Local students share ideas for startups

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Austin Montgomery/Beloit Daily News (From left): Rock County Christian Students Gynivere Housser, Kora Lathers and Nolan Urish discuss their New School Study application that would let students consolidate school materials offline on a smartphone application. Around 30 students from Hononegah's "incubatoredu@hchs" program came out Thursday for an open house event at the high school to get input from business leaders on their startup ideas. The event was hosted by Irontek in Beloit as part of the Stateline Area events as part of Wisconsin Startup Week.

ROCKTON - Students at Hononegah High School and Rock County Christian School are thinking outside of the classroom, with students able to share future startup business plans during an open house-style event Thursday at Hononegah.

Students from both schools shared plans and got feedback from local business leaders at an open house incubator event intended to provide insight on Hononegah's "Incubatoredu@hchs" entrepreneurship program.

The event was held in conjunction with Wisconsin Startup Week, a statewide event series highlighting entrepreneurs across the state. By the week's end, nearly a dozen local events will have been held across the Stateline Area to showcase the area's small business spirit.

Career and technical education teachers and "incubatoredu@hchs" instructor Jason Brunke said Thursday's event marked the second annual open house event, and served to show the growth of the program over the last five years at Hononegah. The nationwide program now includes over 120 schools, Brunke said.

There are currently 30 students in the program. As part of the course, students hone ideas and build plans to find potential products that could be pursued well after the bell rings.

For RCCS students Nolan Urish, Kora Lathers, Gynivere Housser and Cameron Davila, the event was a great way to get feedback on their academic-focused app "New School Study."

The smartphone app is aimed at allowing students to consolidated study materials and notes into one place, Housser said the idea came after she and Davila realized there was a need for a place to store study materials during long trips without having to unpack notes and textbooks.

The prototype app would let students compile all study materials in one place without the need for data or WiFi connectivity.

"We were sitting in study hall and we saw that the biggest thing was that when you were traveling to a game or school event, you don't want to take out all of our stuff from your backpack," Davila said.

The group said they were planning to develop a website component for the app that would allow teachers to share videos and to view other students' notes.

"We want to have everything in one place," Housser said.

Recent Hononegah graduate and founder of Shoe Theory Graham Staman said the program provides valuable experience early on for students. Staman started the shoe company after a previous venture failed when he was 16, he said.

"It was the most valuable class I ever took in high school and that's because it taught me the basics of business and it taught me my passion and the basics of business," Staman said. "It opened up so many more opportunities because being able to say you started a business in high school is so valuable to employers."

Shoe Theory is currently running a crowd-funding campaign and is in agreement with a manufacturer ahead of mass production that's expected in about two months, Staman said.

Brunke said the event gave students real world experience in being able to discuss their business ideas with industry professionals.

"Not only is there a niche of kids, and there's a big narrative out there that for 30 years in the education world we were pushing post-secondary education," Brunke said. "Although that is a very positive thing, it's also been a negative thing for some kids who have felt pressure if it's not for them. This gives them options to see some of the skills that you need to make things happen, and to be more purposeful about where they are going."

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