Student Entrepreneur Reaches Success with Hanger Prototype and Help from Innovation Hub
September 26, 2019 | By: Karen Michael
Ayo Aigbe, an undergraduate Texas student, designed a hanger that won’t stretch, wrinkle, crease, or cause bumps in clothing.
Inspiration can strike at the most mundane of times – like when hanging up clothes.
Ayo Aigbe is an undergraduate electrical engineering major at Texas Tech University, but she started her college career at Austin College as a physics major. When she moved into the dorms, she found that her new hangers destroyed her favorite sweater.
"What I noticed was, after a couple of weeks of staying on the hanger, the threading of it just poked out," Aigbe said. "I tried to fix it, and there was just no fix because of the way the garment was set up."
She took a class that year in an entrepreneurship program designed to bring students from different majors together. She was tasked with creating a product, and the issue with her sweater came to mind.
"I started thinking about, what ways can I solve these issues of stretching, wrinkling, bumps, creasing, and clothes falling to the ground. After talking to some people at my college, I found that those were the top issues," she said.
Aigbe took some flexible hair tubes and started working to apply them to an existing hanger.
"I put those onto each end, the middle and the base of the hanger, and then, I took a hook from an old hanger and stuck it in the middle," Aigbe said. "That was kind of the beginning. That was when I created the first prototype."
After taking that class and a physics course that involved a lot of engineering ideas, Aigbe was ready for a change in both majors and locations. A professor told her that it seemed that her interests were actually in electrical engineering. Aigbe did some research and realized that Texas Tech offered that major and the Innovation Hub.
"I heard about the Innovation Hub, and I realized, this is the place to be," Aigbe said.
She continued to work on her idea for the perfect hanger, and as a participant in the Innovation Hub's Accelerator program, she received $25,000 in funding to start her company, as well as mentorship from industry experts in marketing, advertising and product development.
"I didn't realize it, but you need a lot of capital to really make this stuff happen. It was a year of focusing on, this works, we've validated it," Aigbe said.
The mentorships and support went a long way, she said.
"There's a lot that you don't know you don't know," Aigbe said.
She described the Innovation Hub as "a magical place" that offers opportunities, people and resources.
This year, she is working on getting the product consumer-ready and making sure the packaging looks great. She already has three of the hangers in her own closet for her favorite outfits that need special care.
In addition, she has worked to add a metric-based counter to the hangers that can be twisted from one to six. The counter tells consumers how many times an outfit has been worn. Aigbe said this could be used to keep track of when an item needs to go to the dry cleaners, or if it hasn't been worn at all, to determine if it should be donated.
Although Aigbe won't graduate until fall of 2020, she hopes to eventually have a career as both an electrical engineer and an entrepreneur. She said she craves business and sales when working only on engineering projects, but she craves technical challenges when just doing business.
"I'm trying to find a place where those two worlds collide," Aigbe said.
That collision between creative problem-solving and business is one of two motivating forces for Aigbe. Her other motivation comes from her parents, who she said worked really hard to provide for her and her brother.
"My parents made so many sacrifices for my brother and I. Just seeing them as great role models really put that fire in me. They really believe in me and believe that I have everything within me to succeed," Aigbe said.