Barrington business students ready to make their pitch
Five student-run companies will dive into the shark tank and make their case for funding Thursday night at Barrington High School's second Business Incubator Pitch Night.
Last year, the Barrington 220 Educational Foundation and a few private investors gave $80,000 to five fledgling student businesses, providing seed money for them to get their operations off the ground.
Hagop Soulakian, who teaches the business incubator program at Barrington High, said since that night the students worked hard to turn their ideas into actual businesses.
And, like in the real world, their companies have met with various levels of success.
"If you picked five companies off the streets you might have a similar range of outcomes in the first year," Soulakian said. "One didn't make it for whatever reason, a couple are doing well, and a couple are still trying to find their way."
Soulakian said that Warrior Wipes -- a company selling medical-grade disinfecting wipes targeted at student-athletes and their parents -- will cease operations this year.
"Even the groups that don't continue have the education and experience of running a business that they will take with them in their life," Soulakian said. "We aren't going to gauge the success of the program by the groups we fund, but the ones we don't fund who use their skills to start their own business or better themselves in their career in the business world."
Will Robbins, one of the students who last year founded Techwurk -- which works to improve the web presence of local nonprofits -- said they are handing the reins of their business to younger students next year.
"The most valuable part is the communicative and interpersonal skills we've gained," Robbins said. "It was really good to have to learn public speaking and (to) communicate yourself when dealing with real-life workplace problems."
Robbins said his group is in the process of interviewing students in the Incubator 1 class who would run Techwurk while the company's founders go off to college.
"We'd really like to see younger students take on the business and learn the lessons we've learned," he said. "We're going to be very busy at college and don't want to put Techwurk on the sideline."
Soulakian said CliqueStudy -- which aims to provide a place for students to collaborate on school work online -- will continue similarly to Techwurk.
The two other companies that received funding last year, FMB Technologies -- which sells a school bus tracking mobile app to districts -- and FuntasTech -- which provides computer lessons and support to older adults -- remain legitimate, viable companies, Soulakian said.
Jack Lenihan of FMB Technologies said he hopes to launch the service in the fall at a northern Illinois school district that he couldn't name because the deal is not yet final.
"It's been a phenomenal, cool experience that as high school kids we never thought we'd be doing," Lenihan said.
Lenihan said four out of five of the founding members are departing seniors, so the day-to-day operations will be handled by junior Max Guhde and a few students from the Incubator 1 class.
Scott Arnett of FuntasTech said the company has 10 employees who give lessons to suburban adults for commission. One member of the group will be attending Harper College and oversee the suburban operation, while he and another member would expand to their college towns, Arnett said.
They also hope to hire four new employees from the Incubator 1 class.
"They will receive commission-based payment," Arnett said. "We want them to treat this as their own business, the harder you work the more you earn."
The next generation of student businesses will make their pitches beginning at 7 p.m. today in the Barrington High School auditorium. Soulakian said it was difficult to select which five groups should take the stage.
"The groups were improved this year, which is a testament to improvements in curriculum, and that we had a committed group of 78 kids that took the class and wanted to succeed," he said.