Two Pinkerton Academy teams recently competed at the inaugural high school “Shark Tank” event at the Peter T. Paul School of Business at the University of New Hampshire.
The two teams, both sophomores, created a product and pitched it to the “sharks” at the June 7 event. While the sharks didn’t bite for either option, they gave constructive criticism and encouraged the young inventors to keep trying.
Ryan Cox, a sophomore from Derry, said 16 teams from around the state and northern Massachusetts came to UNH for the event. “Each of us had a pitch an idea for a business,” he said. One team already had a state license for their product and others were manufacturing their items, Cox said.
Under the direction of adviser Derek Lee, eight Pinkerton sophomores began to brainstorm a product. They ended up splitting into two teams, the Wicked Headphones company and the #wickedselfie company.
Cassandra Wright of Derry joined the group because she “loves” the show Shark Tank, in which entrepreneurs pitch products to investors. “I thought it would be a cool opportunity to be creative and work with people my age,” she said.
Andrew Cunningham, also of Derry, agreed. “I watch it all the time,” he said of the ABC hit. “They create so many jobs. We need that. And all the money they give out – it’s inspirational.”
Cunningham got the idea for the Wicked Selfie Case from a friend, Andrew Nelson. Nelson’s cell phone’s front camera produced a poor-quality picture, Cunningham said. “The front camera often has a bad quality, it’s blurry with low resolution,” he said.
Cunningham came up with a mirror system within the cell phone case, which reflects the picture back to the shooter with better quality.
His team included Wright, who researched the competition; Samra Silva of Derry, who did the financials; and Jessie Thompson of Chester, who did marketing. The group also had custom T-shirts with the Wicked Selfie logo.
Cox created the idea for Wicked Headphones, which are sturdier than regular headphones and suitable for athletes, the military or other active people. His team included Sam Mitchell of Chester, Taylor Connolly of Hampstead and Joey Dumais of Hampstead. They researched materials and planned a prototype made out of Kevlar, a tough material, Cox said. Instead of having the wires fray, their plan spun the wires together to make them stronger, he said.
Their model would not freeze or melt in the varied temperatures of New Hampshire, they added.
Were the Sharks mean? The Wicked Selfie team didn’t think so. “They were nice,” Silva said.
Thompson said, “They gave good constructive criticism and seemed genuinely interested in us.”
The Headphone team’s judges were a little edgier. “We were jealous of their judges,” Cox said. “Our judges were more critical and were looking for finer detail. They wanted to make us the best we could be.”
It didn’t faze Mitchell, who plays varsity soccer. “The coaches ‘rough you up’ in sports, to make you better,” she observed.
Neither group was able to produce their product due to lack of time, but they came away encouraged and plan to participate next year. “If we made it to first place we would have gone on,” Mitchell said, noting that the first-place prize comes with cash and they could produce their product.
While they didn’t win, it was a good learning experience, Cox said.
“It was good exposure, a way to see how different people think,” he said. “It’s a good experience for me, because I want to go into business,” Silva said.
“It’s dream-building,” Cunningham summed up the experience. “You have a dream, and you can make it or break it.”