Business Ideas

Aurora middle schoolers pitch business ideas – Record-Courier


Business owners, job searchers and others involved in sales have frequent opportunities to deliver their “elevator speeches” to others at networking events, chamber luncheons and sometimes, one assumes, in actual elevators.

It’s with that direct connection the real world in mind, as well as a handful of state language arts learning objectives, that Harmon Middle School teacher Karen Sunderhaft had her classes participate in the Young Entrepreneur Institute’s Selling Bee in which students have to create business concepts and pitch them in a short video.

Of the 20 finalists in the fifth- through eighth-grade division, three — sixth-grader Arabella Rodi and seventh-graders Reilly Curtis and Reagan Kacmar — are from Sunderhaft’s classes in Aurora. There also is a kindergarten through fourth-grade competition, according to the Young Entrepreneur Institute’s website.

Through Dec. 9, people may vote on the Selling Bee presentations. Finalists, including Reilly, Reagan and Arabella, receive a McDonald’s gift card, a trip to Graeter’s Ice Cream, an entrepreneurship activity book and a Selling Bee sticker. The 10 winners — five from each age group division — receive a Kindle Fire 7 Tablet with Alexa, a trophy, two passes to The Great Lakes Science Center, $20 cash and a gift bag with items from Cleveland State University’s Monte Ahuja College of Business, the Microsoft Store at Beachwood Mall, and Fuel Up to Play 60, according to the website.

Sunderhaft said she believes students in Aurora, whom she notes are generally strong readers, need balance in their language arts lessons.

“I really wanted to bring in some more creative writing,” she said. “For me, the writing piece is important because I want them to be able to write succinctly. Research shows when they go for jobs, that’s one of the most important factors in being hired is being able to communicate that way.”

At the beginning of the Selling Bee lessons, she said students underwent a brainstorming exercise called “Crazy 8s” to develop possible ideas for a small business.

“They had eight boxes and then 40 seconds in each box to draw or a create an innovative idea,” she said.

Over course of two weeks, the students developed one of those “Crazy 8s” into an idea for a small business.

“They had to come up with a script with a hook and be able to explain succinctly what the idea was,” she said. “Being able to create sort of an elevator pitch in 35 to 40 seconds is a skill.”

After memorizing and rehearsing the pitch, her students video recorded them and entered them in the competition.

All three of the Harmon finalists have some sort of performance background in theater or dance.

Two of the three girls focused on solving hair-related hassles. For Reagan, it was the cost of hair scrunchies, which are fabric hair ties used in ponytails and braids.

“They are the new trend lately, and they’re really expensive,” she said. “Why can’t I just make two in one for the same price?”

She decided to create the concept of a reversible scrunchie, which she said would save people money.

Reilly, who, in seventh-grade can braid her own locks, often finds herself storing rubber hair ties and bands on her wrists.

“The hair ties leave red marks on my wrists,” she said, adding she’d like someday to open her own salon.

Her product offers girls and guys with long hair a better option for storage of those hair ties, rubber bands and scrunchies.

“I created pockets that stick inside of shirt sleeves so that you don’t have to carry ties around on your wrists,” she said. The pocket could be attached via velcro or snaps.

Arabella said she does much of her reading after her younger brother goes to bed and needs a light, but she said having a dictionary nearby also would improve her reading experience.

“I thought, ‘What if I combined the two?’” she said. Her idea was to create a reading light with a voice-operated dictionary, which said would incorporate a dictionary activated with something like an Alexa or Siri.

She was inspired by her experience reading the “Harry Potter” series.

“With the names, I would think if you were reading the book, you’d be able to add on to the dictionary,” she said. “It would be right there so you wouldn’t have to get up. I’ve noticed a lot of the names have actual meaning from root words.

Reporter Bob Gaetjens can be reached at 330-541-9440, bgaetjens@recordpub.com or @bobgaetjens_rpc.

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