by Rebecca Froehlich & Wendy Royston
This year’s Big Idea Contest was filled with “real possibilities,” according to organizers.
“The three winning entries are all business that these students can start now and are already dabbling in,” said Kelly Weaver, Big Idea coordinator and regional director for the Small Business Development Center in Aberdeen. “One of the judges actually purchased one of the display pieces the finalists used in their presentation.”
The contest launched in 2007, an effort to encourage early entrepreneurship by “exposing youth to new ideas and innovation” and to build the confidence necessary to “create your own opportunities close to home and know that there is support for you … rather than leaving the region to look for a job,” according to the contest’s website.
Judges selected eight individuals/teams from 263 entries involving 400 students from 37 schools, based on written business and marketing plans in the ninth Big Idea Contest.
1st Place, $1,000: Bent Perspective
Bent Perspective, proposed by Haley Ketteler, a senior at T.F. Riggs High School in Pierre, S.D., is an origami-centered business meant to teach customers skills and provide unique gifts.
“I have always thought it would be interesting to develop an origami business, and Big Idea gave me that opportunity,” said Ketteler, who became interested in the art in seventh grade.
The art she hopes to one day teach through Bent Perspective requires great attention to detail. The Big Idea Contest has her helped shape that skill, Ketteler said.
2nd Place, $500: Caveman Custom Iron
Two students also pitched the idea of revisiting an “ancient art” in their Big Idea proposal.
“I have a forge in my garage,” self-proclaimed “hobby blacksmith” George Bernard said of the business plan he and Mark Wesolick created in order to sell hand-forged items.
Bernard said the blacksmithing company would combine his passion with business, helping “to promote and preserve the work of all sorts of the many craftspeople in and around the Black Hills area.”
3rd Place, $250: KP Photography
Wessington Springs High School junior MaKayla Pirce’s plan allows for long-income families to take advantage of arts they may otherwise not be able to.
“A lot of families can’t get their pictures taken because of how expensive they are,” she said, adding that she was inspired by her own family’s inability to purchase family pictures. “My business is there to help them with that problem,” by offering professional photography at a low cost, close to home.
Design Winner, $500: The Calving App
Necessity was the mother of invention for Ellen Schechter of Faulkton (S.D.) High School.
“My cousin, dad, and I were talking about calving season and how it is inconvenient to have an actual paper calving book,” she said.
The Calving App places the contents of a calving book at your fingertips. It tracks calving and vaccine records and is searchable. It’s also compatible with both iPhone and Android systems. Schlechter said an upgrade is in the works that also track breeding, weaning and pregnancy-checking records.
What have you learned by entering this competition?
“Trying new ideas and experimenting with already proven ideas can lead to very surprising results. It also has taught me to pay attention to detail and look at every aspect of the business to create a product that will appeal to a large customer base.”
—First-place winner Haley Ketteler (T.F. Riggs High School, Pierre) – Bent Perspective
“I have learned that there are many opportunities to make money while perusing one of my many interests.”
—Second-place winner George Bernard (St. Thomas More High School, Rapid City), partner of Mark Wesolick – Caveman Custom Iron
“I learned a lot about what it takes to be an entrepreneur and how much work it can be.”
—Third-place winner MaKayla Pirce (Wessington Springs High School) – KP Photography
“The best thing about this competition is the doors it has opened for me. I have had the opportunity to meet with developers in the area, learn about the marketing industry, and also do some public speaking.”
—Ellen Schlechter (Faulkton High School) – The Calving App
“Entrepreneurship is harder than people perceive it to be.”
—Cierra Veldhuizen, Olivia Facenda, & Jenny Rooks (St. Thomas More High School, Rapid City) – The Cooler Backpack Co., manufacturer of a backpack with an insulated pocket to prevent the need to carry a lunch bag
“I have learned a lot about what it takes to make a business successful.”
—Dalton Larson (West Central High School, Hartford) – SoDak Custom Hay Co., a hay-producing company
“I have learned how to better explain and even present about our business.”
—Eli Gerry (Madison Central High School) – Gerry’s Pumpkins and Produce, a family-run produce farm
“I have learned the importance of teamwork and creativity.”
—Sophia Wittenberg (St. Thomas More High School), partner of Brianna McGinnis and Maria Wilson – All Seasons Lighting, producing holiday lights that change colors based on the holiday, without changing the string
“I have learned that there are a lot of great ideas for businesses. People really need to believe in what they are doing and have fun doing it.”
—Tony Baumann (Redfield High School) – The Spink County Outdoorsmen, a hunting supplies company in Spink County