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Ott Hurrle Sends Students into the “Shark Tank”

Shark investors (staff and teachers) David Dellacca (left); Margaret Zeh-Fulford; and Lee Ann Van Benton listen to a group of senior Scecina students make a pitch for shark investments in their company.

Shark investors (staff and teachers) David Dellacca (left); Margaret Zeh-Fulford; and Lee Ann Van Benten listen to a group of senior Scecina students make a pitch for shark investments in their company.

Come up with an idea for a new company. Develop a business plan. Build a team of employees. Go before a panel of “shark” investors for more funding to grow your company.

That’s the entrepreneurial path highlighted on the NBC show “Shark Tank,” which was the inspiration for teacher Ott Hurrle’s lesson for his senior economics students. The students spent a couple of weeks developing their companies and their business plans. Then Mr. Hurrle invited teachers and staff to sit in as the “sharks” to listen to the students’ pitches as they tried to win over the sharks to invest in their companies.

The students imagined several different types of companies: a spa, a bed and breakfast; Glow Balls (light-up golf balls for nighttime golfing); a gym and fitness complex.

Senior Jacob Cavanaugh and his team created a cellphone app called TrackMe for users to register easy-to-lose items, such as a TV remote. They showed the sharks how the app worked, sending a signal that allowed the customer to find his TV remote – in a box of the board game of Life. The sharks bit on their idea, with two offering to invest in the TrackMe company.

“We knew from the start that they would invest,” said Jacob, “because it was such a great idea.”

Even if their pitches for investments into their “companies” were rejected, the students said they learned a lot from the exercise.

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“I learned that it’s fairly difficult to make a company because you have to go into great detail to make sure you can answer any question the sharks ask,” said Justice Carmichael, whose company was Frozen Swirl, an ice cream store. Abe Hagist, another member of the Frozen Swirl team, said one of the sharks wanted to invest in their company, but they didn’t think the offer was good enough. “We turned it down,” he said.

“It was very enjoyable because it made learning fun,” said Dakwon Brooks, whose team was pitching a bakery they called Patty Cakes. “On top of that, it was an activity that allows a group of people that put work into their business to sell it to the sharks. I learned that if you’re prepared, and know about your business, then presenting will be easy and you will be confident.” Dakwon and his team came up with a winning business plan that the sharks wanted to invest in.

“I learned that when I give a presentation I should make it fun so I can get everyone’s attention and doing that can make it enjoyable for myself,” said Beth Tindall, whose company was called Alternative Joe’s.

The staff who participated were impressed with the real-life lessons of Hurrle’s “Shark Tank” assignment. David Dellacca, Scecina’s vice president of technology, said he jumped at the chance to watch the students’ presentations and be a “shark” investor.

“Having personal experience as a small business owner, I know first-hand what it takes to get investors to notice you or your products,” Dellacca said. “There were a couple of really stand-out concepts developed by the students. Who knows? We may have a future shark among us! It was a great assignment, one that I think is invaluable to students who have a long-term interest in business ownership.”

“Kudos to Mr. Hurrle on this engaging and exciting way to bring life concepts into the classroom,” Dellacca added.

“I thought it was a fantastic project!” said another “shark,” theology teacher Katie Conroy. “The students were really excited to present their ideas and it gave them the opportunity to think about the real life aspects of financing a business/product, which young adults really need to be aware of nowadays.”

“This type of lesson is so valuable for students,” said teacher Lee Ann Van Benten. “They gain real-world perspective of how a company is run and how easily an invention may have to be let go when the finances are not available. Most students do much better when they are involved in hands-on learning. They find it more fun and today’s teenagers feel learning should be fun. I have several of the students in my class and they were excited about the project as soon as it was given. They were creative in finding a worthwhile product/service. It was interesting to see the preparation put in and the on the spot ability students with answers.

“Overall, another example of the high quality approach to teaching that Mr. Hurrle is known for as well as the high caliber, innovative students at Scecina!” she said.

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