Aspen Academy Students Compete in Virtual Shark Tank Businesses Competition Despite Pandemic

  • Entrepreneurship
Aspen Academy Contributors

Despite school closures, students at Aspen Academy continue learning and fueling the future with new ventures. After making it through two rounds of “shark tanks,” pitching their businesses to successful entrepreneurs in early April, seven Eighth Grade students were selected for the final round of pitching on Thursday, April 16, 2020.What typically would have been a presentation to an auditorium full of students and entrepreneurs, instead took the shape of video recorded pitches and live teleconferences for Q&A. Students received coaching, counsel and were asked questions by entrepreneur judges whose careers span industries from retail to healthcare. The finalists’ businesses range from jewelry and soothing instrumental music to a spice blend and grips for gaming controllers.

The Capstone project for Eighth Grade, the student businesses are the culmination of the Aspen Entrepreneurial Institute, nation’s only Kindergarten through Eighth Grade wholly sequenced, yearlong curriculum incorporating economics, personal financial literacy, organizational leadership, and entrepreneurship. Through the curriculum, students are exposed to a wide variety of lifelong financial skills that they take into the world for their personal savings and to contribute to the greater world. The Eighth Grade student businesses incorporate social responsibility with proceeds benefiting non-profit organizations.

"This experience opens doors for kids. They learn that it is possible to take a passion, hobby, or cause and turn it into a thriving business. They learn that even at a young age, they can create something of value for the world. In addition, the creativity we see out of our youth is remarkable. Students have unbelievable ideas and when we pair that with lessons about business, and involve community mentors, they take those great ideas to the next level,” shares Katie Becker, Director of Aspen Youth Leadership Institute and Aspen Entrepreneurial Institute.

Building a Business During a Global Pandemic

The course took on additional significance with the recent economic turmoil, teaching entrepreneurial skills during a time of record unemployment filings. The skills these students learned enable them to create jobs for themselves and others, for a lifetime. The several student entrepreneurs addressed changing needs in the market (presented by COVID-19) in their pitches, despite designing their business plans well in advance of the global pandemic that closed school campuses and shifted learning online at Aspen Academy: 

  • Naturalis Lotions evolved product design from a lotion jar to a stick to reduce germ spread;
  • Convo Creations is designed as a screen-free entertainment option for families
  • Pando.Directory allows entrepreneurs and small business owners to highlight their businesses and have support from the school community (and beyond)
  • Chiara Sophia Fashion added masks to their product line

And the winner is...

Quinn Mochan was named the 1st place winner for her website, Pando.Directory. The online business directory creates a place for the Aspen Academy community to support one another, noting that “communities are stronger when members help each other.” The directory is currently free with any donation to the Jansen Scholarship Fund, a fund created in honor of one of Aspen Academy’s founding families, the Jansen Family (Elizabeth '15, Alex '16). Expansion plans include directories for other communities. When asked what she's learned about herself through this process, Quinn noted: "I worked in the school store before, but I never knew how much work went into the start up of a business. A lot happens behind the scenes that people never see." Second Place Winner was Grace Richardson, CEO of Naturalis Lotions and third place was awarded to James Algermission, CEO of JPA Music.

The sense of pride, confidence, resilience, and joy these students have as a result is palpable. “I have learned so much about creating a business. I didn’t even know what a business plan was and now I know how to write one. The most important lesson though was in marketing. How do you communicate everything you want people to know about what you are doing? It has been a really good lesson.” – Isabelle Svendsen, CEO & Founder of Courage Beads

“My business idea was to develop something that would help people talk to each other in person without electronics. Through the product I created, I learned that making people feel more happy and connected is one of the best feelings in the world - especially in a time like this.” – Gabe Derksen, CEO & Founder, Convo Creations (Card Games and Conversation Starters)

“This project is just one example of how Aspen Academy students are empowered to do good, work hard, and make the world better. They are building the capabilities that will serve them in an uncertain and highly technical global economy,” says Kristina Scala, Founder & CEO of Aspen Academy. “Further, they’re learning their strengths and how to position themselves as leaders, as well as how to bring an idea to life. Now, more than ever, we must be focused on creating solutions during challenging times.”

2020 Businesses Created by Aspen Academy 8th Grade Students

  • Above and Beyond Photography - aerial photography
  • B empowered - personal phone chargers (10% of profits go to Sierra Club)
  • B;aware Jewelry - jewelry to create mental health awareness (25% of sales go to National Alliance on Mental Illness)
  • Blessing Bags - reflective cinch bags, filled with necessities for the homeless (30% of profits go to Denver Rescue Mission)
  • Busy Blankets - fidget blankets for those with Alzheimer's, Dementia, and babies. (100% of profits go to Alzheimer's Association)
  • Chatter’s Chaat - South Asian spice blend
  • Chiara Sophia Fashion - custom-made dresses, scrunchies and face masks
  • Convo Creations - card games and conversation starters
  • Courage Beads - beaded necklaces (10% of net profits go to Ronald McDonald House of Denver)
  • Cozy KKit - comfort socks and blankets
  • Cure Bracelets - metal charm bracelets (proceeds go to Parkinson’s Disease Foundation and Dementia Society of America)
  • Dough Spot - edible cookie dough
  • Gripz - comfort grips for gaming controllers
  • HM Custom Decal Designs - custom designed decal (10% of proceeds go to Saint Frances Cabrini food bank)
  • JPA Music - instrumental music and commissions by award-winning pianist
  • Meraki Jewelry - hand-crafted jewelry (proceeds go to American Brain Tumor Association, Organization for Autism Research, Parkinson's Foundation and Children's Hospital Colorado Foundation)
  • Naturalis - all-natural lotions (8% of profits go to Children's Hospital Colorado Foundation to help burn survivors heal)
  • Pando.Directory - business directory (100% of proceeds go to Jansen Scholarship Fund)
  • Purified Hydro - purified water bottles with (5% of profits go to Water For Good)
  • Step Forward - homeless care kits containing toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, non-perishable foods, and water (Site creates awareness for nonprofits)
  • Straws for the Sea - stainless steel straws (20% of profits go to charities that address climate change and clean oceans)
  • The Honest Paw - all-natural dog treats
  • Tie It Up - customizable shoe laces (10% of profits go to Boys and Girls Club)
  • Virtual Tutor - virtual tutoring services

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For more on Aspen Entrepreneurial Institute, click here.