Brighton Students Create New Businesses in the “Shark Tank.”
By Stephanie Lauritzen
Cottonwood Heights - Imagine creating a new business idea-brainstorming an original concept, developing a business plan and presenting the business plan to a panel of successful venture capitalists. Now imagine doing so in less than three hours. It’s certainly not a relaxing way to spend a Wednesday, but on March 23rd, ambitious Brighton High School students came together to formulate and pitch potential new businesses as part of a mock “Shark Tank” competition based on the popular reality television show.
Peri Kinder, director of Business Development and Licensing for the Cottonwood Heights Business Association partnered with DevMountain, a local coding school dedicated to empowering the next wave of computer programmers as entrepreneurs and designers. Together, they contacted the Career and Technical Education (CTE) department at Brighton High in order to organize the first high-school Shark Tank. “We wanted to show students that by working together effectively and creatively as a team, they could create a business that could work in the real world” Kinder said.
Students registered for the event in advance without knowing any of the other members of their team until the day of the event. Each team consisted of a business, marketing, or IT student, who were given forty-five minutes to develop their business concept. After a short snack break (these were teenagers, after all,) students had another forty-five minutes to finalize their business plan, followed by one hour to design their presentations to “sell” to the judges for hypothetical investment.
The event coincided perfectly with Brighton High’s CTE program, which “prepares students for the future by developing academic and technical skills in high demand, providing career exploration and work-based learning opportunities, and creating pathways leading to future education training or employment.”
A high-school version of Shark Tank is also part of DevMountain’s mission to offer “high impact, hands on, project-based curriculum” to their students. In fact, Kinder contacted the organization to help create the Brighton High event hoping they would help students develop skills that would help them in a competitive job market, especially since DevMountain not only teaches coding, but encourages students to “launch their careers, build their startups and achieve their goals.”
For the remainder of the day, each business plan was judged and evaluated by a team of local venture capitalists. According to Kinder, the judges looked for a concept that “could be created quickly, adapted easily, and do something no one else does.” The winning business? An online company called “Brava,” which offers women online bra fitting and designs a personalized bra based on size, style, and color. “The judges liked the business plan because it filled a nice market and hadn’t been done before,” said Kinder.
While students missed a full day of academic classes, teachers and students agreed that the “real life” experience offered them valuable opportunities to practice the skills they learn in their CTE classes. Canyons School District CTE Director Janet Goble praised the event as a “huge success.” For Kinder, she was pleased with the creativity and hard-work shown by the students. “I think the students learned that it’s worth the risk to try something. You never know what idea is going to take off.”