Scott Gruninger, ’20, who created and sold a 3D design company, started his next entrepreneurial venture—mobile hydroponic growing systems.
Gruninger, a management consulting major who just completed his minor in entrepreneurship, created his 3D design company, Anchored 3D Designs, during his junior year of high school over in Easton.
He took a computer design class where he asked one of his teachers if he could fix a broken 3D printer. With the help of YouTube and Google, he fixed it and used it for class and personal projects.
“In high school, I started making custom phone cases and keychains that I would sell to my friends,” Gruninger said. “Then, I started selling them to people outside of the school.”
Once Gruninger started taking advanced computer design classes, he met people who had worked at Bethlehem Steel who would buy prototype pieces from him for a higher price than he would charge his high school friends.
Gruninger was able to find a balance between taking classes and operating a business.
“When I had some time between my college classes, I would work on (computer-aided designs) for clients and plan out their orders,” he said.
Gruninger developed a website and started selling his creations on Amazon, eBay and Etsy, which took about two years to become fully operational. He advertised through Instagram and Facebook ads. Eventually, a pizza company in California contacted him, and ended up being his biggest client.
The company asked him if he could make a bottle opener in the shape of a slice of pizza, and if so, how quickly he could make 8,000 of them.
“My favorite experience was trying to figure stuff out as I go,” Gruninger said. “You’ll hear from a lot of the entrepreneurship places around here on Lehigh’s campus say that entrepreneurship is a lot like building a plane while it’s plummeting to the ground. You sort of have to figure stuff out as you go and hope it works. I think that was my favorite thing…it’s sort of an adrenaline rush.”
He filled his parent’s basement with 3D printers and would stay up all night working on the first production run. He later reached out to a third-party manufacturer so he could reach the higher quantities.
Although the company was successful, he sold it when he transferred to Lehigh after his sophomore year.
Since coming to Lehigh, Gruninger has started developing a new business called Ship-a-Grow, which is a mobile hydroponic growing system. Hydroponic systems allow people to grow plants without using soil, and Gruninger wants to apply this technology to refugee camps. Gruninger used Lehigh’s Hatchery program to build this idea.
The Hatchery is an immersive nine-week summer program for students passionate about entrepreneurship to familiarize themselves with the entrepreneurial process.
“You can come into the Hatchery with an idea you already have, and we will help you develop that idea, or you can come in and work on a project that will develop as you’re there,” said Renee Baran, the manager of the Hatchery program.
Gruninger started the program ready to begin his next venture. Innovator-in-residence Chris Kauzmann also worked with Gruninger in the Hatchery program and continues to work with him for his independent study.
“In Scott’s case, he came in with a solution,” Kauzmann said. “He had a vision of an idea he wanted to create and so he was an interesting case where we worked with Scott to bring him back to the beginning stages.”
Gruninger said the company he is trying to start is centered around helping other people while making a positive contribution to society.
“Entrepreneurship is not always just about making a profit, it’s also about being able to do good for other people,” Gruninger said. “So that’s one of the things I’m most excited for in this company, that it will share that balance,” he said.
Gruninger also participated in the EUREKA! event in which students pitch for funding and mentorship. Baran said Scott has taken opportunities in both the Hatchery and pitch events to move his ideas forward, and he also spearheaded a new club for Hatchery and alumni that allows for like-minded students to have a space to discuss their ventures.
The bulk of Gruninger’s work is done in the Baker Institute, which is the home of Lehigh’s entrepreneurial programs and teaching.
“The Baker Institute provides an array of programs and events for students to explore the Design Thinking process and apply it to their own venture,” Kauzmann said.
The Baker Institute is marketed as a resource for any student from any class year or major.
“We work on projects ranging from consumer products to nonprofit social ventures to international projects to software development apps,” Kauzmann said. “Anything that you can think of as long as it is solving a problem, need or desire, we can help move that idea forward.”