Students share sweet ideas for their future businesses

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Hillary Gavan/Beloit Daily News Hononegah student Anna Pipitone serves Nick Sommer one of her cake balls at an incubator open house event held at Hononegah on Nov. 4. Students were able to share their business plans with the public and get some tips on how to improve them. Pipitone has a sweets business idea and Sommer wants to sell strap-on bowling shoe covers.

ROCKTON - From strap-on bowling shoe covers to cake balls, students at Hononegah High School and Rock County Christian School (RCCS) have plenty of ideas for businesses.

Students had the opportunity to share their plans and gain insight from local business people at a incubator open house held Nov. 9 at Hononegah. The event was intended to educate the community on the school's entrepreneurship program called "incubatoredu@hchs" and to connect students with business people and their wisdom, according to Jason Brunke, career and technical education department coordinator and teacher of "incubatoredu@hchs."

The open house was held in conjunction with Wisconsin Startup Week, a statewide initiative to connect, educate and inspire entrepreneurs across Wisconsin. Startup Week was being hosted in 10 cities including Beloit, according to Erin Clausen, community manager at IronTek and organizer of Beloit Startup Week.

Clausen said IronTek, Blackhawk Technical College, Beloit College and the Janesville Innovation Center hosted events last week throughout the Stateline Area.

In addition to student teams from Hononegah and RCCS, Brunke said the event was a good way for RCCS students and the community to learn more about Hononegah's "incubatoredu@hchs" program. The curriculum helps guide students in the stages of starting a real business, as opposed to learning about it from a textbook.

In the course, Brunke said students identify problems and explore solutions in relation to business. The concept is to ensure students are building or offering a product people actually want and need. As part of the year-long class, students get out of the classroom to talk to customers to refine their plans.

Hononegah students Nick Sommer and Parker Hearne said they were pitching their business New Rental, which offers strap-on shoe covers for bowling centers.

"It's a more comfortable, sanitary and stylish alternative to the traditional bowling rental shoe," Sommer said.

"It allows people to bowl in their own shoes," Hearne added.

Sommer, who has worked in a bowling center, said the shoes get sprayed with a disinfectant but are still a bit unappealing. People are sweating in the shoes and may have "bad stuff" on their feet. Other bowlers get blisters from the uncomfortable shoes. Sommer believes New Rental will give customers a better alternative. He and Hearne plan to sell them to bowling centers. With connections to Eigerlab, he plans to get help building the perfect shoe cover for bowling centers to rent out.

Sommer and Hearne said they have already gotten a positive response from bowling centers and plan to keep the dialogue going.

Hononegah student Anna Pipitone is hoping to launch her business Simply Sweet.

"I make desserts so you don't have to," she said.

Pipitone said she's been cooking in the kitchen since was a tike. As she got older she started making more complex desserts such as French macaroons, pies, cakes and more. Recently, she has been selling cake balls to her friends for 50 cents apiece. Tracking profits via spreadsheets, Pipitone is committed to making her business a success.

She plans to attend Kendall College in Chicago for a baking program for two years. She then plans to work at her parents' restaurants, including Sam's Pizza in Rockton. She would eventually like to open up a storefront but will first sell her desserts in her family's restaurants.

Trey Brown, entrepreneurship program coordinator at RCCS, said 10 students from his school were attending Thursday's event. Brown said RCCS is moving toward a similar curriculum as Hononegah. Currently it's implementing an entrepreneurship curriculum through junior achievement for kindergarten through eighth grades.

RCCS student Gregory MacNees was chatting about his handmade bracelets to Andrew Reynolds, of Fuelz - a company in IronTek which helps colleges and individuals connect with the marketplace.

MacNees said he was excited to turn his fun hobby into a business. He already has designed the fashionable caterpillar and the infinity - "no matter how much you pull on it, it doesn't break." He also had designed a red, white and blue bracelet in honor of his brother who finished The Crucible in the Marines. MacNees' next plan is to get his friends to work for him making them so he is prepared to fulfill orders,

Trinity Tribble and Veronica Hausser of RCCS are excited about their cleaning business called TAV.

They are already charging $2 to clean lockers, and are hoping to expand into cleaning homes and businesses.

"They do a good job," added MacNees who used TAV services for his locker.

The students of TAV said they not only clean lockers but re-organize. Once they begin cleaning homes, they hope to be friendly faces people will feel comfortable cleaning their homes.

Clausen said Wisconsinstartupweek.org had a launch last Tuesday at IronTek where business owners shared their experiences. Co-founder of Comply365 Dude Frank, FatWallet Founder Tim Storm, and founder of AccuLynx Rich Spanton spoke. She added that Bunker Labs hosted an an IronWorks Golf Lab event Friday. Community members and veterans learned about resources for veteran-owned businesses.

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