GENOA – Students at Genoa-Kingston High School are becoming entrepreneurs through a new program that has seniors such as Rachel Hughes realizing how much work goes into starting up a business.
Hughes and four of her classmates are working to design a space efficient, indoor gardening shelf with help from mentors at DeKalb County Community Gardens.
"We threw around a lot of ideas, and a lot of them had so many solutions out there already; they had so many ways that people have already tried to solve that issue," she said. "This one, there was more of a hole in the market. There were less products, and nothing like the ones that we were coming up with."
As part of INCubator Edu, a national entrepreneurship curriculum program the school adopted this year, students brainstorm and conduct market research on their own business ideas. They also meet with local business professionals who offer expertise throughout the development process.
"At the very end of the semester, the goal is to have all of our groups prepared to do a 15- to 20- minute pitch to investors, who may potentially ask students if they can invest in their product idea," said Ben Owen, a business and technology teacher. "It’s real life business start-up from start to finish."
Matthew Krueger, owner of Krueger & Associates Tax and Business Advisory Inc. in Hampshire, mentors a group of students on their idea for a travel pillow that sticks to windows with suction cups called a Snoozzzie.
Krueger said he and and his wife developed BabyBouncy kits, which consist of an exercise ball, pump and stand designed to help mothers bounce their babies to sleep, that they sold to Target.com about 10 years ago.
He said he might have found the confidence to try entrepreneurship sooner in life if he had a classroom experience similar to what is offered through INCubator Edu.
"Being an entrepreneur is one of the hardest things that I've ever had to do in my life, but it also can be the most rewarding," he said. "We made sure we explained that to the kids. This is not for the faint of heart, and you have to be willing to take a lot of constructive criticism. Sometimes that's hard to do, but it only makes you better."
Hughes said she never thought about the potential to start her own business before taking the entrepreneurship class, and she has come to realize it would not be her choice for a career path.
“Not that I wouldn’t want to run with this idea, because I really like it,” she said. “But now I know that it’s a lot of work; it’s a lot of risk, and it’s something that I just don’t see myself doing as a profession.”
Business teacher Kyle Henkel said the class is not just geared toward students who want to be entrepreneurs.
"For those who don’t want to go that route, we want those kids to take away the ability to more efficiently problem solve," Henkel said. "Through that hands-on application, and sometimes failure, they’re learning how to problem solve, which they’re going to take with them and use no matter what path they choose to take post-graduation."