Marist High School students enrolled in the entrepreneurial course Innovative Design for Entrepreneurial Applications (IDEA) presented their business ventures to industry leaders at pitch night on April 25 with the top three teams receiving funding.
The final five teams that presented emerged from an initial pool of ten that participated in a preliminary round. The first place team, Tie Tool, with members Steve Komperda, Mike Reilly, and Jeremiah Joyce created a small plastic device to help easily tie a neck tie. They were awarded $10,000 to start their business. In second place, with a $5,000 grant, was Unifly with team members Samantha Reidy, Emily Marx, Cody Koschetz, and Eric Teverbaugh. They created an all-in-one app to make flying easier with information about TSA lines, flight status, and airport amenities in one spot. The third place team, SmarTrek, was led by Clark Woodard, Ben Ehigie, and Dylan McMurray. Their fully stocked, non-allergenic survivor backpack with first aid supplies, high protein food, solar-powered batteries and more garnered them a $2,500 award. The teams will need to set out and meet benchmarks to receive the full funds.
Tie Tool team members said they set out to create a product that would solve a problem that people face everyday. They surveyed nearly 100 local freshman and sophomore boys and the challenge of tying a tie presented itself. The team started by designing a prototype out of folders and plastic gift cards and then designed one on computer-aided design and drafting (CADD) software at Marist and used a 3-D printer at the school. They have a patent pending and will soon form a limited liability company (LLC). As part of their coursework they designed a website with a package that included Google advertising. Due to that exposure they sold out of pre-orders in one day.
Previous winners of Marist's pitch night have been seniors who graduated soon after the event, but Joyce, Komperda, and Reilly are all juniors and look forward to a busy summer filling orders and building a client base of Chicagoland private schools and school uniform supplier Lands' End. Longterm, the trio has their eyes on the overseas market. Joyce said they were shocked when they were announced as the winner, as he and Komperda both pointed out how strong their competitors were.
All the juniors and seniors enrolled in the course worked through the process of ideation, market research, and business plan development. They learned how to create a product that solves a problem, analyze customer input and data usage, evaluate competitive considerations, and design financial modeling, marketing, and operational execution.
“It’s extremely rewarding to see individual students come together as a collective team, thru many unknowns, to collaborate on a product, service or an app, that will benefit the needs of their customer base, and help solve a much needed problem," course instructor Jim Henneberry said. "I’m very proud how each student team grew and stretched their creative and financial knowledge base to get to their entrepreneurial position today.”
Many thanks to the course mentors Pat Schuler, Mary Kay Fahey, Laura Stukus, Donn Domico, Amer Odeh, Julie and Ted Meehan, Jim Shannon '87, Jim Mottola '99, Megan Quigley '11, and Dan and Allison Murphy. Thanks to the TutHill Corporation and Tony Belmonte and Dave Groeber, too.
Pictured from left: Tie Tool (Mike Reilly, Steve Komperda, Jeremiah Joyce), Unifly (Samantha Reidy, Emily Marx, Cody Koschetz, Eric Teverbaugh), SmarTrek (Dylan McMurray, Clark Woodard, Ben Ehigie)