By Peter Day
Some ideas were brilliantly thought out, others needed a little more research, but all business plans in Mrs. Cindy Lazenby’s economics classes were heard and discussed with a panel of “celebrity” judges during the annual “Shark Tank” on May 6 and 7.
Celebrities serving as “sharks” included school Principal Nate Lambdin, Assistant Principal Kelly Boeing, local financial advisor Martin Brander, superintendent Peter Livingston and school board member Jessica Risler, who helps run the Risler family’s 55-year-old business, Kiwis Sandals.
Leading up to the event, students worked in teams of two or three to create a product and develop a business plan which included creating a legal structure, cost analysis, expense accounting, profit/loss statements, and marketing strategies. The “sharks” made offers on all projects with some ideas good enough to actually make it in the real marketplace, according to the judges.
Business ideas that especially impressed judges included Bekah Hart and Kennedy Silva’s caramel popcorn. Using an old Hart family recipe, the popcorn has already passed a defacto trial run, being used by the LVHS senior for her D.C. Trip fundraiser. During the presentation, Kennedy made the pitch, concentrating on the relatively low-calorie count per bite and yummy texture. Everyone agreed the caramel corn was irresistible. It was no surprise that a bidding war ensued for Hart and Silva’s product as the sharks devoured the test product, literally.
Another project that wowed the judges was Cheyenne Christman and Hollie Lopez’s student survival guide. A lot of thought obviously had gone into the business idea, which impressed judges, resulting in offers. Livingston suggested the idea could include not only college-bound students but help younger people going into high school.
The team of Kylie Douglas, Brenda Velador, and Jasmine Villanueva created a solution for parents of small children with their creation of edible modeling clay even containing multi-vitamins. In fact, the trio had already concocted a trial batch of several flavors. Sharks agreed the idea could fly and offers were submitted.
“It’s a very smart product,” Brander said.
While judges queried and bargained with student entrepreneurs, they also rated each team on a rubric created by Lazenby. Students were judged on their products’ uniqueness, potential customer base, visual representation, business plan and the effort put into research their products. Points were given for five categories with “Expert Entrepreneur” receiving 20 points, “Skilled Entrepreneur 17-19 points, “Capable Entrepreneur” 14-16 points, “Amateur Entrepreneur” 11-13 points, and “Beginner Entrepreneur” 0-10 points.
Besides learning how to create a business plan and negotiate a deal, students were reminded there is a degree of hit or miss in product development. After all, judges on the TV version of “Shark Tank” passed up on a the “smart doorbell” product Ring that Amazon recently purchased — for a whopping $1 billion.