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Teens show off innovation

March 21st, 2019

By Lisa Green | The Journal Gazette

Lillian Herrmann is 15 and is destined to be her own boss.

She's buying silver- and gold-plated brass from online wholesalers, creating “dainty jewelry” pieces that sell for $4 to $15, along with other items like hair ties.

She has a website for the business, Millie & Mabel, that she started three months ago.

“I was just looking for something for me to do, and I've always been interested in starting my own business,” Herrmann said last week.

This week, the North Manchester High School freshman will be among youths making pitches at the 2019 Innovate WithIN competition. The statewide competition, similar to the ABC series “Shark Tank,” is hosted by the Indiana Economic Development Corp., Indiana Department of Education and Ball State University.

Participants have the opportunity to win thousands of dollars in award money and participate in educational opportunities, according to the www.innovatewithin.org website.

After submitting video pitches for the competition's first round, more than 65 teams were selected to present ideas to judges, which include local and regional economic development officials, educators, business owners and other executives.

This year's competition attracted 158 online pitches – up 83 percent from 2018. The pitches came from 422 students representing 88 Indiana high schools, the IEDC said in a news release last week.

Finalists will compete April 4 in Indianapolis.

This year's program has been expanded to middle school students. More than 235 registered to attend innovation-focused workshops at regional competitions, designed to increase critical-thinking skills and introduce them to business concepts.

The northeast Indiana pitch session is Tuesday at The Summit. Students from Allen, Adams, Blackford, DeKalb, Grant, Huntington, Jay, Noble, Steuben, Wabash, Wells and Whitley counties were eligible for the competition.

Millie & Mabel is scheduled to be one of 10 business pitches. Up to three students can be part of a pitch team.

Herrmann is working solo. During an interview last week, she said she has used social media – Facebook and Instagram – to promote her products after doing online research about starting a business.

“I'm hoping that I can continue this for like the next couple of years in high school,” Herrmann said, “but my biggest goal is like to open a coffee shop or bakery, so I'm hoping I can get experience from this to be able to help me to do that.”

Herrmann bakes cookies and cakes and said if she opens a bakery, the emphasis will be on gluten-free items. Along with her studies and starting a business, Herrmann works in her school's coffee shop.

“That's kind of given me some inspiration as well,” she said.

Blake Webb is exploring varied revenue streams, too. The DeKalb High School senior owns DeKalb Computer Clinic, a repair service Webb started about a year ago.

He gained some know-how after internships with a similar business and is now interning in the IT department for a major Auburn-area health care provider.

“I've always looked at computers and (I've been) taking them apart since I was young,” said Webb, who also can remove computer viruses.

But for the Innovate WithIN competition, Webb is pitching Konnect Hosting, a website he's developing for a game server.

“I've always played games,” said Webb, who wants to study computer science at Ivy Tech. “Gaming has been a passion of mine. And I noticed a lot of computer games, in order to play them, you have to have a third person to host it.”

Rather than pay a third party, Webb decided to tap into that potential revenue. Subscribers to Konnect Hosting would register online and be able to choose their preferred billing cycle, such as monthly or quarterly.

Morgan Spade, a 2018 DeKalb High School graduate, won the regional competition last year for her Mini Mammals business. The enterprise was short-term, lasting about two months, but Spade also won second place in the state Innovate WithIN competition and first place in the separate Launch DeKalb County competition.

Mini Mammals created stuffed keychains resembling an animal at the Black Pine Animal Sanctuary, with 10 percent of the proceeds going to support the venue.

“I really liked Black Pine Animal Sanctuary and ... so I really wanted to help them in whatever way I could,” said Spade, 19. But she also knew she wanted to attend college and so decided to drop the business.

“I couldn't grow it by myself, basically,” Spade said, adding she decided to “focus on what I knew was concrete.”

Now a freshman accounting major at Trine University, Spade considers the business innovation competitions for youth valuable.

“I definitely grew as a person, just being able to stand up in front of adults and other kids my age that I never knew before and being able to present a business I developed on my own,” Spade said.

Innovate WithIN

Projects and concepts competing in Region 8, which covers northeast Indiana, and the student team members:

  • G.A.B. Girls (Girls Against Bullying Girls): A nonprofit organization founded in 2010. Every seven minutes a child is bullied, and only one-fourth of the time someone intervenes. I plan to change this. (Elayna Hasty, Angola High School)
  • Everything Paper Co.: Business that specializes in using recycled and recyclable materials to create one-of-a-kind gifting supplies. (Caitlynn Shipe, DeKalb High School)
  • Millie & Mabel: A jewelry company that wants to help women and girls feel confident and strive to be the best versions of themselves they can be. (Lillian Herrmann, Manchester Junior-Senior High School)
  • Konnect Hosting: A game server provider that focuses on providing high-quality, affordable game servers. (Blake Webb, DeKalb High School)
  • S.O.L. Stones: Makes jewelry to protect against human trafficking/kidnapping. Product works by pulling and twisting the stone or opening the locket and pushing the button on the inside, alerting police with the GPS location of the person wearing the bracelet or ring. Also alerts three emergency contacts. (Jennifer Robles, Selene Hernandez and Brenda Diaz-Deleon, Manchester Junior-Senior High School)
  • Student Services, Wabash High School: A lawn care service offered to Wabash Country residents. (Kallen Kelsheimer, James Booth, Wabash High School)
  • Diner Destination: Looking to make going out to eat more fun while making it easier. (Benjamin Hewitt, Caleb Callahan and Trenton Daughtry, Wabash High School)
  • Shop Fresh, Wabash High School: Strives to encourage healthy eating by eliminating food waste in the refrigerator through Eco.Fresh.Filter. (Olivia Lindsay, Evelynn Gray and Lucia Peña, Wabash High School)
  • Na's Bakes: Traditional bakery that specializes in allergy-free food products, including cakes, cupcakes and cookies. (Naomi Justice, Heartland Career Center)
  • Toothfairy Travels: Innovative app to make the job of the "Tooth Fairy" easier with automatic reminder to reward a child at night, but "with less work and potentially no cash involved." App will have features and games "that will intrigue the interest of all children." (Payton Deeter and Mason Yentes, Southwood High School)
Categories Entrepreneurship