Winning Business Ideas

Put together eight student teams, 14 mentors and judges (mostly alumni, plus a Gilman spouse and a few parents), and an internationally recognized serial entrepreneur and educator, and what do you get? Hundreds of ideas for business startups, ranging from fanciful to feasible.

Gilman's fifth annual Startup Experience, designed to jumpstart students' entrepreneurial spirit, took place recently. The intensive two-day workshop paired sophomore, junior, and senior boys with alumni mentors to identify real world problems, create solutions, and develop business models. At the end of the second day teams pitched their startup ideas to a panel of alumni judges.

Facilitator Henrik Scheel has led Startup Experience programs for corporations and leading universities in more than 25 countries. Gilman was the first high school in the U.S. to take part. Scheel says the work of our boys are on par with the work he sees at the college level. Gilman is also the first school to run an entrepreneurship course for credit as a follow-up to the workshop.

Concepts this year included the widest range to date, and included housing for recovering addicts, an arrival notification app for public transportation, specialized college counseling and athletic recruitment services, and an oxygen-delivery system for sleep-deprived people (for example, students) in need of a shot of energy. The winner: Shoe Shower, a method of cleaning shoes that struck the judges as solving an unmet need as well as having great potential to become a successful business. Students also voted for their favorite, which was the judges' runner up choice: DeliveryGates, an in-airport food delivery service.

"There was such great excitement in the room," said Gilman Director of Alumni Relations Nathaniel Badder '94. "Both the students and the alumni mentors/judges dove into the project full-force. The students came up with great ideas, and the mentors capably guided them through the business development process. It was so cool to see generations of Gilman men -- and one Gilman wife! -- working together to solve real world problems."


We are grateful to participating alumni and parents, who included venture capitalists and entrepreneurs, for giving so much of their time and expertise to the boys:

Lawson DeVries '96, General Partner, Grotech Ventures

Phil Han '04, Owner, Dooby's Coffee, Sugarvale, Sundays

Charlie Moore '76, Partner, Dinnertime

Rob Schrepfer P '23, VP of Business Development, ANI Pharmaceuticals

Eno Umoh '04, Co-Founder, Global Air Media

Saul Waller '01, Vice President, Columbia Partners Investment Management

Bill Miller '99, Portfolio Manager, Miller Value Partners

Becky Miller, Co-Founder and CEO, Tinyhood

Tom Washburn '85, President, Washburn Wine Company

Robb Lawrence P '28, President, Salient Consulting

James Piper Bond '77, President & CEO, https://www.livingclassrooms.org

Josh Levinson '89, Owner, Charm City Run

Bruce Taylor '67, President, Taylor Service Company

Mark Neumann '81, Chairman, 510 Ventures