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‘Shark Tank’ competition partners students with local businesses

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Competitors in the 5th annual Geneva Capital Shark Tank event, along with judges, pose for a photo after the event, which took place Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, in Alexandria.
Contributed photo

Alexandria Area High School Business CAPS students competed in the 5th annual Geneva Capital Shark Tank event Sunday, Jan. 16.

Nine groups of students presented to a panel of judges from Geneva Capital at the annual DECA Foundation Shark Tank event. This project not only partnered the students with businesses in the Alexandria community, but it also gave DECA students an opportunity to win $21,000 in academic scholarships.

“Each group performed extremely well,” said Eric Hartmann, DECA advisor.

He added that ultimately, the judging panel of Tim Bush, Kyle Athey, Lisa Juettner and Andrew Cavers, ended up selecting the following teams as the first, second and third place winners:

  • First place – Colin Reilly, Hailie Kent and Tyler Bright. Each student received a $4,000 scholarship. 
  • Second place – Erika Zick, Ben Borden and Sidney Johnson. Each student received a $2,000 scholarship. 
  • Third place – Lillian Thul and Myles Sansted. Each student received a $1,000 scholarship. 
First place winners.
The first place team in the Shark Tank event include, front row, from left, Colin Reilly, Hailie Kent and Tyler Bright. They each received a $4,000 scholarship. They are pictured with the judges, from left, Tim Bush, Lisa Juettner, Kyle Athey and Andrew Cavers.
Contributed photo

The first place team partnered with Ameriprise Financial. According to team member, Tyler Bright, they created a plan to increase the employee experience at that business.

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“Some of our proposed activities included providing the support staff of the office with health and dental insurance, along with a picnic table and grill for the office,” said Bright, noting that the team also worked on a plan to increase meetings within Ameriprise to improve communication.

Bush, who was one of the judges, said the Shark Tank competition is a great event for the students and that it is a “real blessing” that Geneva Capital puts it on for the DECA students each year.

“The top team was Ameriprise and I thought the detail that they had in their employee surveys regarding employee engagement and the analysis they did on that aspect of it was the strength of their written 20-page paper,” said Bush.

The second place team worked with Aagard, and Bush said he thought the team’s overall presentation to the audience is what set them apart.

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The second place team in the Shark Tank event include, front row, from left, Erika Zick, Ben Borden and Sidney Johnson. They each received a $2,000 scholarship. They are pictured with the judges, from left, Tim Bush, Lisa Juettner, Kyle Athey and Andrew Cavers.
Contributed photo

“They had excellent eye contact and hand gestures, and clearly and concisely presented their findings,” he said.

Benjamin Borden, member of the second place team, said that the Business Operations Research project for the competition consisted of two parts – a 20-page research paper and the 15-minute presentation that detailed the groups research, proposed activities and all other aspects of the project.

“Our group chose to focus their research on employee loyalty, community involvement, social engagement and employee well-being,” said Borden. “This led our group to create a proposed incentive for Aagard to implement called the ‘TEAM campaign.’ With each letter starting for a campaign objective, the T stands for Together, E stands for Engage, A stands for Align and M for Motivate. Under each objective there were activities that would work to satisfy each objective.”

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The third place team in the Shark Tank event include, front row, from left, Lillian Thul and Myles Sansted. They each received a $1,000 scholarship. They are pictured with the judges, from left, Tim Bush, Lisa Juettner, Kyle Athey and Andrew Cavers.
Contributed photo

Borden said that Shark Tank taught him the value of hard work and perseverance.

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“Before my group partnered with Aagard, the first two businesses that we tried to work with were unable to partner with us, meaning we started six weeks behind,” he said. “Finishing with a second place title feels incredibly rewarding after everything my group had faced.”

Bright said winning the scholarship meant a lot to him and his team members.

“The countless hours of hard work that I put in for the last semester really paid off with a win in the local Shark Tank competition, and I would just like to thank Geneva Capital once again for such a great experience,” he said.

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Judges for the 5th annual Geneva Capital Shark Tank event, which took place Sunday, Jan. 16, 2022, at the Alexandria Area High School, included from left, Andrew Cavers, Tim Bush, Lisa Juettner and Kyle Athey.
Contributed photo

Here’s what other team members had to say about being winners in the competition:

  • “The Shark Tank event is an uncomparable real-world experience that I was very fortunate to be able to take part in. The hard work that was put into the project by all the groups was so evident and it was so cool to see all the projects slowly come together,” said Sidney Johnson. “Aside from the work being done, the bonds created between partners, students, teachers and businesses were something that an average high schooler doesn't always receive, and that is a win in itself.” 
  • “The shark tank competition has been something I have been looking forward to since I started DECA as a sophomore,” said Erika Zick. “I feel incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to even compete in such an amazing event. To be a winner in the competition makes me feel that much more fortunate not just for the scholarships but also for my partners who helped make it possible.”
  • “It’s awesome to receive recognition and a reward for all the hard work that we have put into this,” said Colin Reilly. “Each group had a strong project and we knew it would be a tough competition.” 

“To me, being a winner means that I have received success from all of the hard work and time that I have put into my project,” said Hailie Kent. “It feels good to know that I did everything I could to gain experience and collaborate with the community to create a successful presentation and create an impact on a business.”

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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