LA GRANGE – Allison Tracy, a sophomore at Lyons Township South High School, felt bad that during the holidays she was able to enjoy chocolate treats every day from her Advent calendar, while her beloved dog could not. So the 16-year-old came up with an Advent calendar for dogs, which she presented to the La Grange Business Association, in the same style as ABC’s hit TV show “Shark Tank.”
Tracy was one of five Lyons Township South students who presented their businesses and products to the LGBA at its May 11 meeting. As part of their Intro to Business class, students participate in a “Shark Tank”-style project, in which they come up with a business plan and prototype to present to a panel of local business people during class.
This year, the top three teams selected by the teachers and judges were invited to present their plans at the LGBA meeting, and after the presentations, Tracy was selected as the winner. If she chooses to continue producing her product, she will receive $300 from the business association to help offset business expenses. Urban Mutt in La Grange also has agreed to carry her product if it comes to fruition.
Despite the financial help and encouragement, Tracy said while she had a great experience, she isn’t sure she’s going to continue with the project.
“I thought it was a fun product and would spark a lot of interest because it was unlike anything the other students were doing,” she said. “It felt really good to win. I didn’t really think I would, but I was very happy. I spent about a month working on it and had to also figure out the financials and marketing of the product. I learned the steps needed to start a business, and it was a lot more than I thought. I can’t make the calendars by myself. I’d have to get a factory to produce them.”
Kathy Dierkes, LGBA Board of Directors president, said she was very impressed with all of the students who presented. She said Tracy’s product was chosen as the winner because the judges felt hers was the most viable and would have a universal appeal.
“The students were judged on presentations and the viability of the products and were given feedback,” she said. “As a business association, we have a responsibility to the community. Those kids work in our stores, they shop in our stores and we need to give back. [This project] invigorates the small business community. We have the opportunity to help these students. They have such creative ideas and can-do attitudes about things.”
Sophomores Alyssa Frey and Triniti Cruz created their company Earth Glows and made an organic face mask as the product. They came in second place behind Tracy and will earn $200 toward their product if they choose to pursue the business.
Frey said they’ve already sold more than 30 facemasks, and she is excited to continue making them.
“I was a little nervous about this project at first, but it introduced me to something I likely would never think of doing,” she said. “I learned that I should try something new because I found that I really like business. With a lot of help and support, we’ll continue Earth Glows and see where it takes us.”
Cruz said her favorite part of the project was presenting to the business association because it was a good chance to show off her company.
“Presenting in front of everyone was definitely nerve-wracking at first, but being able to share our ideas with everyone was truly amazing and made us really happy and proud,” she said. “Now, moving forward, I’m so honored to have been offered help with marketing, photography and finalizing our ingredients. This experience definitely opened my eyes to how fun being an entrepreneur is and what being in the business world is like.”
The third team, made up of freshman Sam Arney and sophomore Marco Morales, created an all-natural, peppermint aftershave lotion called The Gentleman. They will earn $100 if they choose to continue with their project.
Krista Wilcox, a business teacher at Lyons Township, said she was very proud of her students and happy to see their enthusiasm for the project.
“This helps them see the amount of work and thought that needs to be put into creating a business,” she said. “It allows them to find something in the business world that they like and want to continue studying. They had a lot of anxiety leading up to the presentations, but they all did a fantastic job.”