After spending a semester in Tracy Morgan’s two Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management classes, Hopewell Valley Central High School students enacted their own version of television’s Shark Tank on January 19.
Two teams, one from each class, were victorious in persuading the panel of “sharks” to invest (fake money) in their business idea, but all teams learned how to research a business, brainstorm ideas for its improvement, and pitch their ideas to potential investors.
Morgan began this year’s Shark Tank Project by assigning student teams an industry and after extensive research, teams developed ways to improve it by either creating a new business venture or developing a new product idea. With the help of Trenton Rotary Club volunteers, teams then created business plans, commercials, and formal pitch presentations.
In one class section, ideas included: the True Gift App that provides gifts suggestions based on input; the Earworm App that can determine a song based on the user humming a tune; the Go Jo Travel Mug, a portable coffee brewer; Silicompanion, a silicon-based product joined to plates, mugs, and bowls to protect surfaces from heat; and MeloD, wireless earphones that clone a person’s phone, enabling the user to leave their phones at home. Teams from the second class section included: School Fuel, a subscription-based healthy food box to aid students with homework and tests; the E-Pill Dispenser, and electronic pill dispenser with a notification app; the Washer Fall, a washer and dryer combination that drops wet clothes into the dryer; the Rig Route App, alerts truckers about upcoming stops, weigh stations, and bridge heights; the Tidal Trainer, a surfboard motor that aids surfing beginners; the Beauty Brush, a brush system that tackles static; and the Retracto, a small coiling system that can be used for headphones or any other wire that may tangle.
Whether it concerns politics, religion, or business, it is difficult to persuade another person that your idea is the best. It is particularly difficult when money is involved. So, in a dry run, Central & Southern New Jersey Dale Carnegie President, Anita Zinsmeister, and three other volunteers from the company, listened and provided feedback on team presentations before teams had to face the “sharks”. This level of presentation training “is invaluable and not taught in any other class at the high school. The students can use what they’ve learn in their other classes and in college,” said Morgan.
On the big day, teams had five minutes to pitch their ideas to the “sharks” who included: Laurie A. Myers, PhD, MBA, a pharmaceutical executive and entrepreneur; Daniele Wolfson Cardelia, Vice President of Strategic Alliances at Coburn Communication in NYC; Barry DiNola, founder and owner of Yardley Jewelers; Sean Devlin, founder of Front Rush, a web-based app that helps college coaches manage athlete recruitment; and Chris Murphy, owner of The Front Porch in Pennington who also spent 20 years in the pharmaceutical industry as a salesperson.
After judging teams on their capital requirements, professionalism, marketing strategy, likelihood of success, etc. two first prizes were awarded, one for each class section. Luke Wittenborn, William Beck, and Grayson Russo won for the Earworm App and Liam Cleary, William Strong, and Jack Demareski won for their Rig Route app idea.
According to the Trenton Rotary Club, a long time supporter, “This project develops business planning, teamwork, creativity, research, presentation and other skills relevant inside and out of the classroom. The students even have access to digital printers to CAD model and prototype products, adding another valuable experience.”
Winning teams will be recognized at the high school’s Academic Awards Ceremony in June and will be given a small monetary award by the Trenton Rotary Club.