Marist IDEA Program

_MG_2870Marist High School’s Innovative Design for Entrepreneurial Applications (IDEA) helps mold the business leaders of tomorrow. Launched in 2014, the course allows students to learn college level business materials, collaborate with industry leaders, and create a business of their own.

Senior and junior students enrolled in this course create and fully develop their own product, service, or app. Student teams work through the process of ideation, market research, and business plan development. They learn how to create a product, service, or app that solves a problem, gather and analyze customer input/data usage, evaluate competitive considerations, create financial modeling, launch marketing efforts, and achieve operational execution.

“The lessons we are talking about in this course are life skills,” instructor Jim Henneberry explained. “These topics are applicable to almost any profession, but certainly give students eyeing a business career a leg up on their counterparts. They will already be familiar with the terms and concepts when they get to college.”

This is a hands-on course created to allow students to imagine, design, construct, market, and refine their own business ventures. Each team of students is paired with a professional who shares his or her insight and experience, helping guide the group through the process. During the course, students make presentations to classmates and panelists to gain constructive feedback on their business models. The work culminates in May with an official pitch night, where the top teams present their business to a full audience and a panel of business leaders who vet their company with series of tough questions. The top three teams earn prizes between $2,500 and $10,000 that is awarded based on meeting benchmarks that allow the teams to actually run and take their business to market.

A few notable recent top teams:

Team Avasta: a GPS locator for car dealerships to find specific cars on the lots

Team Head Phones Plus: Bluetooth earphones that glow synchronously to your music and allow you to walk/run in the dark, keeping you safe

Team Tie Tool: A small plastic device that breaks down the process of tying a tie into three easy steps; geared towards young children, private high school students, and the elderly.

Team Eco-Straw: A single-use bio-degradable, vegetable-based straw to eliminate plastic and environmental damage

Team Safe-Kase: A floatable, waterproof phone case that protects your phone from damage in various bodies of water

The first winning team in the spring 2015, Candoo, proposed a task management app that matched customers with someone qualified to help with their specific task. Team member Kyle Gambla said the process really gave him insight into the business world. “The course not only taught me a lot about building a business, but prepared me for several classes I took in college,” Gambla said. “I have been able to apply much of what I learned to school and in starting my career in sales.”

The course also includes in-class speakers from a variety of industries, including Jan Fields, the former president of McDonald’s USA; Mike Bilder ’94, CEO of Jackbox Games; Tim McEnery ’94, founder and CEO of Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants; and Chris Ruder, CEO of Spikeball. Students also benefit from opportunities to visit companies in the Chicagoland area, including participating in a leadership program at Tuthill Corporation in Burr Ridge, Ill.

The class takes place in a specially designed space to mimic the look and feel of a corporate workplace.