Cape Cod students win entrepreneurship competition with business ideas
BARNSTABLE – Youngsters can learn a lot at Barnstable High School: how to solve an algebra problem, how to read the DNA code and how to make sense of literary classics. Some students even learn what it takes to start a business.
In a competition similar to that of television “Shark Aquarium” — where entrepreneurs try to convince a panel of tycoons to invest in their idea — students recently pitched their business ideas to a panel of judges.
Nicholas Pouliot and Dominic Ford, who won prizes in a New England Young Entrepreneur semi-final, dropped out of the pack on June 14.
The contest was sponsored by the Network for entrepreneurship educationor NFTE, a global non-profit organization that provides entrepreneurship education to middle and high school students.
What were the ideas of the Barnstable students?
Pouliot offered plans for a biodegradable, reusable marker that teachers can use in classrooms.
The idea for “Pouliot’s Preservation” came to him after noticing the number of markers thrown away by teachers. The marker would have a special cap and back design so the marker could be refurbished, he said.
Pouliot won $1,000 and a chance to enter a national NFTE competition to be held in New York in October.
Ford won $500 for his mobile grooming business idea, “Limitless Grooming.”
He had the idea when the pandemic hit. With businesses closed and people unable to do so much, he thought Cape Town would be a perfect market. Many Cape Towners are older and retired, so bringing her grooming business to them seemed like a good idea.
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This is the third year that Barnstable High School has participated in NFTE competitions. The school partnered with NFTE after looking for ways to implement more rigor in its Pathways programs, according to business professor Justin Ogilvie.
“We were blown away by them (NFTE),” he said.
The school runs a one-year course through NFTE. Sixty students divided into three sections took the course this year. Twelve of them advanced to the regional round of the NFTE quarter-finals. Five students went to the semi-finals. Two, Pouliot and Ford, made it to the regional finals in Boston.
“It’s a great part of the business journey,” Ogilvie said. “It gives the kids an opportunity.”
And it does so much more, said Monice Maurice, Barnstable’s lead teacher with NFTE.
“The courses are more than just for kids who want to become entrepreneurs,” she said.
It’s about creating a mindset that recognizes opportunity and is comfortable with risk, she said. She called these characteristics important as the region and the country move towards an international economy.
“They (students) are expected to be intrapreneurs within the companies they work for,” she said. “We want to develop these types of skills that they can transfer into any path.”
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How to teach — and develop — this kind of mindset is the magic question, Maurice said. The spirit of the program is in every classroom, she said. With each concept taught, students learn how to start a business. They have to decide what type of business they want – does it deliver goods or does it provide services? As they learn the concepts, they apply them to their business ideas.
Some students realize that starting their own business is not for them.
What’s next for Pouliot, Ford?
Pouliot and Ford managed a quarter-final contest which had 34 students and a semi-final contest against 16 students. They joined another student for the national competition. Daisha Jackson, a student from Providence, RI, won first place and $2,500 for “Yoga for All”. She will head to the NFTE national competition in October.
Volunteer judges from across the country reviewed the students’ presentations and viewed videos of their presentations, according to Joanne Lessner, chief executive of Lambert, the public relations firm representing the NFTE.
The judges included entrepreneurs and business people, including staff from NFTE sponsoring organizations.
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Pouliot plans to do more research and refine his project before the next competition. He would like to improve his presentation and, if possible, prepare a prototype. A representative from Hasbro spoke with him after his pitch in Boston. He made other contacts, Pouliot said. Although his warm-up presentation didn’t go well, he felt confident to introduce himself to the judges.
Ford also plans to prepare, as there is a chance he could compete in the national competition if a finalist student drops out. What he learned from the experience: many things are necessary to start a business.
One of the most important lessons for Ogilvie is that a 15-year-old doesn’t need to feel like it’s impossible to start a business.
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“Young people are changing the world,” JD LaRock, CEO of NFTE, wrote in an email. “The innovative idea of each young entrepreneur represents an opportunity to address key challenges facing communities around the world.”
The NFTE national competition will be held in New York in mid-October. The day, time and location have yet to be announced.
Contact Denise Coffey at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @DeniseCoffeyCCT.