Competition ignites students’ ideas

March 20th, 2017

KPC News - The News Sun

Launch LaGrange County, a “Shark Tank”-like program aimed at developing young entrepreneurs while they are still in high school, kicks off its second annual competition Thursday in Shipshewana.

The event will be held from 5:15-8 p.m. at the Farmstead Inn & Conference Center, 370 S. Van Buren St.

The program pits teams of students from Howe Military Academy, and Lakeland, Prairie Heights and Westview school corporations against one another as they vie for startup business grants and college scholarships.

The program is sponsored by the LaGrange County Economic Development Corp., the LaGrange County Chamber of Commerce and the LaGrange County Community Foundation.

“Speaking on behalf of the organizers, last year’s program far exceeded our highest expectations. Again this year, there is no doubt these projects have potential to become sustainable businesses,” Ryne Krock, president and CEO of the LaGrange County EDC said in a news release. “If the young entrepreneurs participating in this program are representative of up-and-coming generations, the future of our community is in great hands.”

Laura Lemings, executive director of the LaGrange County Community Foundation, called the competition a wonderful opportunity for area students.

“The competitive program is an opportunity for all LaGrange County high school students to think creatively about business ideas and, in the process, be mentored by local business leaders, entrepreneurs and educators who inspire and mentor their creative thinking,” she said.

The second annual competition will be featuring the following business teams and individuals:

  • Adapt (Lakeland) — An electronic advertising product that targets specific audiences with use of an interactive, touchscreen platform. Founder: Manuel Rangel.
  • Trackit (Lakeland) — A bracelet that serves as a two-way communications device with GPS technology, allowing parents to monitor the safety of their children. Founder: Danny Lewis.
  • The Coffee Clutch (Prairie Heights) — A portable java barista concept that will deliver gourmet hot and cold drinks to the consumer. Founders: Gwen Johnson and Kylie Growcock.
  • Donn-A-Glove (Westview) — A product designed for professionals who frequently change sterile gloves in a variety of industries, including food service and medical. Founders: Jordan Miller and Trey Zabona.
  • EquaHeat (Westview) — Created as an alternative to a traditional plug-in heating pad, this battery-powered product is designed for comfort, fashion and practicality, and allows the user to wear it while staying active. Founder: Braden Reynolds.
  • HD Drone Service (Westview) — A service company that provides crop health analysis to the agriculture sector. Founders: Dalton Misner and Hunter Whitney.
  • Neighborlync (Howe Military Academy) — An app that connects people by proximity, allowing users to reach out to others to offer or seek services. Founders: Daniel Kostenko, Henry Davis and Aaron Liu.
  • Shipshewana PediCabs (Lakeland) — A pedicab business that will begin operation exclusively in the town of Shipshewana, eventually expanding service to other areas. The company will offer rides from hotels to popular shopping and tourist destinations. Founders: Isaiah Lehman, Erik Mellinger and Josh Grogg.
  • SmartDog (Howe Military Academy) — A microcontrolled doghouse that utilizes Arduino controls to automatically adjust heat, feed and water for animals. Founders: Tommy Yang and Sultan Al-Abdallah.

The student teams will be competing for a variety of prizes, including startup grants, general education stipends and scholarship offers from the following higher education institutions, should the winners choose to enroll at the school immediately following high school graduation (all renewable for up to four years):

  • Goshen College — $3,000 scholarship for students participating in the program; $7,000 scholarship for students advancing to county competition; $12,000 scholarship for each student on the top three teams;• Indiana Tech — $12,000 scholarship for each student on the winning team; $10,000 scholarship for each student on the second-place team; $8,000 scholarship for each student on the third-place team;
  • Ivy Tech Community College Northeast — $3,000 scholarship for each student on the winning team; $2,000 scholarship for each student on the second-place team; $1,000 scholarship for each student on the third-place team; and
  • University of Saint Francis — $10,000 scholarship for each student on the winning team.

Beth Sherman, executive director of the LaGrange County Chamber of Commerce, has found the program to be beneficial for students.

“The Launch LaGrange program provides a unique opportunity for students to learn about entrepreneurship while putting their creative ideas into action,” Sherman said.

Get ready for Launch LaGrange

The LaGrange County Economic Development Corp. and its partners are urging residents, businesses and educators from LaGrange County and northeast Indiana to sign up to attend the Launch LaGrange County business competition by calling 499-4994 or by visiting Space is limited and registration is encouraged.