How two LCCC students used NEOLaunchNET to turn fantasy into reality

Walking out of a building on the first day of the fall semester in August 2017, Bretton Hibler held the door for someone and realized it was Alexander Mace, a former classmate from a Computer Games and Simulation Design course.

Hibler asked about a board game concept Mace had been working on.

“Three hours of discussion later, we were business partners,” Hibler says.

That chance encounter was a game-changer for Mace and Hibler, who together launched Siege Engine Games. With the help of LCCC’s NEOLaunchNET program, Mace and Hibler recently finished second in Cleveland State University’s IdeaLabs competition, which fosters student awareness and interest in business formation. They are the first LCCC students to place in the competition.

“These guys have a novel idea,” says Matthew Poyle, an entrepreneur and adviser for LCCC’s NEOLaunchNET, which gives students free coaching, mentoring, networking and resources to launch business ideas. “I’m excited to see where they go from here.”

Since 2012, NEOLaunchNET has advised more than 2,100 students, aided in launching more than 1,200 ventures and 200 companies, and helped create more than 200 jobs.

“We’re building a generation of people who will be prepared to help build our region’s entrepreneurial culture,” says Deborah D. Hoover, president and CEO of the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, which champions the entrepreneurial spirit in Northeast Ohio in many ways, including funding collegiate entrepreneurship initiatives like NEOLaunchNET.

Creating a spark

Mace and Hibler built and enhanced Mace’s initial idea for a tabletop war game called Eternal Kingdoms and are preparing for initial release. The strategy role-playing game has miniature figurines and can be played with small or large groups.

Once Mace, 25, paired his idea with the 24-year-old Hibler’s 3-D printing skills, the concept quickly grew into a burgeoning career. NEOLaunchNET was instrumental in helping them understand business development.

“Without LCCC, we wouldn’t be anywhere near where we’re at right now,” says Mace. “We really needed a coach.”

They found that in Poyle.

“These guys put in a lot of work,” says Poyle. “What makes them unique is how they work together and balance each other out.”

Poyle connected them to a venture clinic that provides free legal services to obtain patents for intellectual property. And through the GLIDE incubator on campus, they had access to space to develop their concept and professional business assistance.

Mace and Hibler anticipate a video game version of Eternal Kingdoms within three years and have broader plans for job development.

“What’s great about these guys is they want to include other students,” Poyle says. “If there is a way to involve students within their program, they’re more than willing to use campus resources.”

After all, Hibler and Mace know well that good things can happen when you hold the door open for someone else.