Eight area high school teams pitched their big ideas to a panel of five judges or “sharks” and an attentive audience during the third annual IGNITE! Youth Idea Challenge on April 18, 2018.

Engaging high school students is a key strategy of IGNITE! Business Success, the go-to resource network of 17 local organizations supporting area entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship is a lifelong process and showcasing the resources available right in Fond du Lac County prepared students taking part in the challenge for bright futures.

Student teams worked with a business mentor to refine their idea, submit a business plan, and prepare for the pitch event on April 18. Judges evaluated each team’s pitch based not only how they presented, but also how clearly they described the problem and their solution, value proposition, target market, marketing strategy, profit model, and key metrics. Business plans were also judged in advance to create a combined score.

Judges at the pitch event included: Beth Kuehl, co-founder of the Great Plate; Craig Much, business banker at Fox Valley Savings Bank; Amy Pietsch, director of the Venture Center at Fox Valley Technical College; Shawn Pollack, owner of Poco Pizza; and Jeff Stueber, business management instructor at Moraine Park Technical College. Stueber shared: “It was a wonderful experience to have the opportunity to interact with our youth and future entrepreneurs. Their presentations were very informative and their hard work was evident. I hope to be part of this event for many years to come.” Much also shared: “What a great event to showcase the minds of the youth in the area. Congratulations to all the teams for such impressive ideas.”

Pollack, the keynote speaker for the event, walked students and attendees through his entrepreneurial journey and encouraged them to take risks. After the event, he stated: “The future of our community is so bright. After hearing the business ideas of these young, future leaders, I’m humbled by the competency, big ideas, and passion these students exude — not just in the Youth Idea Challenge, but in their everyday lives. I look forward to the day when this generation’s ideas take hold and change the world for the better.”

Scores from the written business plan portion of the competition were added to the scores of the pitch presentation for a total overall score for each team. The top prizes included scholarship money to pursue their dreams plus other special prizes. The first through third place winners include:

• 1st Place $2,000 scholarship winner: C-Ball – Horace Mann High School with a golf ball finding spray and glasses. Mentor- Loree Shady, Hometown Bank

• 2nd Place $1,000 scholarship winner: Team Chloe – Campbellsport High School with affordable makeup palettes. Mentor – Diana Hammer, UW-Extension, Fond du Lac County
• 3rd Place $500 scholarship winner: The Crossway – Fond du Lac High School with a study and extracurricular space concept . Mentor – Steve Leaman, Horicon Bank

Team 5G of Laconia High School won the Community Choice Award from the audience for the Most Creative Idea and Best Presentation/Pitch with their customizable, compact grill.

The event and scholarships were made possible by presenting sponsor Society Insurance, as well as Agnesian HealthCare, Mercury Marine, C.D. Smith Construction, Fond du Lac Area Foundation, Michels, J.F. Ahern, Drexel Building Supply, Integrity Saw & Tool, Moraine Park Technical College, NBW Bank, Quad Graphics, Summit Automotive, Kondex Corporation, wisnet, and location sponsor Marian University. For more information about the IGNITE! Youth Idea Challenge, please visit ignitefdlc.com/youth-idea-challenge.