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Speas Students Celebrate Entrepreneurship at Wake Forest "Entrepalooza"

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Speas 5 By Samra Childers

Media Coordinator

Speas Global Elementary School

APRIL 11, 2019 – On Thursday, April 4, 16 students from the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade AIG classes at Speas Global Elementary School attended the Wake Forest University Entrepalooza , where WFU entrepreneurial students pitched their startup ideas to WFU students and faculty, investors, and other entrepreneurs.

Speas students were there by special invitation of Dr. Dan Cohen, Executive Director for Entrepreneurship at WFU. Dr. Cohen had visited the 3rd grade AIG class earlier in the year, at the request of AIG teacher Jack Smith, to talk about entrepreneurship and to get them started on their own projects. He extended this invitation as a result of the ongoing relationship between his department and the AIG department.

Under the direction of Mr. Smith and, with inspiration from Dr. Cohen, Speas students have been developing their own ideas for entrepreneurial projects and sharing their ideas with filmed video presentations. Known at Speas as “Junior Shark Tank,” students researched a project and had to determine the market and how to interest potential investors.

Speas 11 As an International Baccalaureate school, innovation and creative thinking are important, and this was an opportunity to use Inquiry-Based Learning in a potential real-world situation. Students had to research the field and come up with a product or service that met an identified need, and devise strategies for marketing it.

As always, Speas students came up with some creative ideas for products and services.

The Entrepalooza event gave Speas students, along with their parents/guardians, the opportunity to see WFU students pitch their own startup ideas. Jack Smith and Media Coordinator Samra Childers accompanied the students for this exciting experience.

The students, each wearing a professional name badge with name and entrepreneurial project, were given priority front-section seating by Dr. Jennifer Bennett, Communication and Program Director for the Center for Entrepreneurship.

Speas students were very much aware of this honor.

Several students commented on how excited they were to be right up front!

According to 3rd grader Margaret Sprinkle, “There were special seats just for the Speas students.”

Merna Eldeeb (4th grade) agreed, with a thank you to Dr. Cohen and his team. “I really appreciate that you chose Speas Global IB School; also special thanks to Dr. Bennett for reserving our seats. It was a very special experience because I have always wanted to be in something like a reserved seat because it makes me feel really special, and the fact that it happened in Wake Forest made it even more awesome.”

They were welcomed by Dr. Cohen in his opening remarks, and introduced as The Entrepreneur Institute of Speas Elementary, with enthusiastic applause by the crowd.

This was particularly exciting for many of the Speas students, who had never been recognized at a public event before.

Speas 3 Sophie Porter (3rd grade) felt very welcome and special by the introductions and being included in a wonderful event.  “I am glad I got to come to the Entrepalooza. It was so fun.”

Speas students were very complimentary of the WFU student startup presentations,

“All the entrepreneurs had amazing ideas,” 5th grader Paris Sanchez Nunez said of the group.

Madeline Edmonds (3rd grade) agreed, and added, “I think all of the students will become famous entrepreneurs.”

Following the startup presentations by WFU students, the audience was treated to a keynote address by New York Times best-selling author, Diana Kander, who spoke on the importance of Curiosity in setting and re-evaluating strategies and goals. She shared her experiences of trying out for a basketball team and of reaching a goal for holding a “plank” position for ten minutes.  When the audience was invited to ask or answer questions, Speas students rose to the occasion with some of the most insightful comments of all, and they were warmly recognized again – this time by Ms. Kander. 

Nariah Henderson (3rd grade) could relate to the struggles of the speaker in trying to reach her “10-minute plank” goal. “At soccer practice, we have to do 1-minute planks, and we know how you feel, and they hurt.”

Following the presentations and keynote speech, Speas students were invited to attend a reception, where they were able to mingle with the presenting WFU students and faculty. Several Speas students got to express their views on their favorite presentation and why they liked it. Favorites were Milou (a dry shampoo for busy people), Decemii (a hypo-allergenic shin guard for hockey and soccer), Magic Bag (a laundry service with door-to-door delivery), and Espreado (a caffeine-infused, coffee-flavored spread).

Speas 6 Madeline Edmonds liked them all, but had a favorite.  “I loved all the inventions the students made. I especially loved Milou, the dry shampoo hairbrush.”

Ian Cummings (5th grade) liked a pitch for hypo-allergenic shin guards for hockey and soccer, as he knows how painful skin rashes can be for the players. “Decemii was really good how it was helping the athletes.”

His classmate, Maxwell Garfield, had his own favorite, but was also complimentary of the snacks at the reception. “I especially enjoyed Espreado, and thank you for the food.”

Magic Bag [Laundry Service] was the product that received 5th grader Frii Sampson-Young’s top vote, but she liked them all. “I enjoyed all of the new inventions like Espreado, Magic Bag, Crews Kit, and Marengo.”

Back at Speas, students used reflection to express what they liked best about the experience.

Moses McKinney (4th grade) was glad he got to see the students pitch their products in front of judges for valuable feedback and prize money. He is already working on an entrepreneurial business – a trading card game – and found the feedback helpful, as well as Dr. Cohen’s visit earlier in the year. “It was awesome. I love being an entrepreneur!”

Probably, the students’ overall feelings could be summed up by 4th grader Maliyah Suzuki, “Being an entrepreneur is an incredible journey.”

Speas students have already been invited back for next year’s Entrepalooza. Who knows? We may be seeing Speas alumni up there on stage presenting their startup ideas in a few years!