Zac Graber’s 4-H career began when he was a 6-year-old Cloverbud in Henry County. Throughout his 13 years of involvement with the program, he showed swine and dairy cattle at the county fair and served as president of his club and vice president of Junior Fair Board. He competed in public safety speaking contests, which included several trips to the Ohio State Fair. But 4-H was about more than just project work for Graber. “The lessons I learned through the program taught me the importance of having passion for your work and pursing things that create value for others.”
Entrepreneurship was always a goal for Graber and when he enrolled at The Ohio State University, he set out to make this dream a reality. As a member of the honors program, Graber was required to complete an undergraduate research project. He took a few semesters to finalize a topic and kept returning to food waste, an interest inspired by his time in 4-H and the lessons it taught him about the complicated food supply chain.
In 2018, Graber was selected as a recipient of The Ohio State University President’s Prize for his research project focused on food waste. This award was developed by former OSU President Michael V. Drake to recognize exceptional students committed to social change. With the funds from this award, Graber spent the next year continuing his research on sustainable waste management practices.
It was while conducting his undergraduate research project and completing the President’s Prize, that Graber also built and refined the idea for his small business, Opendemia.com.
Graber never enjoyed research and writing assignments, but this undergraduate research project was the last straw. “I was using dozens of sources, and it became overwhelming to manage and organize them. I went to the library to find tools to help, but quickly learned that most resources only helped create citations or were extremely complicated and designed for professors.”
After discovering there were no tools designed to walk students through the process of writing a research paper, Graber decided to create one. Opendemia was founded with the goal of simplifying the entire research and writing process for high school and college students. “We surveyed over 1,500 students, and a resounding 86% shared they hate or get anxiety about writing papers. Opendemia has been designed by students, for students, to help with this problem.”
This free resource not only helps students keep all their sources and notes organized, but also provides tips on how to take better notes, allows them to easily drag and drop these notes into a rough draft, and autogenerates in-text citations and the full works cited for individual and group projects.
“4-H’ers are passionate about countless personal, local, and global issues. I know if we provide them with the tools to more easily become knowledgeable on these topics, they will make an immeasurable impact on the world!” said Graber.
Today, Graber serves as founder and CEO of Opendemia and works as the director of product for necoTECH, a startup focused on sustainable infrastructure solutions. “At necoTECH, we are currently developing ways to create 100% recycled asphalt and are one of four companies in the world working with the National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT) to improve the lifespan of roads by introducing recycled plastics into the mix.”
“4-H sparked my passion for research and helped get me where I am today,” said Graber. “It taught me the importance of discovering your passion and, over the years, I’ve learned you don’t have to wait until you ‘grow up’ to act on those passions. Anyone can make an impact on any issue they put their focus behind, and I hope Opendemia can help more students take the leap.”