November 14, 2013 in Washington Voices

M.E.A.D. students mirror project after ‘Shark Tank’

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Colin Mulvany photoBuy this photo

M.E.A.D. alternative high school student Morgan Wozniak uses a video to pitch her idea of a clothing line for teens called “Marie May Couture” to community members.
(Full-size photo)

The sharks that swam through M.E.A.D. Thursday evening didn’t seem that ferocious – in fact they seemed downright friendly.

Members of Spokane’s business community including representatives from Desautel Hege and the Davenport Hotel, as well as several Whitworth University business majors, served as “sharks” for the Mead School District alternative high school’s version of the television series “Shark Tank.”

Teacher Craig Taylor said it was a student’s idea. “We do project-based learning, so it seemed like a good fit.”

Just like in the TV show, each student came up with an idea to pitch to potential investors (sharks). “The goal was to think logically and creatively,” Taylor said.

The creative piece proved easy for many of the students. Inventions ranged from a toothbrush/toothpaste combo to clothing that automatically adjusts to outdoor temperatures.

Students had four weeks to complete the project. First they came up with a product, then they developed a business plan and crafted their pitch.

Students gave their pitches during the school’s monthly community night. The evening started with an explanation from Michael Perez, the student who came up with the idea.

Many students shared videos during their pitches. Some had charts and diagrams, and some brought prototypes of their inventions.

After making their pitches, students fielded questions from the sharks. Mady Tansy’s weight loss product met with some skepticism. Shockingly Thin is “for those who really want to lose weight and have tried everything else,” she said.

The concept involves swallowing a computer chip that embeds in the stomach lining. The chip is connected to a bracelet. If you make a bad food choice or go over your daily calorie limit, the bracelet emits an electric shock.

When questioned by the sharks about her product’s limited market, Tansy, 17, admitted, “Well. It’s not really a good gift idea.”

The sharks also doubted if pain would be a good positive reinforcement tool. Tansy countered that there might be a whole submarket for those who enjoy pain. Alas, the sharks declined to invest in her product.

Arthur Winterbottom fared better. His business plan for Re-Bar – a renewable soap dispenser, impressed the sharks. He explained, “It takes all those leftover slivers of soap and melts it into a new bar of soap!”

After learning the sharks were prepared to invest $18,000 dollars in his company, Winterbottom grinned and thanked them for their confidence in his product.

The idea for his invention came easily to him. “I take two showers a day!” the 19 year old said, and added that the Shark Tank project proved to be a great learning experience.

Steven Sinclair’s product also received enthusiastic response. “I call it Bomlet – it’s an omelet in a jar,” he explained.

His invention: premixed omelets in a variety of recipes from Denver to Veggie. “All you have to do is pour it in a pan and cook it.”

Sinclair, 17, received competing offers from the eager sharks. One offered him $30,000 for 40 percent of his company, while the other countered with $40,000 for 50 percent. He struggled with the offers, initially refusing both. “How much am I giving away?” he pondered. “I’m trying to maximize my profits.”

Eventually, he settled for the lower cash amount, so that he could retain more control of his company.

Afterward, Sinclair talked about what he learned from the experience. “They asked a lot of good questions,” he said. “I learned how much work goes into creating a business.”

Taylor was pleased by the results of the evening. “The students were enthusiastic. They got to practice public speaking in front of community members and got great feedback.”

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