Frisco ISD student entrepreneurs recently got a real-life taste of what it takes to gain start-up funding for a business concept.
Students who took classes during the 2020-21 school year as part of the Frisco ISD Business Incubator Program pitched their ideas to a panel of judges at the Frisco ISD Administration Building during the last week of school.
“This program allows students to carve their professional path by testing the waters with an experienced panel,” said Dane “Stretch” Kuykendall, an entrepreneur in safety and compliance solutions for the offshore oil and gas industry. “I was impressed by the age of the contestants and their early knowledge base for business. Taking an idea from conception to market is no easy feat, and all of the participants were innovators.”
Judges awarded funds to the top two student teams:
1st Place, $1,500: Regan Vilmer and Konnor Swink of Centennial High School, who pitched their idea for Junk Mail, a modern skateboarding brand focused on providing quality and style at an affordable price
2nd Place, $500: Nishita Appana, Harshita Ganipineni and Saundarya Vedula of Heritage High School, who pitched their idea for Fornix Tech, a safe, innovative and convenient way to clean contact lenses
The investment funds, which students use to further their start-up ideas, are provided by the Frisco Education Foundation, which welcomes sponsorships from businesses and individuals looking to invest in students and entrepreneurial opportunities in Frisco ISD.
Through the Business Incubator program, students at four FISD high schools are paired with community volunteers who are business owners or entrepreneurs themselves or have knowledge to share in areas like marketing, finance or law.
“Students gain an in-depth understanding of how to build a business from the ground up,” said Frisco business owner Ed Mahoney, who served as a pitch-night judge. “It makes them think critically outside the scope of books and puts them in a real-life situation. Even if none of the students go on to create a business, they gain critical-thinking experience in real-life situations, which will help them in all aspects of their life.”
The two-year program is supported by INCubatoredu and ACCELeratoredu curriculum, which emphasizes collaboration and practical, project-based learning.
During the first-year course, students analyze a business opportunity, prepare a business plan, determine the feasibility of an idea using research and develop a plan to organize and promote the business and its products and services.
During the second year of the program, students formally launch and gain traction for their business, including establishing it as a legal entity, acquiring customers and establishing production and business processes as their ideas grow into sustainable, functioning ventures.
“The Incubator Program is truly a one-of-a-kind experience,” Kuykendall said. “Society can appear cut and dry at times, but traditional career paths aren't a one-size-fits-all application. Some of the greatest luxuries we enjoy in life were created by individuals that decided to carve their path in life or made the conscious decision to develop a system that does something more efficiently. I wish my district had a program like this when I was in school.”
Students first pitched their ideas at the campus level, with top teams from Centennial, Frisco, Heritage and Lone Star high schools advancing to the District-level pitch event, which required them to present consumer and market research, a minimum viable product and marketing plan. Judges considered the viability of each product or service and offered feedback to students before naming the winners.
“The Frisco Education Foundation is proud to invest in the ideas and dreams of our Frisco ISD students and facilitate donations from others who want to inspire and encourage their entrepreneurship as well,” said Allison Miller, director of FEF and community relations for Frisco ISD. “The success of the Business Incubator program depends on community involvement, including those willing to invest their financial resources or volunteer their time in the classroom as an Incubator mentor, coach or community champion.”
Please consider joining current supporters and sponsors of the Frisco ISD Business Incubator program including RBFCU. For more information about how you can get involved as either a sponsor or volunteer, visit the Business Incubator website.