there are many bag holders, maybe twenty of them. But, there is just one HopperStand.”

WREX interview link

NIU EIGERlab’s Center for Product Development’s Client Launches Third Product

Wednesday, September 12th, 2018

NIU EIGERlab’s Center for Product Development’s Client Launches Third Product

News Conference to Showcase Serial Inventor’s Newest Invention

Rockford, Ill. — NIU EIGERlab is proud to announce that serial inventor, Santosh Arcot, has launched his third in a series of products with the assistance of the Center for Product Development (C4PD). Arcot’s HopperStandTM is the Swiss-army knife of utility tables. HopperStand is universal and boasts an added feature—a universal bag holder. Santosh shared the features today during the news conference held at NIU EIGERlab’s Center for Product Development which included demonstrations of its many uses and to learn what drives the serial entrepreneur.

HopperStand’s versatility has been proven in a variety of applications and settings including camping, fishing, hunting, working around the house or other fun outdoor activities such as picnics, tailgating, trips to the beach and backyard parties. Its features include being compact (folds flat for storage and transport), adaptable (can adjust for use with multiple types of bags and variable heights) durable (portable tool bench), utilitarian (holds either a plastic bag with detachable clips or a paper sack), stable (detachable spikes), washable, foldable and lightweight–weighs only 4.5 pounds.

Arcot, an inventor by nature, is president of HopperTopper, Inc., a company engaged in inventing, developing, manufacturing and launching new and innovative products in the consumer goods space. Previously, he launched the HopperTopper (lawn and leaf bag funnel) in 2014, and the HopperTopper HD in 2015. Made entirely in the USA, the original HopperTopper is made of corrugated paper and is reusable up to 25 uses. HopperTopper HD is made of fluted plastic

(Coroplast) and will last up to three years. “I wanted a frame for holding plastic bags for use with the HopperTopper lawn bag funnel, and that idea rapidly evolved into a universal bag holder for many types and sizes of bags plus the detachable accessories that include a table-top, stakes and bag clips.  This is a truly unique product with no equal,” said Santosh.

 “Working with inventors is intriguing. Once they have a concept for their product, we assist them with the daunting list of decisions and steps to develop it, including establishing rapports with reliable engineers and manufacturers that produce the product. In addition, we also assist the entrepreneur with avenues to sell their product. It’s typically a longer process than most people realize, but we are here to assist with every step of the development stage,” said Mike Cobert, Director for the Center for Product Development.

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to compete in events such as the FastPitch Competition offered by NIU EIGERlab. Every opportunity to introduce our product to a new person could potentially result in meeting a strategic partner, investor, or mentor. I look forward to competing in this year’s event and meeting my fellow challengers,” shared Santosh.

Interested in purchasing any of the aforementioned products? The HopperStand is now carried through,,,, and The HopperTopper HD Plastic Lawn and Leaf Bag Funnel can be purchased through,,, and Lastly, the HopperTopper Corrugated Lawn and Leaf Bag Funnel are carried in Walmart stores in the U.S.A. and Loblaw’s in Canada.

Click here to download the complete news release.

NIU EIGERlab Center for Product Development Hosts Open House to Showcase New 3D Printing Technology

Thursday, March 22nd, 2018

Entrepreneurs, manufacturers, small business owners and anyone interested in seeing a demonstration of state-of-the-art 3D printing technology are invited to an Open House at the NIU EIGERlab Center for Product Development (C4PD) Tuesday, March 27 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The NIU EIGERlab C4PD brings cutting-edge technology to its clients, thanks in part to partnerships with area companies. Representatives of partner company Super 3D Plus will join C4PD staff in demonstrating the features of C4PD’s new equipment, the ProJet MjP 2500 and 3600. These new printers deliver high-capacity and performance at faster speeds for streamlined production to achieve functional design with high resolution.

The NIU EIGERlab C4PD is located at 5299 Zenith Parkway, Loves Park.

Technology evolves at quantum speeds, and 3D printing machines are no different.

Super 3D Plus Company representatives will be highlighting the features of their ComeTrue T10 printer. The ComeTrue T10 is 3D printing like you’ve never seen before; detailed, fast, and affordable with beautiful, full-color results. Print in a highly desirable sandstone-like matte finish or a ceramic powder option which is ready to be fired and glazed.

For more information regarding the open house, contact Tina Leombruni at 815.965.3522.

“Made in the Stateline: EIGERlab”

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

“Made in the Stateline: EIGERlab”

ROCKFORD – Getting a business off the ground can be a challenge, but keeping one going is sometimes just as tough.

To survive, businesses need a competitive edge.  Sometimes that means developing a new product.  Other times, it’s improving the products companies have or the process used to make those products.  That’s where digital manufacturing comes in.

“Digital manufacturing isn’t scary,” said Federico Sciammarella, the interim Chairman of the Mechanical Engineering Dept. at Northern Illinois University.  “Even a small business can benefit from how to simulate a process of theirs virtually, so they can understand where they might have bottlenecks, where they might run into problems, or how to optimize a process.”

