Hilton Head High students pitch business ideas, 'Shark Tank'-style

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comNovember 13, 2013 

Twenty-six Hilton Head Island High School students swam with the sharks this week -- the business sharks of Beaufort County.

Four groups of students pitched business ideas to a panel of local entrepreneurs and executives during an event Tuesday to culminate a semester-long partnership with the S.C. Lowcountry SCORE, a nonprofit volunteer association that offers business mentors and workshops to the community.

The entrepreneurship class has been offered at the school for several years, but this was the first time SCORE mentors and instructors came to work with the students.

The "Shark Tank" event was modeled after the popular reality television show of the same name, in which entrepreneurs pitch ideas to a panel that includes Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, QVC maven Lori Greiner, and Daymond John, motivational speaker and CEO of apparel company FUBU.

"This partnership and 'Shark Tank' event gave the students the opportunity to have other voices come in from outside and hear what they have to say," said Joey Maddox, who teaches the entrepreneurship class at Hilton Head High.

"This kind of class is highly needed because it's making them think a little earlier than they normally would about what's involved in business."

Each group presented its concept to the six judges and discussed its marketing strategies, how it differs from the competition, the costs to run the business and expected profit.

The groups' concepts varied greatly. Island Proof makes customizable water- and heat-resistant iPhone cases; High Tide sells souvenirs, as well as fishing and beach equipment for locals and tourists; Lowcountry T's makes custom event T-shirts, bringing the printing press on site; Lowcountry Custom Auto Body also comes to the customer, to help with car repairs or custom paint and design work.

While the event was not a competition and the business ideas aren't real -- at least not yet, Maddox pointed out -- it allowed the students to understand what it takes to start a business.

The judges stressed to the students that they must distinguish themselves from the competition and give a realistic accounting of their costs. They said they were generally impressed with the students' ideas.

"If you're going to start a business, you have got to have a business that you love doing, as well," said Jamie Bodie, founder and owner of JLK Events, who served as a judge.

"But I thought everyone was spectacular. It is so good and I'm very excited that you all are taking this class."

SCORE recently decided to emphasize its work with students and schools, according to volunteer Jim Perry. The group did a pilot of the high school program in the spring before kicking it off this fall at Hilton Head High. He has been working with other high schools in the area about hosting the program, Perry said.

This kind of program is crucial in today's business environment and start-up culture, he said.

Students who have been in the class and made presentations Tuesday agreed, saying it has taught them to think analytically.

"Before this class, I never thought about having my own business," said Aileen Moore, a junior on the Island Proof team. "But now I think it absolutely would be the best way to go -- if I can be successful at it."

List of 'Sharks'

  • Bruce Klein, H&H Autobody
  • Dino Calamari, ITS Classics
  • Mike Overton, Outside Hilton Head
  • Jamie Bodie, JLK Events
  • Todd Hoke, Atlantic Community Bank
  • Joey Maddox, Hilton Head Island High School

Video: High School students compete in 'Shark Tank' like classroom setting (3:23)

Hilton Head Island High School students compete in a "Shark Tank"-like classroom setting on Nov. 12, 2013, to sell their business model in hopes of having their ideas come to fruition. Sarah Bowman

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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