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Gering freshmen enter the Shark Tank
November 18, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

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Jerry Purvis/Gering Citizen From left, freshmen Victoria Brady, Callie Cushing and Destinee Harden present their product line, “Soaps by Devictca,” to a panel of judges for their “Shark Tank” project.

Several groups of Intro to Business students at the Gering Freshman Academy went before a panel of judges Nov. 10 to present new products they developed as part of a class competition.

Based on the TV series “Shark Tank,” the competition gave the students the assignment of researching, developing and marketing a product they made themselves. Then they have to make a pitch to a panel of school staff and administrators on why it would be a success in the marketplace.

Intro to Business instructor JoAnn Wilson said the class is part of the business track in the Career Academies curriculum in the high school. “The class introduces students to the world of business,” Wilson said. “In high school, they’ll have the opportunity to study economics, marketing, business law and accounting for business.”

She said students often shy away from business classes because they don’t know what they’re all about. But that changed quickly as students got excited about developing their own products for sale.

“After students are done with the Shark Tank project, I always tie new concepts back to their products,” Wilson said. “That way, they buy into learning new ideas because it’s more personal to them.”

Freshman Academy Principal Shawn Seiler said Introduction to Business is a good addition to the classes currently being offered, such as marketing and the extracurricular Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) that provides learning opportunities for future business leaders and entrepreneurs.

“We want to introduce opportunities for kids to think long-term about possible careers in business,” Seiler said. “They learn a lot of the basic pieces that will help then in the future. Even if you become a doctor, you still have to market yourself and have business sense. This is a great start for the kids.”

After deliberating, the panel of judges tied and announced two winners from the four presentations. One was “Soaps by Devictca,” presented by Victoria Brady, Callie Cushing and Destinee Harden The line of soaps they created would find a natural market in boutique shops, craft fairs and farmers markets.

Also winning was “Blue Banana Bandanas,” presented by Dyson Dollarhide and Mark Karpf. Their line of custom printed school bandanas, and potentially towels and bracelets, could be worn as accessory items while also promoting school spirit.

“We realized people didn’t have a lot of headwear other than hats, and you don’t want to wear hats all the time,” Karpf said. ‘We decided to make bandanas because you can wear them anywhere, even when you’re gardening.”

Karpf added they wanted their bandanas to help bring everyone together with school spirit.
“It was hard to pick a winner because all of them made great presentations,” said Freshman Academy Counselor and Shark Tank judge Rick Marez. “But we have to make our decision solely on the product and how it was presented.”

Marez said Devictca Soaps would be very marketable at craft fairs. In addition to traditional bar soap, they produced one of the soaps to be more pliable, which could generate some curiosity among consumers.

The panel agreed that Blue Banana Bandanas was introduced at just the right time. “The idea was to boost school spirit, and it’s a great time for this,” Marez said.

Kenna Culek, one of the students who entered the Shark Tank with their Wizard Putty product, said they were looking for a fun gift item that was easy to make. “We thought it would sell because lots of people like to play with stuff in school,” she said. ‘We really got into it as we learned about how to develop and sell products. At first the class was hard for me, but I really like it now.”
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