On Saturday, May 8, a group of ambitious Saint Ignatius students took time out of their busy schedules to compete in our Saint Ignatius Entrepreneur Academy (SIEntA) Shark Tank competition.
SIEntA is a hybrid educational program that provides students with curricular and extracurricular opportunities, offering an authentic entrepreneurship experience. Ignatius Shark Tank is a main component of the SIEntA’s annual programming, challenging participants to ideate, develop and iterate their own product or service startup in a pitch-style event.
“The ideas have to be viable and doable by a teenage guy. I don’t like the pie in the sky ideas-- I like concrete, real, good ideas,” said Mr. Dan Hess ’88, who has spearheaded Ignatius Shark Tank through SIEntA throughout the last ten years. “We see a variety of ideas-- from local lawn care, to light manufacturing, to online content creation. It’s always interesting to see what our students come up with.”
The competition features a panel of investors called “sharks”, who decide whether to invest as student entrepreneurs make business presentations on their company or product. The sharks divvy up $1500 between the first, second and third place teams. This year’s shark panel was made up of five successful and experienced alumni.
Rithvik Ayyagari ’22 placed first in this year’s competition with his digital music/beats venture called RithZ, where he produces and sells music for artists of different genres. “I came up with RithZ Beats at the start of quarantine when I had nothing to do, so I decided to make music. As I got better I thought turning it into a business would be a good idea, so I started marketing it [to musicians] in October.”
Reed Bracero ’22 placed second with his mini skateboard business, Bird. These mahogany fingerboards are hand-made, hand-painted replicas of skateboards that a person rides by replicating skateboarding maneuvers with their fingers.
Third-place recognition went to a team made up of Nathan Inscze ’21, Philip Fuhrer ’22 and Dylan Sofish ’21 for JobZero, a job board for teenagers. “JobZero is an online job board that offers an opportunity for all high school students to find a summer job quickly and efficiently online,” explained Dylan Sofish ’21.
Ignatius Shark Tank allows students to gain real-world experience in entrepreneurship and receive valuable advice on achieving their business goals. After students give their presentations, the sharks offer suggestions to participants on how to market, finance and generally improve their products/services. “This competition is a networking opportunity for our students. Every year it’s interesting to see these Ignatius connections form,” said Hess.
“Ignatius Shark Tank is as much of an entrepreneurship competition as entrepreneurship appreciation. Students learn how entrepreneurship is a critical thinking exercise, from concept to consumer. It’s not brain surgery or national security. It’s knowing your customer inside and out.” Hess remarked.