It may not be the investment you’re seeking for your startup, but in middle or high school, $300 is a lot of money.
Rising Tycoons is a program for teens hoping to boost their confidence, hone their public speaking skills, and above all, learn how to become entrepreneurs. Run by Olenka Cullinan, Rising Tycoons offers week-long and 16-week programs for kids ages 13-18. Each program ends in a Pitch Night, where participants pitch their new businesses to family, friends, and a panel of judges for $300.
Friday June 10th marked the end of a week-long session with six young entrepreneurs-in-training. The kids worked all week at coming up with innovative product ideas, calculating the financials for their prospective businesses, and building pitch presentations for Friday’s Pitch Night. They presented to four judges: Rising Tycoons alumnus Aaron Fugleberg, Jordan Causer of Probability Capital Group, Kyle Thomas of Adora, and myself.
First to present was 10th grade student Caleb Meyer, CEO of Buckle Sleeves. Buckle Sleeves slip over the metal buckle on a seatbelt to prevent burns upon returning to a hot vehicle. The sleeves, made of synthetic material and found in stores like Babies ‘R’ Us and Carter’s, benefit mainly those with babies and small children. They can be easily removed when no longer needed, such as during cooler months.
Landon Moomey (8th grade) pitched his Magnaboard, a low-cost whiteboard and Smartboard alternative for classrooms. Magnaboards operate in much the same way as the Magna Doodle children’s toy; users can easily write or draw on the board with a magnet pen, then erase everything with an attached gliding eraser. Landon’s product would break into an industry that sells approximately two million whiteboard units per year.
Taylor Perry (11th grade), Jack Healy (9th grade), and Christian Gannon (10th grade) teamed up to create Healy Mowers. The self-driving lawn mower operates similarly to a Roomba vacuum cleaner. Users map out their lawns on an accompanying smartphone application, then use the app to turn the mower on and off. Healy Mowers use a combination of solar panels and lithium batteries to ensure a full run on a single charge.
Finally, Ethan Scher (8th grade) pitched Scher Backpacks. Scher backpacks prevent scoliosis and other back problems by monitoring the weight in a person’s backpack. Once the backpack becomes too heavy for the wearer (determined through the wearer’s weight), a light on the front of the backpack blinks, warning the wearer to remove items from the pockets. Ethan Scher would market his invention by speaking at health expos, visiting schools, and selling to office supply and department stores.
Though it was difficult for the judges to come to a first-place decision, Healy Mowers won the competition. Their clear display of teamwork and product marketability made them an excellent recipient for a $300 “investment.”
Rising Tycoons holds teen camps and workshops throughout the year, in addition to programs for parents raising hopeful entrepreneurs. Keep an eye on their website for future programs.
The “businesses” involved in the Rising Tycoons Pitch Night competition are fictional in nature.