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Shepard students present business leaders their project ideas in ‘Shark Tank’

“Shark Tank” came to Shepard High School last week, with budding entrepreneurs in business education teacher Jennifer Klein’s marketing classes seeking financial backing from local business leaders for their inventions.

For the “Astro Business Challenge,” Klein asked her top six student groups to present their products to Palos Heights business leaders 2181 in a format modeled after the TV show “Shark Tank,” in which entrepreneurs try to get people such as real estate guru Barbara Corcoran and investor Mark Cuban to fund their ideas.

The panel of experts at Shepard were Palos Heights Mayor Bob Straz, the local market president of CNB Bank & Trust; Barb Bergamo, CNB regional customer service representative; and Jan Schnierle, owner of Art House, a Palos Heights custom framing business. Like the pros on TV, the local business leaders peppered the students with detailed questions about their production costs and profit margins before deciding whether to offer funding in exchange for a piece of the profits.

Becca McNicholas, Teddy Aguilar III, and William Fitzgerald tried to interest them in Compress and Rest, a medicated athletic wrap that combines compression wraps with ointments such as Icy Hot, which they said would eliminate the need for ice packs.

Chris Sneed, Leondra Taylor and Jaimelle Scott devised a laundry “hamper holder,” basically a hamper ringed with pockets to hold detergent, bleach and fabric softener.

“Parents of kids going to college will be a good market for these, in the hope that they will do their own laundry,” said Straz, who offered to go in for $500 for a 10 percent stake in the business.

Bergamo said it would be important to offer the hampers in a variety of shapes, while Schnierle said she would be interested in investing if the students could “firm up” their production costs.

The “Scented Signer,” created by Rula Jaber, Amanda Paulsen and Hadeel Aquel, is a pen topped with a perfume or cologne dispenser, for males and females.

“It’s important to smell right and spell right,” said Paulsen in her sales pitch.

“I like the concept but it would have to be revamped because it is too bulky,” said Bergamo.

Other creations by students in an earlier class included “The Sockness Monster” sock organizer, and two smartphone apps, including “Track Jumper,” to help drivers get around freight trains; and a game called Cat Maze Runner.

“I was very happy with the quality of their ideas,” said Schnierle afterward. “The students really stepped up to the plate with this,”

“We saw some really ingenious kids here,” said Straz.

None of the students were actually required to take their projects any further. The three who came up with “Rest and Compress” got such positive feedback that they haven’t abandoned the idea of making the product just yet.

“If I could get an investor, I would do it,” said Fitzgerald, who plans to major in business in college.

“And (Barb Bergamo) gave me her business card,” said McNicholas proudly. She is considering physical therapy as a career, so she might be using her own creation one of these days.

           

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