As it finishes up its third year, McPherson College’s Horizon Fund will mark a significant milestone: helping students explore more than 100 of their unique ideas.

As it finishes up its third year, McPherson College’s Horizon Fund will mark a significant milestone: helping students explore more than 100 of their unique ideas.

“I think this is our flagship program,” said Dr. Kori Gregg, vice president for entrepreneurship and innovation. “When I consider how much students gravitate toward it, this is where it’s at.”

Started in 2010 as part of the “Freedom to Jump” entrepreneurship initiative at McPherson College, the Horizon Fund provides micro-grants of up to $500 for students to explore a great idea they want to pursue. The goal of the fund is to lift up liberal arts at the college and to spark the entrepreneurial spirit of McPherson College students.

After the most recent round of funding in May 2013, 102 concepts involving about 150 students had been given grant funding during the three years of the Horizon Fund.

In addition, 14 students have been involved with more than one idea, and 21 ideas have received two or more grants as concepts have progressed and grown. In total, McPherson College has written 136 grant checks to students, just to help them have the most valuable learning experience of all: Actually doing something.

During the most recent academic year, 29 new ideas received funding, and another nine ideas started in previous years received additional funding - everything from a mobile app to give homework reminders by text, to jewelry made from vintage license plates.

Darkroom availability

One recipient, senior Torey Fry of Wichita, looked around in an age of digital photography and saw that her classmates were still frequently working with film photography. It’s hands-on, physical, and nostalgic in a way that pixels simply aren’t.

But creating her own customized prints from film was challenging.

“You can do digital photography anywhere,” she said. “But with film photography, it’s just hard to find the space and the chemicals to develop your own.”

So Fry in planning to use her grant to start creating “The Darkroom” - a business that allows photographers to rent common darkroom space and to reserve studio space for taking professional images. Her grant will help her get started with basic supplies and equipment.

Promoting creativity

Another recipient is using a Horizon Fund grant that takes advantage of his superpower… of a sort.

“It’s a pretty awful superpower,” said senior Grahm Mahanna, senior of Hoxie. “It’s the ability to come up with nonsense words on the spot.”

But the day for “Nonsense Man” arrived when he and Amy Huxtable (class of 2011) were brainstorming a way to encourage creativity. Their idea was “Wuzzwump”  ( On a regular basis, they plan to post one of Grahm’s nonsense words and ask artist and non-artist alike to create what they think the word is.

“We wanted to make a website where people can log in and stretch their creative muscles,” Mahanna said.

Eventually, they want to create a lesson plan for schools, start an online Wuzzwump store, and perhaps publish a coffee table book. Another student involved is senior Justin Biegger of Fuquay Varina, N.C., who is working with the site to research the benefits of “play” in everyday life.

Business marketing

Senior Erik Steffens of Dighton, has a venture about as far from a website as one can get. He has been raising purebred Black Angus cattle for breeding since he was a senior in high school, gradually doubling the size of his herd. Still, he knew there were many ranchers who were unaware of his business.

With a Horizon Fund grant, he was able to create fliers to go up at sale barns, write letters directly to private breeders, and place ads in magazines. His efforts brought new inquires and customers for his service. The grant helped him bring together lessons learned in marketing and entrepreneurship classes at MC.

“Marketing is tough,” he said. “But without marketing, you’re a sunk ship. This allowed me to experience other avenues I wouldn’t have before.”

Some other Horizon Fund grant recipients in 2012-2013 include:

Tyler Boonstra, freshman, Grandville, Mich.: Creating a safe target shooting backstop using recycled tires and steel plates.

Kenzie Smith, freshman, Augusta: Selling MC-themed caps, scarves, headbands and blankets to benefit a different charity every month  - called “Crochet Away”

Jordon Hargitt, junior, Quinter: Create a website or Facebook tool to help current students find jobs or internships offered by MC alumni.

Malorie Thurman, freshman, Belle Plaine: “iChalk Addvertisments” - Sidewalk Chalk ad service

Some grant recipients from previous years who received more funding in the last year:

Brittney Shoulders, junior, Rialto, Calif.: Creating elegant retro-style purses from  the same vinyl as classic automobiles in a business called “Cherry Doll Purses”

Aurore Joigny, senior, Deuil-la-Barre, France: Business called “Sucre” making gourmet French pastries called Macarons and Canneles.

Jonathan Wickramasinghe, senior, Hesperia, Calif.: A clothing company called “Iffy” (meaning “cool”), focusing on down-to-earth clothing appealing to snowboarding, surfing and skateboarding culture.