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  • | 8:51 a.m. November 1, 2013
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Company: Dynamic Reach, Fort Myers

Principals: Robert Donnelly, Scott Kelly, Johnny Baker, Tyler Dalbora, Sandra Guerra, Eric Raudebaugh, Mally Burmaster

The big idea: A group of engineering and business students at Florida Gulf Coast University undertook a project in fall 2012 to help Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida design a pool ramp for disabled people at their nature camp. The result: AquaRamp.

Using a hand crank, a disabled person can sit in a seat that gently glides into the pool. It's a system that's less scary than current lifts that swing people over the edge of a pool.

What's more, the students say they could manufacture the AquaRamp and sell it for about $3,000, less than the $5,000 to $10,000 cost of current models on the market. The students recently won the collegiate business plan competition organized by the Florida Venture Forum and they've formed a company called Dynamic Reach to raise money from investors so they can make and sell the product.

“We've been trying to do it on a shoestring budget,” says Scott Kelly, a senior at FGCU and the company's chief design officer.

The market for the AquaRamp is significant because federal law requires pools at hotels and other public places install lifts for disabled people. Robert Donnelly, the company's CEO, says a survey of about 300 hotels in Southwest Florida revealed 90% haven't complied yet. “They're all susceptible to lawsuits,” he says.

Donnelly estimates the company may need from $200,000 to $1 million to start manufacturing and sales. Currently, the students are creating the prototype and sales could begin as soon as six months from now. “We're in the position now where we're trying to find investors to get our feet off the ground,” Donnelly says.


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