There’s nothing like a little healthy competition to exhibit the emerging talent of Greater Boston’s young people. For the 3rd year in a row, Brookline’s Beaver Country Day School held its own reality TV-style judging competition, Shark Day, in an effort to showcase their students’ creativity and entrepreneurial efforts.
Competitions are not only the norm in reality TV; they’re practically a requisite because of their entertainment value. Beaver Country Day School modeled Shark Day on one of the more recent reality shows, Shark Tank, which boasts a “reinvigoration of entrepreneurship” and Emmy Award recognition.
Shark Tank utilizes a group of judges that ABC describes as “tough, self-made, multi-millionaire and billionaire tycoons,” who seek the next innovation in American business. No less ambitious were Beaver County’s students who have been working the last several weeks in the entrepreneurial course on product development, refining business plans, and perfecting pitches for the judging panel. The results were impressive, exquisitely presented, impeccably articulated, and, often, required extensive scientific research.
Products that addressed health issues were prevalent at the competition. It’s clear the budding CEO’s were either challenged to consider the impact of their ideas in the long term or we have an emerging generation that is ready to enter adulthood with a sense of greater responsibility.
The judging panel, which included Michael Bronner, founder and chairman emeritus of Digitas and Upromise, and David Gerzof Richard, Founder and President of BIGfish Communications, was no less supportive of the students’ sense of ethics (a few of the students named honesty and authenticity). “Business isn’t about making money,” Bronner explained to the students, “ it’s about making the world a better place…” with the hope that a profit might one day stem from these efforts.
Although not advised, you could probably safely eat pure inc.’s all-natural beauty products. Inspired by her mother’s terminal illness as well as her own health issues, CEO Nadia Bednarczuk and her team presented an already successful line of skin products made from lime oil, coconut oil, and sugar. The pure, inc. team wants you to “purify your life” by knowing exactly what “pure” ingredients are going on your body. With their bold social marketing strategy, pure, inc. plans to give a behind-the-scenes look at the team mixing their products.
Like the beauty market, the sweets market continues to grow, inspiring fast-moving trends. In the early 2000’s pastry lovers couldn’t get enough of the queen cupcake, and the past couple of years we’ve been bowing down to circular king of fried confections, known as the artisan donut. Now we might have our latest breakfast contender— Pan Puffs. Balls of pancake dough filled with your favorite toppings, Pan Puffs are only 175 calories of mess-free culinary delight. The flavors included the sweet and seasonal pumpkin Pan Puff and the savory cheese Pan Puff. Are you hungry yet?
Likely the most ambitious of these startups was Hypnos Sleep Mask. The founder, Henry Hirshland, and his team conducted surveys on campus, researched the latest statistics, and worked alongside advisors at MIT in an effort in invent a technology that will hopefully address America’s problem with lack of sleep. The mask would in theory target slow oscillation to influence sleep cycles throughout the night, ensuring better rest. The product will require years of continuous research, design modifications, and lab testing to deliver a beta; however, the judges were mostly positive in their feedback, projecting a “huge potential market” for Hypnos.
Another critical question discussed by the panel was—If the product being created is not entirely new, could it be fashioned to compete with the existing product by being more fun or efficient? The team behind the mobile apps StyleX and Beauty and the Beast want to make style and beauty even more accessible to each of their respective user bases.
In the case of StyleX, if you have ever purchased an article of clothing you loved, but were stuck figuring out how it would fit into your existing wardrobe, the app functions as a sharing platform (like Instagram) where users can upload and give ideas about potential outfits. Using StyleX could make getting dressed in the morning a more social experience.
Beauty and the Beast could be the next “Airbnb” of beauty, or as one judge called it, “Hair-bnb.” With the app, busy executives would have an immediate traveling in-house salon service. Don’t we all wish we could come home from work and immediately request someone to come over and do our hair?
With the imaginative and detailed efforts of each team, it’s difficult to envision any of the startups being passed over by VCs.
ABC’s Shark Tank, beware. Your next bite is right behind you.
—By Adriana Hammond