DuBOIS — The North Central PA LaunchBox Powered by Penn State DuBois — a program that helps entrepreneurs and existing businesses grow — hosted a virtual “Dare to Dream” competition for students at DuBois Area High School during the last school year and hopes to expand the entrepreneurial contest to other districts during the 2021-22 school year.
Peyton Kifer and Abigail Riffe, who will be seniors this coming year, were named winners in the inaugural LaunchBox competition.
“If you’re looking at doing an expansion, if you’re a business owner, we can help with that,” LaunchBox Director Brad Lashinsky said during the “Dare to Dream” award ceremony at the DuBois Area High School at the end of the last school year. “Or, if you’re an entrepreneur with an idea, we can put the resources around you to help you be successful.”
Whether it’s financial lending, marketing, branding or staffing, Lashinsky said if entrepreneurs come to the LaunchBox, they have a multitude of resource partners who can put all of those different components around the business together to help them be successful.
Another component of the LaunchBox program is P-12 (preschool through senior high) education, said Lashinsky.
“We like to get out into the schools and do different types of programming to help kids think entrepreneurially,” he said.
During the 2020-21 school year at the DuBois Area Middle School, the LaunchBox partnered with Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania to do financial literacy programming.
“It was a little bit unique in that we weren’t able to get into the schools because of the pandemic, but we did video recordings of six different financial literacy modules,” said Lashinsky.
And at the high school, there was the “Dare to Dream” competition.
“That’s something that we created because there is an adult version of it called the ‘Big Idea’ competition, which is run by Ben Franklin Technology Partners, and we participated in two of those so far over the last year and a half,” he said. “But ‘Dare to Dream’ is essentially developing an idea, creating something of interest to you, and then fleshing out the details and being able to pitch that idea to a panel of judges.”
Lashinsky said the LaunchBox appreciated the fact that 11th grade DAHS students entered the competition and put together an application for an idea. From there, the LaunchBox narrowed the entries down to a couple of finalists, who then pitched their ideas to the Clearfield County Commissioners.
“And I have to tell you finalists, the Clearfield County Commissioners were extremely impressed with your presentations,” said Lashinsky.
Kifer was the first-place winner, while Riffe was the second-place winner. Other finalists recognized at the end of the school year were Sydney Peace, Julian Roen and Kalei Link. Charlene Challingsworth was not present.
The winners received prizes including Visa gift cards and T-shirts. Kifer claimed $300 in gift cards for his first-place idea, and Riffe took home $200 in gift cards for her idea. These prizes were funded by the Fairman Family Foundation through the LaunchBox Endowment.
Kifer’s pitch was for his Rainy Day Bracelet Co., specializing in the sale of homemade bracelets that he taught himself to make during the pandemic quarantine. He said he plans to expand his line into keychains and necklaces while promoting sales online.
Riffe’s business idea was Little Beavers Babysitting. Her plan includes a web-based management system through which she can hire babysitters and match them with busy parents in need of childcare.
Lashinsky also thanked the district for hosting the pilot program.
The aim of the program is to foster an entrepreneurial spirit in area youth that they will carry throughout their lives and careers, he said.
“We encourage you to continue to apply in years to follow because we’re going to continue to grow this program,” Lashinsky said to the students. “Our idea for next year is to host it again and add about four additional schools. We’ll have a finale in each school and then a regional finale with all four or five schools participating.”