College and high school entrepreneurs netted some working capital through the 2021 Stark Tank, and two promising endeavors will make a pitch to the Stark Economic Development Board.
Walsh University students Joe Knopp and Chip Gottschalk won the college level Stark Tank event with their company, Ripple.
The high school division winner was FinLit, a company formed by Hoover High students who developed a financial literacy game called Budget or Bust.
Students who developed Ripple and FinLit, along with Courtesy Cups — a business developed by University of Akron student Savanna Daniels — also will have a chance to pitch their business idea to directors of the Stark Economic Development Board.
Stark Tank — a spin on the reality television program "Shark Tank" — is a collaboration developed by Strengthening Stark, the Stark Education Partnership, the Stark County Education Service Center and local schools districts. Several local business people played the roll of business sharks.
Strengthening Stark is a countywide economic development effort supported by the business, education, philanthropy and government sectors. A primary goal is to keep the Stark County’s best and brightest in the area for college and their careers.
The sharks — Ken Brott, president at KDB Services; Mark Fedor, CEO of Morgan Industries; Dominic Bagnoli, executive chairman of US Acute Care Solutions; Sue Grabowski, CEO of Desidara; and BIll Morgenstern, chair for Vistage Worldwide — invested $28,500 with the different companies.
Awards were made after the sharks heard and evaluated an initial 90-second business pitch. Of the 40 high school groups that made a pitch, 10 were invited to the Stark Tank. Six of 10 college businesses received an invitation to the Stark Tank.
All of the finalists received a cash award to help advance their business ideas.
Ripple sells stainless steel water bottles. With each 2,000 bottles sold, Knopp and Gottschalk will donate to Water Wells for Africa, a non-profit that drills wells for African villages. The business already has generated $8,000 in revenue.
Daniels said she came up with the idea for Courtesy Cups while serving in the field with the U.S. Army Reserve. The business developed a collapsible silicon menstrual cup and carrying case. Daniels anticipates the military, as well as backpackers and hikers, skiers and long-distance runners, as potential customers.
Students at FinLit launched their team as a Junior Achievement company. They developed the game as a way to help teach children about making decisions involving money and finances.
Strengthening Stark coordinated the Stark Tank project, which was led by the Stark Education Partnership, and includes a middle school competition along with the high school and college contests.
The program is designed to inspire and develop an entrepreneurial mindset for students. The first two years have seen students participate in virtual presentations, because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it's hoped that live presentations can be made next year.
By Edd Pritchard, The Repository