Dundee-Crown students pitch business models to investors

Updated 5/1/2016 5:56 AM
  • Students and mentors in the Business INCubator class at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville discuss their business models in October 2015.

      Students and mentors in the Business INCubator class at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville discuss their business models in October 2015. Laura Stoecker | Staff Photographer

Operating a real business could soon become a reality for a handful of young entrepreneurs at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville.

The Business INCubator class, in which teams of students create their own small business stemming from an original idea, has taken off in its first year, teacher Nicholas Pahl said.

Over the course of the academic year, 81 students divided into 14 teams have created products, formed business models, built prototypes, and developed marketing and social media strategies. They've been coached and mentored by local business owners and entrepreneurs, and they've created their own logos and websites.

Now, each team will present their plans to investors for the chance to receive a financial startup package of roughly $20,000.

"At this point, they have laid the groundwork for a full-fledged, viable business," Pahl said. "All they need is the funding to get off the ground."

Community Unit District 300 launched the class as part of its Pathway Programs, which offer students real-world experience in various career fields.

Throughout the day Tuesday, all 14 teams will pitch their ideas to a "Board of Investors," consisting of Nancy Blackman and Debbie Lorsch of the District 300 Foundation, Melissa Davidson of Borhart Spellmeyer & Co., Scott Hansen of Responsive Mailroom, Kristen Hendricks of Raised Beyond, Scott Scier of Grid 7 Properties, and Mark Seigle of Seigle's Cabinet Center.

The board will then pick five to seven teams to make their final pitches during a public event, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. May 11 at the Dundee-Crown auditorium.

Only one team, determined by the board, will be awarded the financial package, which was donated by the District 300 Foundation and local sponsors, Pahl said.

"It really has been kind of a whirlwind," he said. "The students are really excited about it, but they're getting kind of nervous. This is all getting real for everybody."

The winners

For the winning team, the hard work is only just beginning, Pahl said. Working with Dundee-Crown staff members, those students will actually get the chance to run their business throughout the next year.

Over the summer, the team will be expected to come up with a plan for how to use the startup funds, as well as decide which students get the biggest stake in the company, Pahl said.

"They have to split up the ownership based on who puts in the most work (and) whose idea it really was -- just like a real company," he said. "We're assuming that'll be kind of tricky."

If all goes well, the students will set up a bank account, develop a marketing plan and legally form a limited liability company during the second semester of summer school, Pahl said. Throughout the following school year, the team will learn how to run the business from the classroom and may even attend trade shows, he said.

"It's crazy to think that this will all be stemming from a high school idea," Pahl said. "Coming into the next couple weeks, it gets extremely real. It becomes a real business."

The teams

The 14 student teams competing for a chance to win $20,000 in startup funds include:

• POPtime: An app allowing movie goers to pre-order concessions before arriving at the theater.

• Toothpaste Tablet: A single-serving pill of toothpaste, which dissolves with saliva and can be used with a regular toothbrush.

• SweetCleats: All-in-one football cleats that allow users to adjust the size of the spikes.

• YOUniversity: A mobile-friendly service that provides higher education options by filtering through colleges based on a user's specific criteria.

• SnapCase: A customizable specialty phone case with interchangeable parts, such as a battery pack or a wallet attachment.

• Extra Hand: An app allowing users to post advertisements for various tasks, such as shoveling snow, and connect with local people willing to perform that service.

• Party Bag: A two-in-one tablecloth that easily turns into a garbage bag after a party.

• ThreadIt: An app to help users make wardrobe decisions.

• Underground Closet: A website promoting the work of aspiring clothing designers and giving shoppers a chance to buy their products.

• Malebox: A monthly subscription box containing products and supplies for high school and college-aged men.

• CheckIt: An app that allows users to easily communicate data and contact information to businesses while filtering which emails they receive.

• PICON: A service run by assisted living facilities that notifies a patient's loved ones of his or her status.

• First STEP: A company that composts wasted food from restaurants and turns it into fertilizer.

• Poppin' Party Platter: A company offering a variety of pre-made party platter options.

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