NAPLES — For the third consecutive year, The Immokalee Foundation Business Management & Entrepreneurship Career Pathway students put their creativity to the test as they turned business ideas into plans at the foundation’s annual Shark Tank-style competition.
“I was really excited to participate in the Shark Tank event this year,” said student Lauryn M. “I love this program because I get to explore all aspects of becoming an entrepreneur. I have learned so much just by interacting with my peers and the mentors.”
Held in late July, the Shark Tank-style event is the culmination of a four-week camp where teams of foundation students develop business plans geared toward solving issues students encounter in their daily lives. The students then pitch their creative business start-up ideas – much like the popular TV show – in front of their peers and judges.
This year’s judges panel included Joe Abruzzese, former president of advertising sales for Discovery Communications; Dr. Alise Bartley, director of Florida Gulf Coast University’s Community Counselor Center and clinical assistant professor; and Brian Rist, executive chairman of The Smart Companies. New to this year’s event, The Immokalee Foundation invited one of last year’s judges back to act as a coach for participating students. Michael Feuer, cofounder and former CEO of OfficeMax and now CEO of Max-Ventures, a private equity and consulting firm, worked one-on-one with the students to help them prepare their presentations.
“The students were well-prepared and every item they presented was so thoughtful and practical,” said Abruzzese. “Their presentations were great and thoroughly researched. I was very impressed with the students’ passion and drive. It was truly an honor to be involved with the foundation in this year’s program.”
First place was awarded to Spotless Eatz, presented by Kayly F., Jonathan V., and Maleighna M. Each student won $500 for the team’s solution to the amount of waste produced during school meals. Their idea is for schools to use biodegradable trays to minimize environmental impact after disposal.
ActiveTech, presented by Hailey R., Ivan V., and Jose R., was awarded second place. They won $250 each for their pitch of an app that will alert pedestrians of oncoming traffic or other hazards coming their way.
Third place went to OnTrack, presented by Jennifer T., Lauryn M., and Lionisia C. They were awarded $100 each for their idea of an online platform to help students complete group projects in school. The program will allow members to assign roles and ensure all of the work will be completed evenly amongst a group.
“What an amazing group of young people committed to improving the lives of all of us,” said Dr. Bartley about the foundation students.
Students worked with faculty at the School of Entrepreneurship at Florida Gulf Coast University to learn about the entrepreneurial mindset and how to critically examine problems to develop inventive solutions.
“With this Shark Tank event, I learned to never underestimate myself or my partners,” said student Jonathan V. “We presented in front of a big audience and won first place with our business idea. I am so thankful for the opportunity and feel like I have grown so much from this experience.”
For more than 30 years, The Immokalee Foundation has provided a range of education programs that focus on building pathways to professional careers through support, mentoring and tutoring, and life skills development leading to economic independence. To learn more about The Immokalee Foundation, becoming a mentor, its signature events, volunteering as a career panel speaker or host, making a donation, including the foundation in estate plans, or additional information, call 239-430-9122 or visit immokaleefoundation.org.