By Jean Seegers


ROCKTON – After months of preparation, students in the Entrepreneurial Incubator Program at Hononegah High School (HHS) recently made their pitch to the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Board of Directors.

The MVP Board is a group of committed volunteers that represent various industries and organizations from the region.

MVP supports and assists applicants and provides matched funding of 50% of the approved project costs to demonstrate an idea, develop a prototype or customize a solution.

Seven teams of student entrepreneurs stood before the Board to present their business model, based on a product or idea that they have been developing and honing in the classroom. The program is patterned after the popular television show, “Shark Tank.”

At the end of their presentation, the MVP Board weighed in with suggestions and recommendations.

Each student group identified the amount of funding needed to move their product forward. Grant funds supporting the project are provided by Stillman Bank, Members Alliance Credit Union and First National Bank and Trust.

HHS Junior Omar Saulter could not find a company to publish a book he authored last year. Now he wants to launch “Saulted Arts,” a teen publishing company.

After presenting his ideas to the MVP Board, Saulter requested funds to cover marketing costs and to launch a National Teen writing contest.

Seniors Edward Ray, Trevor Storm, Garrett Schmidt and Ben Fiego came up with “Snack n’ Slack,” a unique concept that would deliver restaurant food right to the customer’s door. The group already has a webapp with a list of restaurants and menus that customers can choose from. Their theme is, “The web page that delivers.”

Throughout the school year, coaches and mentors made up of more than 20 area business leaders have visited the classroom, advising and sharing information as often as two to three times a week. Their objective is to encourage entrepreneurship and guide students through the stages of developing a business plan.

MVP Board member Nathan Bolin said much of the credit for the program’s success goes to the incubator mentors and coaches “They are the heavy lifters,” he said.

Jason Brunke, Career and Technical Coordinator at HHS, initiated the Incubator program in 2014. He was looking for a fresh approach to teaching business innovation. He visited the Barrington School District where the program began, and found what he was looking for. Hononegah is now one of 32 schools in Illinois implementing the course.

“There is incredible community support for the program,” Brunke said. “Financial, marketing, branding and business professionals from throughout the area volunteer their time. The Incubator Program is a huge learning experience for the students.”

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Jean Seegers photos

Seven groups of students in the Entrepreneurial Incubator Program at Hononegah High School recently presented their business plans to the members of the Minimal Viable Products (MVP) Board of Directors. The volunteer Board is made up of volunteers representing industries and organizations in the area. They make recommendations and weigh the student’s request for funds. Serving on the board are: (standing) Michelle Matthys – First National Bank and Trust; Edward Yoho – Entrepreneur: Nathan Bolin – Stillman Bank; Chad Daugherty – Associate Principal HHS; Ray Ferguson – Attorney. (Seated) Bob Geddeis – HHS Board Member and retired from Greenlee Tool; John Yoho – Entrepreneur and Matt Lunch – Members Alliance Credit Union.

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