4-H starts up a new career

Zac Graber presenting on Opendemia at the 2022 University of Toledo Business Incubator Pitch and Pour Competition.

Zac Graber’s 4-H career began when he was a 6-year-old Cloverbud in Henry County, Ohio. Over the next 13 years, Graber’s 4-H experiences ranged from showing swine and dairy cattle at the county fair to competing in public safety speaking contests, but 4-H meant more to Graber: “The lessons I learned through 4-H taught me the importance of having passion for your work and pursing things that create value for others.” 

Entrepreneurship was always a goal. When he enrolled at Ohio State, he set out to make this dream a reality. As a member of the University Honors Program, Graber was required to complete an undergraduate research project and decided to focus on food waste, an interest inspired by his time in 4-H and the lessons he learned about the complicated food supply chain. 

In 2018, Graber was selected as a recipient of Ohio State’s President’s Prize for his research project. This award was developed by former Ohio State 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. 

Graber showing his pig at the Henry County Fair.

It was while conducting his 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 writing assignments, but this 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 I quickly learned that most resources only helped create citations or were complicated and designed for professors.” 

After discovering there were no tools 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 research and writing process for high school and college students. 

This free resource not only helps students keep all their sources and notes organized, but also provides tips on how to take better notes. It allows students to drag and drop these notes easily into a rough draft, and it autogenerates in-text citations and the full works cited for individual and group projects. 

Graber (back row, right) displaying his awards from the 2015 Henry County Fair.

“Ohio 4-H’ers are passionate about countless personal, local, and global issues. I know if we provide them with the tools to become more 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 commercializing a 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.” 

“Ohio 4-H sparked my passion for research and helped get me where I am today,” said Graber. “It taught me the importance of discovering my 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 an issue, and I hope Opendemia can help more students take the leap.” 

Graber with former Ohio State President Michael V. Drake, after winning the President’s Prize.