As senior Madison Tamblyn prepared for the chance of a lifetime at the San Francisco ElevatorPitch event sponsored by PeopleConnect, her ticket inside almost got tossed.

“The bartender said, ‘Can I throw this away for you? and I said quickly ‘No. That’s my prototype,’” Tamblyn said. “So, long story short, my prototype was almost thrown away right before the competition.”

Tamblyn had an interest in inventing since she was a little girl. Growing up, she had many ideas that she ran by her sisters and parents that were not always practical. But, that all changed with her invention of “The Maddogg Heat Sleeve.”

Her journey to invention started earlier this year when Tamblyn began to develop the product, a sleeve that when placed on a cup of coffee will maintain the heat of it. Her idea was to prevent the annoying occurrence of coffee going from an 120 degree barista masterpiece to a 50 degree cold drink in a matter of 20 minutes.

Entering the competition

When registration came around for Winter Term, Tamblyn immediately signed up for the “Innovation in America” course, with hopes of pitching her idea in California’s Silicon Valley, home to companies like Facebook and Dropbox, both of which students had the opportunity to visit while on their trip.

On their way to California, Tamblyn learned the news that would propel her idea from the pages of her invention notebook to an active panel of judges. Kevin O’Mara, professor of management and executive director of the Doherty Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, and Scott Kelly, coordinator for student entrepreneurship and instructor in marketing, informed Tamblyn that she would have the opportunity to participate in a pitch competition scheduled for the following Wednesday night — her birthday.

The San Francisco ElevatorPitch competition consists of two-minute pitches followed by a question and answer session that ends with non-rebuttal feedback from the judges, who are angel investors, with the potential for them to invest in the proposed invention.

With only four days to prepare her presentation, Tamblyn managed to place first in the competition.

“I’ve always wanted to start a business [and invent], so now I’m getting to do both simultaneously,” Tamblyn said.

Moving forward, Tamblyn said her life plan is ever-changing and she is not even sure where she will be when she graduates. With the “Maddogg Heat Sleeve” launch set for later this spring, Tamblyn hopes to take things from there.

Tamblyn started out Elon as a sport and event management major, but quickly switched to the business school. When she made the switch, the management major began to offer concentrations, one of which is project management.

She thought she would apply for event-planning jobs after graduation, but she began looking into creating.

“I get bored really easily, and I remember a quote in one of the readings we had in Professor O’Mara’s class that said something along the lines of, ‘When an inventor solves the problem they have been working on, they no longer care about the solution,’” Tamblyn said. “To me, this meant that as soon as you find the answer, you are bored with the project and move on to the next. I have always been moving from one project to the next.”

Pursuing a startup

Tamblyn always had the tools to become a successful inventor — she just may not have known it yet.

“I am a hands-on learner, I never actually read directions before doing something,” Tamblyn said. “This usually turns out okay, because I can use my creativity to find a way to complete what I am trying to do. This is very similar to innovation: solving a problem without any direction.”

Throughout her evolution as an entrepreneur and inventor, Tamblyn has acquired many mentors. Wes McGee, CEO of EyeMarker Systems, Inc., and chairman of KSI Data Sciences, has been an entrepreneurship mentor to Tamblyn since the beginning of the “Maddogg Heat Sleeve.”

“It is fun to work with and mentor young entrepreneurs when they are creative, passionate, willing to commit to their goal and also listen to suggestion,” McGee said. “Madison represents all these attributes.”

Tamblyn continues to look to McGee for guidance as she moves forward with her new business venture. 

“I call him when I need advice, or if I’m making a big decision,” Tamblyn said. “He helps me look at the tough side of things and really question why I am making the decision, and if it is best for my business in the long run.”

To help make her dream come true, Tamblyn will be starting a Kickstarter campaign to cover the start-up costs of launching the business.

“I have many inventions, some are horrible, and some are practical,” she said. “There is one that I really want to work on in the future. For now, my time is being devoted to the ‘Maddogg Heat Sleeve’ only.”