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Circling like sharks

Promising Venture’s Shark Tank

By Andrew Shriner | Contributor

In Promising Ventures’ fourth annual “Shark Tank,” Taylor’s brightest entrepreneurs are hopeful to win a share of the $5,000 prize.

Promising Ventures, a program created to encourage student entrepreneurship, and Shark Tank began in 2013 when the Calling and Career Office received a five-year grant from the Lilly Endowment.

“Culturally, (Shark Tank is) an understood connection to entrepreneurship,” Director of the Calling and Career Office Jeff Aupperle said. “It’s that idea of getting to pitch an idea and win some money.”

Contestants apply to participate. If selected, the burgeoning businessmen and women get the opportunity to pitch their idea in front of a panel of judges. The panel consists of two Taylor alumni, a Taylor parent and one friend of the program, all of whom have significant entrepreneurial experience.

The judges provide feedback to the contestants and then award the prize money to the most promising ideas. There could be up to four recipients depending on how the judges decide to split the prize money.

Past winners of the event have used their prize money in a variety of ways, but all of the past winners are still working on their ideas.

Senior Keaton Hendricks is a two-time second-place finisher in Shark Tank, and he received money both times. For his first business, XLSneakerSale, he used the winnings to build a website and create inventory. He is still working on his second pitch, Sky Footwear, and plans to begin working on it full-time after he graduates this spring.

Director of the Calling and Career Office Jeff Aupperle is ready to hear contestants’ pitches for the 2017 Shark Tank. (Photograph by Ruth Orellana)

Director of the Calling and Career Office Jeff Aupperle is ready to hear contestants’ pitches for the 2017 Shark Tank. (Photograph by Ruth Orellana)

While a share of the prize money is not guaranteed, Aupperle believes that participating in Shark Tank has value for everyone, even for those who do not win.

“Whether you ever go on and really pursue this and create this and start this, I would love for you to do it, but I just love the development that is happening in your life by going through this creative process,” Aupperle said.

Sophomore Pat McNamara is considering participating in the event this year.

One of the main benefits that he sees in the event, outside of the money, is the potential networking.

“There’s a lot of people,” McNamara said. “People that come to this are ones that like entrepreneurship, and so I know at Taylor a lot of entrepreneur(ship) connections comes in. Even if you don’t win the prize money you might get someone who gives you a piece of advice worth a lot more than five grand, or you get a partner or someone that wants to help you grow your idea and make it a reality.”

Hendricks benefitted from the event in several ways outside of his winnings. Receiving positive feedback gave him the confidence to really pursue his idea.

Having a deadline forced Hendricks to dedicate the time and effort required to develop his idea.

“(Shark Tank) is definitely the kickstarter that you need,” Hendricks said. “Everybody has an idea in their mind. I mean, their moms always told them a sweet idea, ‘Someone should make something like that,’ and everybody has their own ideas like that. What Shark Tank does is it forces you and puts a time constraint on it.”

The event is beneficial for all that participate, even those who walk away without a share of the prize money.

Signups for the event are closed, but Promising Ventures encourages all students to attend. The event has drawn over 100 students in past years, but Aupperle has bigger dreams.

“I want it to have the same kind of feel (as Airband or MyGen),” Aupperle said.

Hendricks said that he will definitely be there to support his friends who are participating in the competition.

McNamara also hopes there will be a large crowd for the event.

“We want everyone to go,” McNamara said. “It would be super fun. Especially in Cornwall, when you get a big crowd, it just makes it pretty electric.”

Shark Tank is on Thursday, Nov. 16th in Cornwall Auditorium at 7 p.m.

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