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This app created by UNG students could change the way you purchase — and give — products
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The University of North Georgia's Caleb Hearn, right, and Sam Herrera placed in the top-5 of the InVenture competition recently. The two business management majors developed an app for breweries and wineries to display messages by scanning labels. - photo by Scott Rogers

Caleb Hearn was sitting at the table with his father, Mike, who was drinking a glass of 19 Crimes wine, the bottle sitting nearby. The characters depicted on the wine bottle’s label come to life when customers open an app on their phone and point their camera toward it. It was in that moment the life of Hearn’s app, Opus Affinity, began.

The app gives users and companies the opportunity to use the labels already on their products to share a message, and it recently finished in the top five at the inaugural Georgia InVenture Prize student startup competition. Hearn worked with Samuel Herrera to develop the app and company. Both are seniors at the University of North Georgia.

“It’s an app-based company that gives brands and individuals a way to tell their story,” Hearn, 21, said.

The idea is simple: Take a bottle of wine or a pack of craft beer and open the Opus Affinity app. Hold the camera up to the label and a video message appears.

It could simply be about the company or it could even be about foods that pair well with that drink.

For their first client, Etowah Meadery, it will be about how their mead is made.

“For them it will describe what the mead is, how they made it, what their story is, what the flavors are and that kind of thing,” Hearn said. “And we plan on scaling that a few years in.”

Hearn and Herrera hope to release the app by the end of the year. As it gains traction and they gain more knowledge and feedback, they hope to offer users the ability to add their own video message when a label is scanned.

“They can give these products as gifts to other people,” Hearn said. “It kind of transforms how gifts and stories are shared between users.”

Although the idea started with Hearn, Herrera saw the app’s potential and was interested in helping. He teamed up with Hearn in an entrepreneurship class and started helping with development.

“We’ve already had a couple of people show some interest,” Herrera said. “We’ve got a lot of feedback from people in the innovation industry during competitions we’ve done who are very excited about the idea and where we’ll take it.”

The duo won an entrepreneurship competition between 16 different groups at North Georgia, which gave them the ability to move onto the Inventure competition. They received feedback from judges at both competitions and began to see the potential reach of the app.

One person they spoke to is involved with marketing at Huggies.

“Something they struggle with is moms not knowing what each kind of diaper does,” Herrera said. “So they can scan a package and be told what makes this diaper better than another diaper.”

They’ve even gotten feedback from children, who asked if a video would show them how to put together a Lego set or tell them about their favorite character in a TV show.

“The answer is ‘yes,’” Herrera said.

Hearn is most excited about the gifting aspect of the app because he is a self-described “last-minute gifter.”

“I wait until the last minute and try to find a thoughtful gift, and this just made so much more sense than a Hallmark card,” Hearn said. “I grew up with my dad who loves to tell stories and is in a motorcycle club. So passing around cigars and wine bottles and stuff like that is frequent for him, so he was always thinking about how he can up the ante.”

Lucky for Mike Hearn, his son decided to figure out a way to do just that and is doing his best to make it a reality.

“There’s a whole new way for brands to market as well as individuals to gift,” Hearn said. “We just realized through the explosiveness of both markets and the timing of technology, it just made too much sense not to take it forward.”