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Article updated: 3/25/2013 12:23 PM

Northwest suburban students score funding for their business ideas


It was all business last week as teenage entrepreneurs made their pitch for funding to an investment panel, drawn from members of the Palatine Area Chamber of Commerce.

Dressed in business attire and armed with PowerPoint presentations of their business plans and marketing projections, the students addressed business leaders, outlining their paths for success.

"I was so nervous, I was shaking," admitted Connor Curran, a junior at St. Viator High School, who partnered with Palatine High School sophomore Yash Syal on a plan to convert brightly colored bungee cords into belts.

"As teens, we're looking to be different, to stand out," Syal said. "We think this could be something that teens would see as stylish."

The young businesspeople all were members of the chamber's Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA), and have been meeting with business members every week since September.

They come from mostly Palatine-Schaumburg Township High School District 211 schools, as well as St. Viator in Arlington Heights.

"These kids are fantastic," said Frank Patzke, president of Guidant Wealth Management in Palatine. "With all the work they're doing to come up with an idea and researching it, as well as developing their business and marketing plans, it's great experience.

"It's so far beyond anything I ever did in high school," he added. "I'm an entrepreneur, and these kids get it."

The teens' presentations and investment awards they attracted included:

Beneficial Industries, a building security app developed by Conant student Benjamin Kusswurm of Schaumburg, drew the highest investment of the night, $1,000.

MiNetwork, an online auction site developed for college campuses by Conant student Joseph Dahm, won an investment of $910.

Rize Industries, a manufacturer of longboards by Palatine High School junior Denzel Ray, drew a startup investment of $715 from the panel.

Foldem' Buds, a set of magnet detangled ear buds launched by Fremd student Ryan Chang, drew a startup investment of $715.

Insta-Tuition, a tutoring website developed by Conant students Vinutha Lakshminarayanan and Shivam Malik, drew an investment of $665 from the panel.

Genuine Arts, an online site that sells art and jewelry designed by Palatine High School student Megan Stella, won an investment of $590.

Plan N' Go, a concierge service pitched by Fremd sophomore Zoe Ivanov, won an investment of $540.

Bungee Belts, developed by Curran and Syal, drew an investment of $465.

At the end of the evening, Mindy Phillips, director of the Palatine Area Chamber of Commerce, announced that Kusswurm also had been selected for an all-expense paid trip in April to the University of Rochester, where YEA is founded and based.

There he will represent the Palatine chapter of YEA in the Saunders Scholars national competition, vying for a $30,000 scholarship. He will make his same presentation, describing the app he developed for smartphones that would make plastic IDs, hanging on lanyards, obsolete.

"I looked around my school and saw a common problem," Kusswurm said, "and I set out to fix it."

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