A couple of months ago I was invited to speak to the kickoff event of a great project at Churubusco Middle School. Each and every 8th grade student would be creating a business plan. Is that cool or what?
They teamed up in groups of 4, had a very detailed model to follow, were coached by 2 great teachers, Jennifer Galloway and Vanessa Wyss.
Two weekends ago I went back to Churubusco to see the final results and talk to some of the students about their achievements. I’ll tell you readers what I’ve been telling everyone since then. Instead of “school projects”, I saw some products that could be selling right now on their own websites or at marketplaces like Etsy.
First, there was Julia Folland’s team, the first one I saw when I walked in the door. They created a pen and pencil holder that velcros to a belt loop. What a great idea. Simple, useful for a student – the target market was clear. Extensible – I couldn’t help think that by downsizing it just a little, they’ve got a cell phone carrier. I saw the fabrics they had chosen and immediately thought “etsy.com”.
CrazyHeads made a headband that you could customize by buying and then snapping in a variety of decorations. Great idea. Hello, etsy.com.
Check out Alec Nash’s team’s product, the Arm Pillow, a pillow with a sleeve. Perfect for curling up on the floor in front of the TV (Alec wasn’t shy about demoing the product) – or just grabbing a nap. I can see this selling now (and can remember being that guy on the floor watching TV when I was young).
Up until now, I had seen products that could be sold (today!) on etsy.com. Next came a group that had an entirely different market for their creative product.
Donovan Geiger, Cody Reister, and their team made a product to solve a problem that millions of people experience every day. You leave the grocery store carrying several bags by those handles that bite into your hands whenever the bags have a little weight (and they always have a little weight). Their team created a carrier that comfortably fits your hand.
This last product I’d like to bring to the attention of my pencil aficionado friend, Andy Welfle, and to all of the engineers in the room. Alta Kensill and Tristan Creech (and team) created a pencil dispenser.
It works like the straw dispensers you see at restaurants, but with a different mechanical mechanism. Pencils sit in the hopper, and when you twirl a dowel with a pencil-length notch cut in it, one falls into the notch and, voila, out comes a fresh pencil.
So, congrats to a pair of great teachers. They stuck their necks out a bit to propose an ambitious program, and then they hit a huge home run. Now the entire 8th grade class at Churubusco has been infected with the entrepreneurship bug.
Way to go Jennifer and Vanessa!