Niles North students participated in their very own version of ABC’s Shark Tank, the popular television show in which budding entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to industry tycoons, hoping to interest them in investing a stake in their product. Jean Attig’s Business Strategies and Entrepreneurship class at Niles North worked with a team from Creative Promotional Products in Skokie, Illinois to develop new and innovative products to bring to the marketplace.
Creative Promotional Products has been an innovator in their industry due in large part to their philosophy of Constant And Never-ending Improvement (C.A.N.I.). They were one of the first companies to open their own office in Asia back in 2000. They were the first as well to bring in-house their own graphic design firm, fabrication team, ad agency and print house. This philosophy helps them provide creative and high quality custom creations from small to large-scale projects for their customers.
Using the C.A.N.I. philosophy, Mike Elowe, Creative’s Chief Operating Officer and Vice President reached out to Niles North. The company wanted to work with high school students to introduce them to the industry, as well as to career paths in sales, marketing and branding. Elowe is a Niles North Class of 1984 graduate and he wanted to pilot the program at his former school as a way to give back to the Skokie community.
The Creative team consisted of Dan Granick, President; Jeremy Brick, Vice President of Brand Development; Jonathan Lee, Director of Marketing, and Elowe.
“As a group we realized that none of us were aware of this industry when we were making life decisions such as choosing a college or a first job,” said Elowe. “We thought, why not try to change that? We wanted to empower the students to be able to make something themselves. We wanted to show them that we all have the ability to participate in the creative development process.”
The assignment for the class was to develop a new product suggestion to solve an everyday problem. At the next meeting, students gave a 2-3 minute pitch, using Kickstarter video pitches as their inspiration. At the third meeting, the Creative team chose one of the product suggestions and students were given the task to create a video for the product, including elements such as the story behind the product, product design, brand name, logo design, pricing strategies, and more. At the fourth and final meeting, students presented their ideas to the team. On Shark Tank, after the pitches are made, sometimes the sharks venture an offer. Sometimes the pitches go well and the sharks bite. After the students’ presentations, Creative had a proposition for the Niles North class as well. They offered every student in the class a summer internship to pursue bringing the product to market. Along with that task, students will also explore other opportunities within the company.
“The Creative team was impressed with the students,” said Attig. “I think they didn’t expect the students to be at this level. However, the kids wanted to be at this level.”
“We were impressed with their overall business knowledge, as well as their ability to present their product ideas, defend their concepts and creatively develop the basics of a product development plan,” said Elowe. “We were anything but easy on them, and they all stood the test. The students each had some rather creative concepts. But more than that, we were extremely impressed with the research and the thought and effort they put into their presentations.”
The selected concept was a product in the pet industry; the American Pets Products Association estimates sales of pet items to top $70 Billion this year.
“We plan to work with the students to further develop the marketing plan as well as work on product prototypes over the summer. We will develop the product through a crowdfunding method to keep initial start-up and development costs low until the concept is somewhat proven via the crowdfunding vertical,” said Elowe.
The students who participated (and who have accepted summer internships with Creative Promotional Products): Peter Averey Goco, Inanan Nissan, Abdul Feroz, Saly Ezzet, Faraaz Hooda, Seth Israel, Ahmed Irfan, Simon Michalski, Ramsha Siddiqui and Altina Rexhepi.
It was Israel’s and Michalski’s idea that was chosen as the product. Israel said, “Working with Creative has been one of the most positive experiences I’ve had in high school. I’ve never considered myself to be creative, however these past weeks brought out a side of me I never knew was there.”
The students are fortunate to be a part of this opportunity as Creative will let the students become a part of their team, even with some of their existing clients. Creative Promotional Products benefits from this relationship as well. As Elowe said, “Great teachers will tell you that many overlook the power in what a student can teach you. Thankfully, we were good listeners. These students are on the cutting edge of what is trending, and better yet, what will be trending next. We plan to be flexible and open to all of the students that want to be involved. Our entire company is looking forward to working with them this summer.”
Michalski said, “Being able to work with Creative is definitely one of the best opportunities for success that I have received during high school. Thanks to Creative I have a much better idea of what I want to do with my future and I think that every student should, at one point before college, get an opportunity like this as it is more helpful than any individual class available.”
The Education to Careers (ETC) Department at District 219 works with students to investigate potential career choices and opportunities in the workplace. Two of the most meaningful ETC programs, Job Shadow Days and Ask the Expert Days, have provided students with invaluable opportunities to interact with professionals in numerous career areas. Students have gained knowledge of job responsibilities and the critical skills that life and work demand, and have a better understanding of why English, math, science and other courses they take at school are important. Work-based learning experiences may also include mock businesses or school-based businesses, research projects, and other opportunities to learn about the career world. Counselors, teachers and the ETC coordinator may provide guidance to those students who are seeking more long-term opportunities such as part-time jobs or service learning (volunteer) experiences. Contact Lisa Edelson, ETC Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.