Photo Credit Trent Miles
Young entrepreneurs bring business plans to Culver
April 26, 2016

An unusual take on providing housing for the homeless won the first What’s Your Big Idea? competition at Culver Academies Saturday. House Proud by Harry Krsul-Sullivan, of The Stanley Clark School in South Bend, Ind., took the first place prize of $1,000.

Young entrepreneurs from four middle schools in Indiana and Michigan came to Culver to present their version of the next Big Idea. The business plan competition for seventh and eighth graders was designed after Culver’s Miclot Business Plan Competition, which is conducted over Alumni Reunion Weekend in May.

Homelessness is a huge issue. I wanted something unique to give to the homeless that is sustainable.

“Homelessness is a huge issue. I wanted something unique to give to the homeless that is sustainable,” Krsul-Sullivan said of his small house with collapsible walls. “I wanted to make the best design that would have the most options to live comfortably.”

Krsul-Sullivan said he was inspired by his mother, who is an architect. The Big Idea competition gave him the opportunity to try his hand at designing and building models of tiny homes. He used his $500 prize for winning his in-school competition to buy the materials for his models.

While he was selected the winner by the panel of three judges, Krsul-Sullivan was impressed by the other competitors.

“There are so many good ideas,” he said of the competition. “Everyone is so smart and unique. I loved their ideas.”

Participating schools included Stanley Clark, The Orchard School and Sycamore School (Indianapolis), and Kalamazoo Country Day School (Kalamazoo, Mich.). Students presented their ideas on a business to launch, a product to produce, or a service to provide. If they have already started a business, they could offer ideas on how to expand it. Each school winner earned $500.

Students could compete as individuals, partners, or in a team with no more than three members. Each team was required to have a mentor — an adult with actual business or entrepreneurial experience. The original submissions from each school were reviewed by the Entrepreneurial Studies class at Culver which narrowed the field to seven finalists based on creativity, viability, and sustainability.

Finalists were given eight minutes to make their presentation. They were allowed to alter the format of their original presentation, but could not change the fundamental nature of their product or service. The three judges – Greg Farrall ’88, Farrall Wealth, Valparaiso; Mark Roesler, CMG Worldwide, Indianapolis & West Hollywood, Calif.; and Jane Szymczak, Laciak CPA, Valparaiso – were given three minutes for questions.

Each school’s winning team and the first runners-up advance to the final round. Other Big Idea presenters were:

  • Beautiful Designs, Healthy Minds – Hattie Eisenhauer, The Stanley Clark School
  • Fresh Meals Now – Alaina Hiemstra, Kalamazoo Country Day School
  • Hues for Hope – Rhea Acharya, Sycamore School
  • Memory – Ajay Mahenthiran and Shaan Mishra, Sycamore School
  • My Style APP – Brooke Paganelli, The Orchard School
  • Survival of the Fittest – Jaidhirth Bollampally, Kalamazoo Country Day School
  • The Sign APP – Rachel Bates and Maddie McGloin, The Orchard School

Richard Hof, the Head of Middle School at Stanley Clark, said his students enjoyed the competition. Roughly a dozen children participated. He believed What’s Your Big Idea? “definitely gave them more latitude to address their passions” than most competitions. “It gave them free reign to get creative.”

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