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Student Team Wins Regional “Stark” Tank Competition Beating NE Ohio Colleges

Walsh University seniors Joe Knopp and Chip Gottschalk are utilizing their entrepreneurial skills to serve others and create a positive impact in the world through the selling of water bottles through their new company Ripple. For every 2,000 Ripple bottles sold, a community in Africa will receive a well that provides clean water for the next 20 years. Their business plan and grassroots marketing campaign just secured a first place $10,000 investment from the Strengthening Stark first-ever college Stark Tank Competition.

“The idea originated with a book I read called Start Something that Matters by TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie,” said Joe Knopp, Class of 2022. “The message was essentially when starting a business you will be most passionate about it if you are helping others. I began to research to see if we could solve a global hunger and water crisis. What I found was that we could build a water well for about $10,000 in Africa. Leveraging my business knowledge, Ripple was born.”

After researching possible collaborations, Joe and Chip chose Water Wells For Africa based on their comprehensive program to not only install wells but provide education to the communities on how to operate and maintain the wells.

“They have a great record of installing wells with the use of easily accessible parts in case it would ever be damaged,” said Chip, Class of 2023. “With this partnership, we are building a water well for a community called Khobwe in Malawi, Africa. The well will give water to more than a thousand individuals who currently walk more than a mile each day to collect dirty water.”

Chip, from Whitehouse, Ohio, is majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry. His future goal is to become an orthodontist. Joe is from East Canton, Ohio, and is majoring in Finance with the goal to own and operate his own business. The two met at Walsh on the Cavalier baseball team and launched Ripple in October 2020.

“The idea behind Ripple is that our efforts here in North Canton, Ohio, will have the ripple effect to impact lives on the other side of the world,” said Chip. “When someone drinks from a Ripple bottle, they are sharing a drink with someone who they were able to help thousands of miles away. We were focused on keeping our logo simple and to the point, so we decided upon a droplet that showcased a ripple.”

When it came time to find a manufacturer for their bottles, the team used the same approach of focusing on a company mission that aligned with their goals.

“I backtracked to find the same manufacturer of Hydroflask and Yeti because I wanted a high quality bottle behind a high quality mission,” said Joe. “Eventually, we connected with the manufacturer and struck a deal. I took a leap of faith and wired the initial deposit to their bank account without ever meeting them. That leap of faith paid off when we finally received our bottles and now are on our way to building our first water well.”

To date, Ripple has sold more than 300 bottles in the first month. But the Ripple team wants to build more than well. They are looking to create a community of likeminded individuals who will support them on their journey. That is why Joe and Chip created an online tracker on their website to monitor the sales progress towards building their first well.

“More than 20 percent of all the profit goes towards the water wells, but the idea is to build a community of followers who will know which well their bottle belongs to,” said Joe. “We designate every 2,000 bottles sold to a specific well, which can be found on the bottle’s tag that is attached.”

The team recently had the opportunity to compete for $10,000 to help fund their goal to sell 2,000 bottles and build their first well within the year. Coordinated by Strengthening Stark, Stark Tank: College Edition is a program designed to inspire and develop an entrepreneurial mindset in local college students. The program’s culminating event is a business pitch competition modeled after the television show “Shark Tank.” Joe and Chip pitched their business idea to a panel of Stark County "sharks" who included successful local entrepreneurs serving as judges. In addition to valuable feedback on their business plan, Ripple earned first place among 10 competitors and won a $10,000 investment.

The competition was open to college student or teams from the University of Akron, Aultman College, Kent State University at Stark, Malone University, University of Mount Union, NEOMED and Stark State College.

“Moving forward, we would like to construct one more well than the previous year. We are also considering expanding into other product lines leveraged to solve other specific world problems, such as hats and hoodies for hunger. We also have a contact in Ghana who is working to supply communities with stocked grocery stores,” said Chip. “This goes along with Ripple’s current vision to bring stability to where there is instability and allow communities to become self-sufficient.”

In addition to Ripple, both Joe and Chip are active on Walsh’s campus. Chip is fulfilling his dream to play college baseball and is pitcher for the Cavaliers. He is also a member of the Honors Program, Pre-Dental Club and Sigma Zeta, the mathematics and science honors society.

“I am very grateful to be a part of Ripple,” said Chip. “Walsh has provided a foundation for us to grow the business though all of the networking opportunities with alumni. This has all just been a confirmation of my passion to serve others anywhere and anyway I can. I believe this is not just a business but a vehicle for change for those without a voice.”

Joe is the Director of Entrepreneurship in The Garage as well as a member of the Student Managed Investment Portfolio team and the Northeast Ohio Student Venture Fund team.

“Walsh has been very supportive of our mission with Ripple, especially through a business spotlight event sponsored by The Garage where we were able to hand out more than 40 bottles to students,” said Joe. “After Walsh, I plan on continuing to grow and scale Ripple into a multinational corporation that serves those in need. Although this experience is relatively new, it’s helped me realize that I’d rather chase my dreams than chase the money.”

For more information, or to purchase a Ripple bottle and help build a well, visit https://www.wearetheripple.com/