The winning team, from left, includes Jindu Chiazor, Ogulcan Atakoglu, Emma Goldberg, James Barlia and Cristina Avila.
Six teams of Bullis seniors: $2,000 in start-up money, classes in entrepreneurship, ingenious mentors who helped teams brainstorm and take their dreams to reality, the thrill of starting a new company and seeing it blossom, judges who are successful entrepreneurs — and a grand prize of $10,000 to take their company to the next level. Welcome to the “Shark Tank” at the Bullis Upper School.
“We live in boxes,” said Entrepreneurship Signature Program Coordinator Marc Steren. “Our house is a box, we sleep on box beds, we go to school in a box, sit at a box desk, eat lunch in a box cafeteria and go back to the classroom shaped like a box. The purpose of the Entrepreneurship program is to teach students to think outside the box.”
During the first trimester, Entrepreneurship students were introduced to methodology, business models and plans, concepts of customer development, types of corporate structures and entrepreneurial finance. They were taught to plan, develop and launch a small business.
Patent lawyer Erik Cherdak explained how to apply for provisional patents. Next they were divided into teams of five to six students, and given the assignment to think originally and creatively, to develop a viable business plan for a unique company — one that could win the $10,000 “Shark Tank” competition.
On April 22, the Bullis Entrepreneurship Signature teams presented proposals for their innovative companies to three judges of entrepreneurial distinction: Jerry Feigen, Tara de Nicholas and David Bernad. They explained their rationale for creating their company, how they conducted their research, their financials, marketing plans including their target customers, who they have contacted for advice, their competition and how they plan to make the business successful.
Determining a winner was difficult. The judges asked challenging questions which the students answered in detail — with enthusiasm and specific knowledge of their company and the process they endured to create it.
“These students are amazing,” said de Nicholas. “If I had courses like this in high school, I would be in a different place right now.”
The students presented the following start-up companies:
“Check It Out” produced a mobile app that saves time and frustration when one goes to grocery stores, (particularly a new store) because it gives step-by-step instructions to find each item on an uploaded shopping list. The students have already talked with Giant, Safeway, Whole Foods and Shoppers about this app — and have developed other applications for this time-saving tool.
“Helping Hands” produced an educational on-line tool for helping struggling students. It provides a check-list to be completed by teachers to indicate if a student has behaved, completed homework and was engaged in class. This on-line tool is like the check-list that for many years, students have taken to teachers for written completion each day. However, many students do not follow through or are embarrassed to ask the teacher for the input, or the check-list never gets home and the parents never see it. Since this tool is on-line, it can be completed by the teacher and perused by the parent with their child on a daily basis. The McLean School is already on board to use this program, as are other private schools.
“Kango Trash and Energy Systems” provides an easy clean-up method that saves time, energy and money for stadiums, movie theaters and school auditoriums. This company produces a bag that attaches beneath individual seats – and the attendees simply put their trash into the container under their seat. When they leave, the seat pops up and the trash collectors simply pull the bag from the seat — providing for easy and swift clean-up. This “Kanga Trash” bag will be put into use at the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs Minor League baseball games this spring.
“Pearl Toothpaste” developed a revolutionary toothpaste tablet which “provides a solidified form of toothpaste, enhancing cleanliness, reducing mess, and increasing efficiency-both economically and hygienically.” Right now, their target audience is children, but their product would be beneficial to travelers, military and people in developing nations. They have produced a tablet with three shapes (dinosaur, star and oval) and two flavors (mint or bubblegum.) Children can join their Pirate Club, choose what flavor and shape they want and have fun while they brush their teeth. This group has developed a website and found a manufacturer.
“PicShare” created collaborative photo collages to provide viewers with the opportunity to look at as many as 40 photos at a time. Viewers can comment on the photos and interact with one another while viewing. They have been promoting their company through social media.
“NOTI” developed an app to make sporting events/ concerts (and other events) more personal and also to create a network of fans. The mobile app helps friends find other friends who are at the same event. The app can also help to check out what food vendors are available and where they are located. It connects fans so they can learn what is happening play by play at the game. Facebook has recently developed an app that is almost the same — called Facebook Friends. However, the students who developed NOTI feel that Facebook is not as efficient and is not nearly as helpful.
And the winner was: “Pearl Toothpaste.” Members of the team, James Barlia, Emma Goldberg, Jindu Chiazor, Cristina Avila and Ogulcan Atakoglu were thrilled, proud of their accomplishment and ready to take their start-up company to the next level. They will work all spring and summer on their new venture before they head off to college.
Judge de Nicholas said, “We chose Pearl Toothpaste because we felt their scope was incredible and the product is something they can license. The other companies were also impressive — and all have an excellent chance of being successful.”
Judge Bernad (a 1999 Bullis grad) explained that he was amazed with how composed the students were in speaking before 300 people and selling their company. “We felt that the winning team has a very good chance for commercial success — but every company presented was exceptional and innovative. I am privileged to have been a part of this first ‘Shark Tank’.”