District 99 Student INCubator Teams Pitch Ideas to Community Investors

District 99 Student INCubator Teams Pitch Ideas to Community Investors

Second Place Team Ripe Lipe Co. and First Place Team U-Spirit (l-r): Jocelyn Agustin, Jaina Rattary, Bansri Patel, Ava Gallwas, Molly Hagstrom, Violet Mitchell, Sophia Patrey and Mallory Dobbertin

Entrepreneurship students from North High School in Downers Grove (DGN) and South High School in Downers Grove (DGS) presented their ideas to judges at the inaugural INCubator Pitch Event on May 3, 2022, in South High’s new Performing Arts Center. View more event photos here.

In the “Shark Tank-style” competition, six student groups from the district’s new course, INCubator for Entrepreneurs, presented their products and business plans to a panel of guest judges. Based on a rubric determining a defined problem and solution, minimum viable product validation and overall presentation, the judges named the first and second place awardees:

  • First Place: U-Spirit: Mallory Dobbertin, Molly Hagstrom, Violet Mitchell and Sophia Patrey (DGN) 
    • U-Spirit is a high school spirit wear company which features limited quantities of quality-designed t-shirts and spirit wear. The students earned prize money from the District 99 Education Foundation and will take Incubator’s second year class Accelerator in the fall. 
  • Second Place: Ripe Life Co.: Jocelyn Agustin, Ava Gallwas, Bansri Patel and Jaina Rattary (DGN)
    • Ripe Life is a small kitchen appliance that allows the user to manipulate the ripening times for avocados. The senior students earned prize money from the District 99 Education Foundation and will continue their business endeavor away at college. 

“I’m really proud of the two groups that took first and second place,” says Drew Himes, Career & Technical Education teacher at North High School. “The students worked extremely hard on their businesses all year long which was showcased during their presentations on pitch night. We are all very excited that both groups will continue their businesses this next school year.”

Throughout the school year, each student group has created a product or service, conducted research and built prototypes. Community business leaders volunteered as coaches guiding the students on a weekly basis. 

“The INCubator for Entrepreneurs program represents a broader focus in Career and Technical Education to create educational opportunities that bring the community into the classroom in an impactful way,” says Melissa Damewood, Career & Technical Education Department Chair at North High School. “Also, this program creates experiential learning that is not based on hypotheticals and instead places students in the world of the entrepreneur and applies what they are learning in real time with authentic outcomes.”

Four additional groups presented at the pitch event:

  • Freed Hands: Devin DuPilka, Tristan Rios, Azuri Moss (DGN)
    • Freed Hands is a booth at public events that store and ship purchases to users’ homes.
  • Genrefied: Evan Henderson, Jeevan Kolavennu, Noella Ukpe-Roberts, Ensara Sejko (DGS)
    • Genrefied is an app for users to organize the books they’ve read and movies they’ve watched and an algorithm will share other books and movies they would like based on their interests.
  • Prices Explained: Robert Grogan, Kevin Leatherwood, Luis Pacheco-Guitierrez, Jaromir Smazil (DGS)
    • PricesExplained is an educational website that informs users on financial information including a public forum, videos, articles and live data.
  • Phoney: Joshua Knutson, Ryan Somma, Dylan Wendt, Eric Fosket (DGN)
    • Phoney is an app which encourages users to stay off their phone with reward incentives competing against friends and other users.

Additional students and projects from the INCubator courses include: 

  • The Blankie: MDavid Valdez, Nicolas Rojas, Elijah Sabir (DGS)
  • College Book Bundles: Daniel Jones, Brad Szydlowski, Brian Torres (DGN)
  • Cold Cup: Emily Rodriguez, Colin Michell, Christopher Sumlin, Connor Shelby, Camila Quiroz (DGS)
  • Efficient Nutrition: David Duta, Jacob Larocco, Sebastian Pappas, George Wolkow (DGN)
  • First Recruit: Brock Heuberger, William Janka, Jackson Mann, Athanasios Panos (DGN)
  • Fresh Feast: Samuel Moore, Eros Quiroz (DGS)
  • Fresh Start:Natalia Greaney, Elle Kowalski, Audrey Stanton, Catie Monaco (DGN)
  • Idro Solutions: Christopher Amidei, Zaid Irfan, Nathan Isoniemi, Drew Matune. (DGN)
  • Jumpa: Julian Estrada, Barry Donovan, Derrick Ryden Kristupas (DGN)
  • Krooze: Alexander Kuranty, Martyn Halaschchuk, Richard Sperando, Spencer Donaldson (DGS)
  • LookBack: Hamza Ahmed, Josh David, Kyle Peters, Mihir Sheth (DGN)
  • Prestige Odd Jobs: Brooks Johnson, Connor Lynch, Declan Moore, William Ruddy (DGN)

Thank you to the following community members who served as coaches to guide our students in their efforts throughout the school year. We appreciate their time and expertise which greatly benefit our students.

  • Brian Barkowski, Ironbank Mortgage
  • Peter Bucci, CCC Information Services
  • Robert Carmody, Diana's Bananas
  • John Carnagio, McDonald’s JJC Family Restaurants 
  • Joel Cesario, AIM Specialty Health
  • Robert France,Turnout Industries
  • Rochelle Nawrocki Gorey, Founder & CEO of SpringFour
  • Lori Hoffman, G&W Electric
  • Kevin Keisner, Engineer
  • Rolly Lagman, Cisco
  • Josh Naylor, Morgan Imports Inc.
  • Brittany Roback, Inner Courage Counseling 
  • Beth Schuller, Container Systems, Inc.
  • Jay Stocki, Publicis Ad Agency, Red Rocket Ventures, A partner at HBS Capital Investment Firm
  • Nilesh Sudrania, Sudrania Fund Services
  • Ben Tipton, Ironclad Performance
  • Todd Thomas, Elan Industries
  • Ken Vroman, International and Optimization Services
  • Brad Whitacre, The Whitacre Insurance Group

Thank you to our community partners who served as judges at the pitch event!

  • Maura Bates, Science Teacher at Benet Academy, District 99 Education Foundation
  • Julia K. Beckman, District 99 Education Foundation
  • Janice Christensen, Nora Flemming
  • Donna Dawson, Greenleaf Foods, District 99 Education Foundation
  • Sam Guerrero, Innovation DuPage
  • Eric Hansen, Belvedere Trading
  • Martha Merilos,  District 99 Education Foundation
  • Diane Richard, District 99 Education Foundation

To learn more about the INCubator program, contact DGN Career & Technical Education Department Chair Melissa Damewood at mdamewood@csd99.org and or DGS Career & Technical Education Department Chair Pat Fardy at pfardy@csd99.org. Learn more about Uncharted Learning and the INCubator for Entrepreneurs program on their website.