Digital manufacturing can involve creating a process or simulating making a product to efficiently and inexpensively coming up with a prototype before making the real thing.  In the long run, that can save time and money.  It’s one of the reasons NIU EIGERlab in Rockford picked the topic for EIGERlab’s “Monthly Meetup.”

“EIGERlab is a not-for-profit business incubator,” said C4PD Director Mike Cobert.  “We’re here to help businesses either get started or an existing business who has run into a speed bump and needs help getting through that we’re able to get them the help they need to further grow their business.”

These meetups are just part of what NIU EIGERlab does.  The organization also operates a Center for Product Development.

“We help individuals and businesses develop their products,” said Cobert.  “From the idea, all the way through engineering, manufacturing, and in a box in a warehouse ready to go to their customer.”

Information learned at events like this may just be the missing piece of the puzzle a company needs to thrive and possibly be able to hire more people.

“Any advantage we can give to businesses here locally in Rockford and the region to me is exciting because that means we’re helping and contributing to their growth and their continued success.”

NIU EIGERlab is also part of an innovation network offering product development help all over northern Illinois, Rockford, Elgin, Schaumburg, Naperville, and DeKalb.

Click here for WTVO’s video coverage.

NIU EIGERlab, 2018 February Newsletter | Where are they now? 2017 FastPitch Presenters Progress | Latest Tools for Manufacturing-IN TUES Meetup

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

February’s newsletter topics include the following. Click here to read the complete newsletter (PDF).

“Latest Tools for Manufacturing” | February’s Innovation Tuesday Meetup

Progress Post FastPitch Competition: Grand Prize Winner’s Launch

Client Successes | Post 2017 FastPitch Competition Progress!

Have a product idea in either DeKalb, Elgin, Naperville or Schaumburg?
We can assist!

Tired of Starbucks? Daily membership offered | GROW your business at NIU EIGERlab’s Coworking Spaces

Retired? Semi-Retired? Consider Giving Back to Your Community by Becoming a SCORE Mentor 

Rockford MakerSpace is NOW open

Illinois Small Business Development Center

Thinker Ventures 

The Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute (DMDII)

IMEC | Manufacturing Improvement Specialists

Entrepreneurial Events 

Area Business ‘Incubators’ Help Budding Entrepreneurs With Planning, Execution

Friday, January 26th, 2018

Whether it’s Steve Jobs building a computer in his garage or Hector Boyardee cooking pasta at the Plaza Hotel, many American brands and businesses start from humble origins.  Current start-ups seek to replicate that success, but they don’t do it alone.

In this Friday Forum, WNIJ’s Chase Cavanaugh discusses the groups that help northern Illinois small businesses get started.

Entrepreneurship is a promising but difficult job. People who believe they have a great idea for a product or service need to make sure there’s a market for it and have a solid business plan. Fortunately, northern Illinois businesses can get help from various incubators. 

Click here for the complete article and interview.

All In: After jumping, that first entrepreneurial step is a doozy

Tuesday, January 16th, 2018

By Nicole Sado / For The Journal-Standard

Are you ready to jump? That’s the first question you need to answer as an entrepreneur. The answer has to have action, of course. I like to say that I “put the universe on notice” in the fall of 2013 when I spoke these words out loud: “I want to do something on the internet that will help all nonprofits.”

Yep, that’s how vague it was. I didn’t know what exactly; I just knew this was weighing heavy on my heart and mind for months and I needed to do something about it. After jumping, that first step is a doozy. An entrepreneur has to start moving forward, which means taking steps. None of the steps come in the same size; some feel more like baby steps, while others are like stretching across a crevasse.

Some of my steps were scribbling on a notepad what I wanted my site to look like and finding a web developer; others were traveling the country doing market research and understanding my customers. The key is, you have to keep moving.

People will give you directions, also known as advice. Listen to it all. You wouldn’t be able to act on every piece of advice and you shouldn’t, at least not right away. I have been so blessed to start this entrepreneurial venture in Freeport! It is a more supportive environment than I could’ve imagined! Thank you to everyone who has put in the time to learn and support me through this. Some of the advice I have in the back of my mind or written down for when the time is right. Some I took immediately, like when I was given the information about the NIU EIGERlab.

In 2015, I was one of the finalists in the NIU EIGERlab FastPitch competition. I won the inaugural Dale Faulkner Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award. This was a key step as it came with a one-year membership to the NIU EIGERlab Business Incubation/Co-working space.

For that year, I had the opportunity to analyze what I’ve been doing for the last two years and answer the, “What’s next?” question. Sometimes, moving means pivoting and going in a new direction. Which is what I did in January 2016, when was conceived. I was, for all intents and purposes, starting over. Now what? Keep moving forward.

Keep moving forward meant more steps, with more commitment and investment. I stopped seeing patients (I’m a chiropractor by profession), found a new web development company, and every day meant tweaking and redefining.

Every step in the process is so important and timed perfectly, as I know that this is bigger than me. I recently finished a seven-week intense business-acceleration program with gBETA of Beloit, a division of Genor8tor, a nationally ranked accelerator that invests in high-growth startups.

To say this experience was amazing is an understatement. The next steps … I’d love to tell you more.

Nicole Sado is founder/CEO, NonProfitTHRIVE

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