Students Get Down to Business in Entrepreneurship Class

Nathaniel Badder ’94 is a self-described “recovering entrepreneur.” He is also the Director of Alumni Relations at Gilman, and his previous experience running his own business is what inspired him to teach the Entrepreneurship class this spring.

The challenge presented to the boys when the class began was to 1) identify a real-world problem and then 2) to develop a viable business solution to address it. Extra credit would be given if the business made a positive social impact. Students were divided into two teams and each one took on a specific role within the group. To assist them along the way, Badder brought in alumni experts from a variety of fields — most entrepreneurs themselves — to share their knowledge and experiences (a full list is included below). Class sessions included topics on fundamental business practices like product development, marketing and branding, and sales.

To conclude the semester, on Tuesday, May 10, they held “Demo Day” — a Shark-Tank-style competition, which brought three alumni/sharks back to Roland Avenue: Josh Levinson ’89, owner of Charm City Run, Sebastian Seiguer ’90, CEO of emocha Mobile Health Inc., and Frederick “Beau” Smith ’99, senior risk manager at the Maryland State Retirement and Pension System. The teams were judged in the following categories: pitch, problem, business, journey, and overall winner. The audience filled with Upper School students and faculty members got to vote as well.

The Sharks asked challenging and probing questions of the two teams after their presentations, which included creative videos, industry research, survey data, business plans, and financial projections.

Up first was Parrot, whose idea was a platform for high school students to showcase their artwork and where interested customers can browse and make purchases. The company aims to help students sell their art and gain exposure while also creating a community that empowers student artists. They ambitiously projected that in three years using a commission-based model, Parrot could be making $5 million! “We are Parrot, and we are changing high school art,” the CEO said in his conclusion.

Next up was Hot Golf, a company that seeks to solve a problem for golfers who lose golf balls (aka, all golfers!). The team’s proposal was to market two different products directly to their two distinct consumer groups: 1) a golf ball pouch heater, which heats golf balls using the same technology as baby bottle insulated pouch warmers, would be paired with a thermal scope for more experienced and affluent golfers, and 2) special 3D-printed glasses with high contrast that would allow golfers to better distinguish golf balls from the rough, targeted to younger golfers who are just starting their careers. Though the products are still in the research and development phase, their financial graphs project more than half a million dollars in profit down the line!

After lots of speculation and discussion, the audience-selected winners were:

  • Best Pitch: Hot Golf
  • Biggest Problem: Hot Golf
  • Most Viable Business Business: Parrot
  • Most Effective Journey: Parrot
  • Overall Winner: Parrot

The sharks convened privately and returned to the auditorium with their decision. “Both teams did a really nice job,” said Seiguer. He commented that Hot Golf’s team was clever to isolate the savings customers would experience from no longer losing golf balls should they purchase the product. They liked how Parrot’s idea involved a real product that exists right now. “Both teams showed how they pivoted through challenges,” he said.

Ultimately, Parrot came out on top. “It’s a real idea. If you don’t do it, someone will.”

Congratulations to both teams! And, thanks to all who participated along the way.

Alumni Advisors:
  • Alex Benfield '10, Crypto Analyst at Weiss Ratings
  • Mark Bower '99, Sky Lion Group
  • Kevin Buerger '87, CEO at Incubeta US
  • Jonathan Cooper '98, Vice President of Engineering at Versapay
  • Haftan Eckholdt '83, Chief Science Officer at Understood
  • Jason Finkelstein '94, CMO at Gladly
  • Jason Griswold '93, Co-Founder & CRO at REIN
  • Harris Jones '80, Managing Partner at Swallow Point Ventures
  • JD Kameen '10, Co-Founder & CEO at Paintru
  • Jack King '10, Software Investor at JMI Equity
  • Nick Owsley '93, Co-Founder at Tipedia
  • Zach Ranen '14, Founder & CEO at RAIZE
  • Garrett Weinstein '14, Founder at CareFull
  • John Wise '96, Growth Strategy Consultant at Material