Hononegah INCubator Program ends year with Pitch Night


Sophia Neuenschwander explains her successful vintage clothing business.

This is year number six for Pitch Night at Hononegah Community High School. The annual event is the culmination of a unique entrepreneurial program – INCubator.

The tech/business program was initiated at Hononegah six years ago. Tech Education teacher Jason Brunke, with a group of Hononegah teachers and education supporters, traveled to Barrington High School in Barrington, Illinois to learn about the incubator programs developed there.

The education group was blown away by what they learned and incorporated it into the Hononegah’s tech curriculum, led by Brunke.

The INCubator program teaches students how to create business models in the classroom through real-world teaching and critical feedback with assistance from local business owners. The volunteers come into the classroom to coach and mentor students throughout the school year.

German American State BankMembers Alliance Credit Union, SENB Bank, First National Bank and Trust and State Farm Insurance provided the funding this year. Students compete for financial assistance needed for their projects half way through the program.

At the end of the school year, students present their business plan to board members and usually ask for start-up financial assistance.

Pitch Night was held on May 19, this year. "It’s the culmination of all the work done over the year,” Brunke said. At Pitch Night, a selected group of students have the opportunity to present their business ideas, including marketing and financial plans.

Students pitched their ideas to a panel made up of INCubator board members: retired business leader Chuck Gilbert, Deb Griffith of First City Bank and Trust, and Matt Lynch of Members Alliance Credit Union.

After an introduction by Hononegah principal Chad Dougherty, Brunke introduced visitors to five groups of student entrepreneurs.

First up was senior Bailen Estrada, who introduced “Photo Launch,” a business to assist beginner photographers who need a starting base. Estrada said he started “Photo Launch” because he couldn’t find the information he needed on websites or at school.

Bailen, who has experience as a videographer and photographer, described his marketing plans and financial goals. He plans to charge $59.00 for the course and a $10.00 monthly fee.

Next up was Addie Hankins and Kendra Schreck who were launching “Earrings by Addie.”

Hankins said her goal is to make high quality earrings for less.

Addie, with the assistance of Kendra, has been successfully marketing the hand-made earrings through social media and email.

Sophia Neuenschwander introduced her start-up business – “815 Thrift.”

“I wanted to make money, so I started selling vintage clothing that I picked up at garage sales and thrift stores.”

Her business is doing well. Neuenschwander said future plans are to launch a mobile boutique, a “Store on Wheels.”

Sophia Neuenschwander presented her business plan (815Thrift) to a panel of INCubator Board members at Pitch Night, May 19. Students in the entrepreneurial class have spent the year working with coaches and mentors in the INCubator class at Hononegah.

Lorenzo Ferrell and Michael Van Offeren created “EZ” a business that assists teens and young adults putting together clothing outfits. The business provides personalized options matching clients style to their desired outfit. “Our target age is 15 to 25 years.” Ferrell said.

Lorenzo and Michael asked the panel for financial assistance for marketing, business membership and a professional website.

Rykin Montoya is already successfully marketing his sports predicting business. “Prodigy Picks” is a business for college sports fanatics who want game day experiences and to interact with teams and players. “My marketing plan is to target local businesses, restaurants, and investors."

Rykin Montoya demonstrated what he has learned and implemented through the INCubator Program at Hononegah. His business, Prodigy Picks is already doing well.

A reception followed the presentations.

Seven Hononegah students presented their business plans to an audience of family members, friends and panel of INCubator Board members during Pitch Night, May 19. Pitch Night is the culmination year-long business development plans by students in the INCubator class. Students learn marketing and financial skills under the guidance of local business members who mentor and coach the young entrepreneurs. (L-R) Addie Hankin, Kendra Schreck -(Earrings by Addie), Bailin Estrada (Photo Launch), Lorenzo Ferrell, Michael Van Offeren ( EZ), Sophia Neuenschwander (815Thrift), and Rykin Montoya ( Prodigy Picks), and INCubator Tech and business teacher Jason Brunke.

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