Dundee-Crown students' startup awarded $20,000
A company that composts wasted food from restaurants and turns it into organic fertilizer was awarded a $20,000 startup package, allowing student entrepreneurs from Dundee-Crown High School to take their small business to the next level.
First STEP, developed over the course of the year by students in the Business INCubator class, was one of five teams that presented their business plans Wednesday at Dundee-Crown's inaugural "Pitch Night."
Chosen by a group of investors as the most viable company, First STEP will now have the chance to use the startup package to get their business off the ground.
"We just started with an idea, and through the course of the year, we turned it into something tangible," said senior Gabe Martinez, of First STEP. "Seeing it develop from the beginning of the year was something I could never have imagined."
With First STEP, participating restaurants will pay a monthly fee for the company to pick up organic food waste, which will be composted, packaged and sold to tree nurseries, landscaping companies and stores.
"We have businesses ready to buy our products (and) ready to use our services," senior Michael Holmes said. "This win just shows how much work we've put in. We deserve the $20,000 because our business is ready to go."
The startup package includes seed money, as well as resources donated from the community such as accounting services, business consultation, marketing, patent setup and web services. The winning students will also enroll in the second level of the INCubator class next year, when they can hire student interns and run their business from the classroom.
"Nearly every component to start a business is covered," said Sara Burnett, who teaches the class with Nicholas Pahl. "They're walking into a great opportunity."
MaleBox, a monthly subscription box for high school- and college-aged men, was named runner-up, Though they didn't receive seed money, the students will operate their business from the classroom next year while seeking additional funding elsewhere.
The top two startup companies were among 14 teams made up of about 80 Business INCubator students. Working with mentors and coaches, each team developed an original idea into a small business, complete with financial models and marketing strategies.
Those business plans were presented last week to the "Board of Investors," consisting of local business experts and members of the Community Unit District 300 Foundation for Educational Excellence, who chose the top five teams that moved on to "Pitch Night."
The next steps for the winning business is to divide up responsibilities, set up a bank account and legally form a limited liability company, Pahl said.
"It's been amazing to watch the growth of these students," Burnett said. "It's crazy to see where they've gone. We've had a wonderful, wonderful year."