A group of young entrepreneurs got their time in the tank Aug. 13, when the Boys and Girls Club of Airdrie and Area (BGCA) hosted a Shark Tank-inspired event at its headquarters at the Ron Ebbesen Arena.
According to Sammy Morros, co-ordinator of Youth Programs and Services, the idea stemmed from BGCA’s Raise the Grade program. She said the program is focused on transitioning youth to adulthood and improving success in school.
“That’s sort of what inspired us to take an entrepreneurial direction with this summer camp,” she said. “It’s also an opportunity that was afforded to us by COVID and the pandemic because our camp numbers are smaller. That gave us an opportunity to work more one-to-one with a smaller group of kids.”
The camp was structured like Shark Tank, a business-themed reality television show where hopeful entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas or prototypes to a panel of venture capitalists, or "sharks." The sharks ask questions to each presenter and decide whether or not to invest money into the idea.
“If you’ve seen Shark Tank, you’ll know the TV show version is pretty serious,” Morros said. “But we’re the BGCA, and we wanted to put our own spin on things and make it fun.”
One by one or in pairs, 10 participants between the ages of 10 and 15 pitched their hypothetical business plan or invention idea to a panel of investment-hungry sharks, including Mayor Peter Brown.
Bicycle trailers, edible candy facemasks and customizable figurines were just some of the ideas pitched at the camp.
Morros said the project’s main benefit was providing BGCA's summer campers the opportunity to practice their public speaking skills and gain experience building a product or business from scratch.
“They got to explore, a little bit, the financials of business – how much for your raw product versus how much you sell it for,” she said. “I think if we can plant entrepreneurial seeds in kids as they’re young, it may inspire them to pursue some of their own business interests in the future.”
After all the presentations had concluded, the four sharks gathered to discuss which entrepreneur would receive the golden shark trophy, which was awarded to the top pitch. In addition to that prize, each shark chose a participant to “invest” in by providing him or her a Dairy Queen gift card.
MelonCorps – a custom statue-making company – was the winner of the golden shark trophy.
According to Morros, the shark motif was evident throughout the event. The judges wore shark hats, there were ocean predator-themed refreshments and fake warning signs were posted around the room saying there were sharks in the area.
Morros also tested the audience with shark-related trivia while the judges deliberated about the winner of the golden shark.
“We took the shark motif and really ran with it this week,” she said.
Thirteen-year-old Zachary Partridge was among the camp’s participants. He said his pitch was for a company that would make customizable figurines of lesser-known TV characters.
“Most of the time, when I’m at stores, I’m always looking for certain characters, but I can’t find them,” Partridge said. “So, I figured I might as well make my own.”
Partridge, who is entering grade 9 at St. Martin de Porres High School in the fall, said he enjoys the show Shark Tank and was excited to take part in BGCA’s camp this summer.
“I like how it’s all real and not staged,” he said. “I get to see what real business is like, for when I’m older.”