Next Thursday Nov. 7, several students will put their dreams on the line as they stand before the judges to pitch their business idea, hoping to receive an investment.
Months, sometimes years of preparation all come down to one night, where the participants have five minutes to present, then five minutes for questions from the judges who are actively involved in the business world.
The Shark Tank event strives to bring entrepreneurship to the Taylor community by encouraging students to come up with an idea that could become a viable business after they graduate.
Shark Tank is in its sixth year at Taylor, and it is put on by the grant-funded program Promising Ventures.
Jeff Aupperle, director of the Calling and Career Office, is the man who came up with the idea to create a Taylor version of the hit TV show “Shark Tank” when he was hired as the director of the Promising Ventures program.
“It was my idea originally (and) the program was designed to encourage our students from all majors, not just our business students to consider entrepreneurship as a viable path,” Aupperle said.
Since Shark Tank began in 2014, the event has grown every year, according to Aupplerle. This is also the first year that the $5,000 prize has been provided by the Taylor, as before it was funded by a five-year grant from the state.
Andrew Fennig, the director of the Promising Ventures program has helped organize the entrepreneurial opportunity and is excited to see what students come up with.
“The Shark Tank is really just a celebration of creativity,” Fennig said. “It’s an opportunity for students in their own time and from their own creativity and initiative (to work) on ideas that they hope can become businesses.”
Fennig and the interns of the CCO work with the students participating in Shark Tank, helping them frame their ideas and speak to them about the next steps for their pitch.
One of the students hoping to participate in Shark Tank is Corina Seven, a junior finance major who wants to help change the world with her idea.
“I just wanted to make a difference,” Seven said. “I wanted to prove to myself that the knowledge I have and the credentials that I have from God and the ability to create can be used for a business that can make a difference (in) society.”
The event is also what helped start two well-known businesses in the Taylor community, Sky Footwear, now Sky Outfitters, and The Bridge.
Two former Taylor students started Sky Outfitters, a company that was started in their room on campus. Their company provides a pair of socks to the homeless for every pair a customer buys, and The Bridge is a local coffee shop in Upland that students frequently visit.
Shark Tank also wants participating students to think creatively and provide a space for them to pitch their ideas.
“There’s a lot of risk and a lot of passion and emotional investment,” Fennig said. “So we want to celebrate that and give a platform to those who are taking that risk above and beyond the course work they are doing here as well.”
There is also a lot of preparation going into Shark Tank, according to Seven. One way she does this is by writing down 20 different potential problems with her product or service and finding a way to solve each of them.
It is such an important event that the business department scheduled a 24 at Taylor visit for prospectives at the same time so those interested in the business program could see what it is like, Aupperle said.
“(Shark Tank) is an event that I am really proud and excited for the new year,” Aupperle said. “The original purpose of the idea was just to get people on campus excited about entrepreneurship, and I think it accomplished that.”