Parkway Students take on the business world

Students pitch in hopes of transitioning ideas to reality


Jennifer Stanfill

The panel of judges meets before the beginning of the session.

Around 7:30 a.m. on the morning of Sept. 18 a bit earlier than usual, the Chesterfield Mall was packed; rather than being full of consumers as it normally would be, it was full of entrepreneurs.

“In entrepreneurship, the value of pitching ideas is showing how their company solves a real world problem in each consumer’s life. Businessmen and women must learn to adjust the message of the pitch to who the audience is,” Maryville University’s Dustin Loeffler said.

The 19 Parkway students involved with the inaugural year of the Spark! program gathered in the Incubator to pitch their idea to a panel of judges including one of the original owner of the St. Louis Bread Company. The entrepreneurs all competed for a $500 start up donation from Maryville University.

“[An ideal pitch] has to solve a specific problem that a certain target market is having. In addition, if a group plans to take their idea to market, they need to understand the what’s the profitability?” Dean of Maryville University’s business school, John Williams, said.

The founders of the United States of Apparel meet with the audience during the intermission.
Jennifer Stanfill
The founders of the United States of Apparel meet with the audience during the intermission.

Beginning with a brief history lesson, Parkway South seniors Blaine Thomas and Brett Darland and juniors John Yucesoy and Colin Waites quickly turned cynically humorous to pitch their joke shirt company, the United States of Apparel.  The business targets local teenagers with an edgy sense of humour, and part of the profit is donated to the Wounded Warrior Project.

“Our dream is to walk onto a college campus and see our designs being worn,” Waites said. “We want that dream to become a reality, and this opportunity is a way to do so.”

Creating a babysitting community website with a rating scale from one to five fingers and a “high five” to check in for payment through Paypal, Parkway South seniors Mary Arends, Olivia Clift, Gracie Olderman and Emily Story pitched “Beyond Babysitting.” “The idea is community; everyone is referred to be apart of Beyond Babysitting – babysitters and families alike. Most babysitting companies do not hold this standard, which sets us apart,” Olderman said.

Parkway South seniors Drew Rogers and Lorna Dalton divided the lunch packing world in three groups: Brown bags, bulky lunch boxes and parents who give their kids $5. His solution addition to this is a ziploc like bag with four compartments and a carrying pouch, entitled the Plenty Pack.

“We don’t see any glimpse of hope in this industry and we think that Plenty Packs are a unique solution to this epidemic,” Rogers said.

Parkway South senior Jack Koury is the creator of Jacked! Phones, a company based in timeliness, effectiveness and quality.

“An average phone customization for me takes about an hour, and some repair only takes twenty minutes. I think it’s ridiculous that people have to drop their phones off for a week when it doesn’t take that long,” Koury said.

Changing a majority of their presentation the night before, West’s senior Emily Young teamed up with South’s senior Greg Cordover for the pitch of Snap Style, an advice app which allows people who need stylistic help to be paired up face to face with stylist.

“I think we’re a unique product; we have the probability of actually being able to accomplish this [Greg] and I have the entirety of the business spectrum between us in our partnership,” Young said.

Jack Koury, Saad Sukhura, and Brett Darland all prepare for their pitches.
Jennifer Stanfill
Jack Koury, Saad Sukhera and Brett Darland all prepare for their pitches.

Parkway North seniors Marisa Hacker and Annalise Ruzicka, creators of a straw that distributes butter evenly throughout a popcorn bin at the movies (the Popcorn Straw), used a presentation technique they referred to as the “spray and pray” – spraying all of their ideas and praying the judges stick to some of them.

“I feel like the logistics of our idea have been constricting. Websites and App ideas can be molded to your exact idea, whereas we’re tied down by physics in the analog world with the Popcorn Straw,” Hacker said.

While ill with mononucleosis and worried about losing her voice, Parkway West junior Katie Hornsby paired up with Parkway South senior Andrea Bauer to pitch “Fortitude.”

“Our long term goal is to sign six businesses by March plus any Spark! business that will take us up, the first of which has been the United States of Apparel,” Bauer said.

As a 15 year-old in 2013, Parkway Central senior Sydney Smotherson became a fashion designer and hosted a fashion show of her first summer collection.

“Spark! is helping me network and push me further from what I already have as a business. It has helped me promote my company, and I hope to win the money that Maryville is giving out,” Smotherson said.

Saad Sukhera, CEO of Legendary Incorporated, is a senior at Parkway South. Legendary Inc. is a company to track every video game player in the world over the age of 13 and make them into an online community.

“We attract gamers to our phenomenon through forums and branding that will tie the gaming world together,” Sukhera said. “Our revenue comes from advertising and membership. I’ve had this company for four years and my vision is to make it universal.”

The winners of the competition accept a 500 dollar startup donation form Maryville University
Jennifer Stanfill
The winners of the competition accept a $500 startup donation form Maryville University.

The winner of the competition was the Popcorn Straw.

“The money will go to creating a prototype and any other expenses, such as travel for trade shows to talk to potential customers,” Hacker said. This shows that we are very serious and now that we have startup funds we are able to make our idea a reality.”

After witnessing the pitches, superintendent Dr. Keith Marty hopes for Spark! to be a springboard for other programs in experiential learning.

“I hope that for the students in the program, it would be an opportunity for their ideas to grow into a reality,” Marty said. “I’ve been impressed by these students ability to answer tough questions from the panel on their feet. In the future, Parkway needs to improve upon the awareness and marketing factor of this program and programs like this.”