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When Chris Hawker was a Perrysburg High School student in the early 1990s he was building aquarium filters and selling them. Since then the entrepreneur hasn't stopped. He now has about 80 products in stores.
The 1993 Perrysburg graduate went back to his high school last week to talk to students about what he does and try to inspire them.
“I talked a lot about innovation and following your passion,” he said. “Trying hard makes things fun. Passion makes you good at things — never stop trying.”
“Never stopping” has helped him found Trident-Designs out of Grandview Heights, a company that designs, preps, and launches inventions.
He received a comparative religion degree from Ohio State University, while selling filters and building his business throughout his college career.
That degree, he said, allowed him to learn what people find meaning in — which helps with coming up with inventions.
He spoke to four marketing and two physics classes Tuesday before being the keynote speaker for an alumni dinner at night.
“I love real-world people reinforcing what the students are learning,” said Becky Byrd, marketing teacher. “You have to tie it into the real world as much as possible. It is not just ideas in a book or boring stats.”
Product development, licensing, and patents are some of the ideas and definitions that Mr. Hawker explained with real-world experiences.
Jeff Abke, development director for the district, is trying to bring in more such successful Perrysburg graduates to talk to students.
“It is terrific to have our alumni, like Chris, back home to share their experiences and insights with our students,” he said.
One student, inspired, came up to Mr. Hawker after a marketing class to learn more.
“That’s why I’m here,” he said. “For those one or two kids who want to pursue this path that they did not know existed. ... When I ask what industrial design is no one has heard of the field.
“That is incredibly bizarre. It is the force that is shaping society.”
His filters and an algae scraper invention helped give him the funds to start his firm out of college and hire employees. The business took off after selling a few million power squids — a protective and innovative power strip.
Between helping others with inventions and designs, and licensing his own inventions Mr. Hawker said he has worked on about 80 products.
“Without a question I have the coolest job in the world,” Mr. Hawker said.
“The job itself was my greatest invention yet. To play, imagine, and create things ... is an amazing privilege.”