By Wren Haynes | Echo
It's that time of year again, when styrofoam sharks patrol campus and student entrepreneurs pursue their dreams.
Last night, seven teams of students presented their business proposals to a panel of judges at Promising Venture's second annual Shark Tank. At the end of the night, four teams received funding to help develop and launch their products.
First Place: StethoScrubs ($2,500)
"Where's my stethoscope?" is the rallying cry of ER nurses, and a problem that junior Mike McLean would like to fix. Through his company idea StethoScrubs, he hopes to make healthcare professionals' jobs a little easier.
"My sister is a nurse, and she came up with a rudimentary holster for her stethoscope because she was bothered by losing it or hanging it on her neck," McLean said. "That got us thinking about other nurses and if they had the same problem."
Together, the brother and sister came up with a way of modifying scrub pants to hang a stethoscope from a special pocket. As Shark Tank winners, they hope to move forward with prototyping and discovering where the idea will take them.
Second Place (Tie): Likha ($1,000) and Soul Purpose ($1,000)
Likha is a Filipino word meaning "to create with intelligence and skill," and this is the passion behind second-place winner and senior Carolina Alvarado's business concept.
"My company sells accessories, but mostly made with resources, materials, and labor from the Philippines," Alvarado said. "Basically what we're helping are local businesses, and also helping employ women who are dealing with poverty."
Alvarado's plan is to partner with Filipino businesses to purchase raw materials like gemstones and pearls, train local women in jewelry-making and then sell the completed products in the United States.
Soul Purpose, an online shoe company created by sophomore Keaton Hendricks, also has a humanitarian focus. The concept tied with Alvarado's for second place, and Hendricks hopes his company will provide both quality footwear and social impact.
With every pair of shoes bought, a customer will have the opportunity to write a note to a homeless person and send a backpack with the note inside to the organization of their choice.
"In Bloomington, where I grew up, there's a huge homeless population," Hendricks said. "In my experience with them, a backpack's all they have . . . that's their home, basically. I really just want to show love and encouragement to them through this."
Third Place: SJ's Outdoor Games ($500)
Senior Stefen Fahlen began his company, SJ's Outdoor Games, in August. A large family camping trip prompted him to make several game sets for a tournament. Later, he sold the extras he'd built to other campers.
"When I got back, I posted an ad on Craigslist advertising that I could build all these things," Fahlen said. "Within the next day I already had three orders."
The demand has since increased, with Fahlen making and selling more than 50 corn hole, washer toss and ladder golf sets during the month before he returned to Taylor. With his winnings, he hopes to begin marketing his company and building a workshop to work in.
While three contestants didn't receive any funding from Shark Tank, they still hope to continue developing their ideas. Alex Chang will still run Cafe Chang and Ryan Monson will continue championing Classic Buffalo, while Jenny Valkier and Camila Chiang explore the possibility of continuing with Peanut Better.
Jeff Aupperle, the director of Promising Ventures, is proud of the impact Shark Tank is having on student entrepreneurs.
"I just think it's such a fun night to see creativity on display, and to have students have the opportunity to share their ideas in a format where it could be the launch point for them," Aupperle said.