Not everyone can say they’ve pitched an original business idea to a room full of people by the time they’ve completed sixth grade, but students from Rothenberg Preparatory Academy and Westwood Elementary School can say they have.
Closing out a successful year focusing on Student Enterprise for their Vision 2020 programs, Rothenberg and Westwood students spent a day at the CPS Education Center giving presentations. The winning teams from both schools’ Shark Tank competitions presented their ideas to a new panel of judges, made up of Cincinnati community members and business leaders. Students also heard from “You Got This!” author Maya Penn and set up shop with the products they’ve created throughout the school year.
When students filed into the Interactive Learning Center, there was one empty seat at the judges’ table. Waiting to greet them on the stage was Penn. Students have been reading her book as part of their student enterprise curriculum.
Once students got over the initial surprise, Penn shared advice and words of encouragement for the students based on her own experience from starting her business, Maya’s Ideas, when she was eight years old. Penn spoke on the importance of being diligent in your work, learning from mistakes and failures, and the new opportunities that can come when something may not go as planned.
“Every great innovator or entrepreneur or creative person has had to go off-course,” said Penn. “So whenever you have something not go as planned, just remember to learn from that experience. It’s easy to forget it when it happens, but it’s important that you learn from those experiences.”
While she offered some practical advice, Penn urged students not to abandon their imagination as they pursued their dreams.
“Money can’t buy imagination. Keep cultivating your imagination,” she said.
After a brief question-and-answer session, Penn joined the panel of judges. The full panel of judges included:
- Clifford A. Bailey, President & CEO, TechSoft Systems, Inc.,
- Maya Penn, entrepreneur, author of “You Got This!”
- Kathy Wade, CEO, Learning Through Art
- James Avant IV, Chef, Owner, OCD Cakes
The winning shark tank teams from Rothenberg and Westwood presented their pitches and took questions from the panel. Panelists offered advice and constructive feedback around ways to conduct effective market research to improve, how to further differentiate their business, improve branding, or anticipate future demand spikes.
The winning teams who presented were also given tablets to help grow their business in the future, much to their surprise.
After the presentations, students were divided into groups for breakout sessions and to work in the “marketplace.” The marketplace was open to CPS employees to browse and purchase items made by students throughout the school year.
In all, the event was a way to solidify all the lessons and work around entrepreneurship and student enterprise for students.
“Students have really embraced this focus, and it shows,” said Westwood Elementary principal Christopher Grant. “Our goal is to make sure our students are financially literate and understand money—earning, spending, saving, and investing — before they go on to high school.”