Looking for the next big thing? You may find it on the third floor of New Trier High School’s Winnetka campus.
Tucked in a corner classroom, teenaged minds are nurturing and workshopping business ideas in Startup U, an entrepreneurship class in the business education program.
The year-long class, which is led by Sara Burnett and Bob Bollweg, unites student groups and their ideas with mentors, members of the New Trier community who offer real-world experience as the students build and pitch their ideas.
“The idea is that before investing a great deal of time, effort and money into their full-scale business or full-scale production of their product, they build this minimally viable version (and minimal to zero budget version) to test in the market place and gather feedback on,” Burnett wrote in an email to The Record.
During their MVP pitches, the groups laid out their business models and even requested early-stage funding, if necessary, to bring the minimal product to life. Burnett said the teams received anywhere from $20 to $200.
Among the students’ ideas are: physical products, like a headband with replaceable cooling packs and a tarp with weighted magnets in each corner; digital products, like sports NFTs; and digital services, like a platform that connects individuals trying to meet up for recreational athletics.
According to Burnett following the MVP night the groups are following through on their products and putting them out in the world to gather and analyze feedback.
All of it builds to the final pitches, which students will make on May 17 to a group of judges at New Trier. The top products from that day will advance to a Pitch Night on May 19 at Wilmette Theatre, an event that is supported by the New Trier Educational Foundation, and compete for possible sponsorship dollars.
“As we work towards Pitch Night … our students will continue to learn from their amazing mentors, entrepreneurs and business leaders who work with an individual team over the course of the school year, guiding them through their entrepreneurial journeys,” Burnett wrote.
The Pitch Night on May 19 will be open to the public.
This article originally appeared in The Record North Shore, a local news nonprofit.