Twin, Sheridan students haul in over $15,000 in prizes in business contest

J.P. Plutt
Wednesday, March 31, 2021
Quiet on the set

Allie Dale and Emma Konen record their video pitch for Organize Restore Recycle, the third place entry in the existing business category. Submitted photo

Top Prize

Sheridan’s Jenna Nate stands in front of her video of Window Warmer, an idea that earned her $6,000 in cash and scholarship. Submitted photo

Kids in the Ruby Valley are fired up about entrepreneurship. After a recent contest concluded, students from Sheridan and Twin Bridges were over $15,000 in cash and scholarships richer, due to their innovative and fertile business acumen.

The Montana Chamber Foundation sponsored ‘Prospects,’ a business pitch contest for high school students across the state. Ruby Valley students claimed a first, second and third in the two contested categories, as well as winning a special prize category and four honorable mention prizes. There were 93 students entered in the contest from schools of all sizes, from Class AA to Class C.

Destiny Howser, the Sheridan schools business and technology teacher, encourages her students in small business management/entrepreneurship to enter a contest each year. This year that contest was ‘Prospects,’ but in the end, only one of her students entered... and won $5,000 cash and a $1,000 scholarship to Montana State University.

Jenna Nate, a junior at Sheridan, called her product the Windshield Warmer. The product goes over the top of the windshield on the outside, and straps to the side mirrors. The product is controlled digitally from a cellular telephone using an application (app).

“Basically, at the beginning of my course, I have students think of a problem that they could solve, so we look at the community and problems in their everyday lives,” explained Howser. “So Jenny came up with this windshield warmer. We were talking about people who might not have a remotestart vehicle, in the mornings having to go out to their vehicles multiple times, to start it and defrost the windshield and leaving their vehicle running 15 minutes to a half hour.”

Safety concerns mentioned by Nate included people driving with frosted windows, and elderly people trying to negotiate slick sidewalks to start their cars.

“The first thing the kids had to do was write a 1,000-word business summary and we did a lot of that in class over the course of the semester,” said Howser. “The last piece was to create a two-minute long video pitch. Right when we were getting rolling with this video pitch, our school shut down due to COVID, so she did the video by herself from home.”

Howser said Nate is motivated to get a college education to become an accountant. She is currently researching scholarship opportunities and hopes to attend Montana State.

“She is definitely a kid who will use the money wisely,” said Howser. “I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of the money doesn’t go towards her college tuition.”

Jody Sandru is the business/ technology teacher at Twin Bridges. Her class turned the ‘Prospects’ competition upside down with the incredible success of her students. Of the 17 students in her youth entre preneur class, 14 placed in the competition and earned a share of over $10,000.

“I just want people to understand that it is so much more than a class,” said Sandru. “It is like training young leaders. What I mean by that, with every problem there is an opportunity, that is how we see the world now.”

Sandru posed the project to her students that the world was in a pandemic and that they should think of problems faced in rural Twin Bridges and come up with a business idea as a solution. The 17 students formed 10 teams and went to work.

“It was so cool to watch the process unfold,” said Sandru. “This project just became this amazing opportunity to see my kids take problems that we have here, create a business plan, and then pitch it to a group of business leaders in Montana.”

Like in Sheridan, at Twin Bridges the business plan comes first, “It is always something the kids don’t like to do.”

When the time came to make the two-minute video pitches, the students set to work with what Sandru calls a ‘Cadillac’ Adobe video editing system at the school. Then a COVID quarantine hit the school and the kids were forced to use what Sandru described as “a cheap, online system that I bought for nothing.”

“My kids had so much grit,” said Sandru. “Every single one of these kids powered through and they got it done from home. One of my teams actually caught COVID – their voices were really raspy. I literally cried as the teams were turning in their videos.”

Twin Bridges starred in the Existing Business category with a second and third place entry. Ian Frederick and Ezekiel Redfield finished second to a Bozeman High School student with their plan for Ruby Valley Tech Trainers. They won a $2,500 cash prize and each won a $1,000 scholarship to MSU.

According to Sandru, the Tech Trainers actually followed through with their plan and went out and helped senior citizens set-up their IPads and apps so that they could stay connected with relatives during the pandemic.

The Twin Bridges team of Emma Konen and Alicia Dale won a $1,500 cash prize and $1,000 scholarships each to MSU for their idea Organize Restore Recycle. They placed third in the Existing Business category.

Sandru said Konen and Dale began by helping teachers with the extensive COVID cleaning that had to be done in classrooms. They then began organizing classrooms, and finally accepting items that were no longer wanted and recycling or re-purposing the items.

Ceanna Berezay won the top special prize category, COVID-19 Inspired, and the $1,000 cash prize that went with it. Berezay, a student Sandru says plans on going into cosmetology, noted that it was hard for salons to remain viable in small towns. Her idea was to remake an Airstream trailer into a portable salon and go to a different rural town each day.

“She is hoping to start in Madison County this way and then go from there,” said Sandru.

The members of four different teams were each given a $250 gift card for being named an honorable mention winner.

• Connor Nye and Reid Johnson pitched Get Yolked, a farm to table idea where they would deliver fresh eggs to customer’s doors.

• Hadley Johnson and Callie Kaiser pitched Adventures Through Learning, a tutoring company to help students who were behind on their studies due to COVID interruptions.

• Ayla Janzen and Ellie Meek, pitched Little Bridgers, a day camp for different age groups.

• Carl Shaw and Sam Konen pitched

Ruby Valley Organic Chow, dog food for pet owners in the Ruby Valley.

2021 PROSPECTS NEW BUSINESS IDEA FINALISTS CHAMPION ($5,000 Prize): Windshield Warmer, Jenna Nate, Sheridan High School.

RUNNER-UP ($2,500 Prize): Graze, Ben Archer, Lewistown, Fergus County High School. THIRD PLACE ($1,500 Prize): Dual-Metal Creality Heatbreak, Cialeo Smith, Lewistown, Fergus County High School. MOST PROMISE ($500 Prize): The Right Shoe, Autumn Harris, Billings Skyview.

EXISTING BUSINESS FINALISTS CHAMPION ($5,000 Prize): Kratos Apparel, Jacob Kiem, Bozeman High School

RUNNER-UP ($2,500 Prize): Ruby Valley Tech Trainers, Ian Frederick & Ezekial Redfield, Twin Bridges High School.

THIRD PLACE ($1,500 Prize): Organize Restore Recycle, Emma Konen & Alicia Dale, Twin Bridges High School.

MOST PROMISE ($500 Prize): Lucky Shoes Welding, Kyle McKee, Billings Senior High School.

SPECIAL PRIZE CATEGORIES COVID-19 INSPIRED ($1,000 Prize): Zippy Do -Mobile Hair Salon, Ceanna Berezay, Twin Bridges High School.

HIGH-TECH & E-COMMERCE ($500 Prize): Sarah’s Errands, Sarah Browning, Billings Career Center(Sponsored by the Montana High Tech Business Alliance).

COMMUNITY INSPIRATION ($500 Prize each): LaRue Hot Springs Museum and Paris Gibson Education Center (Great Falls)(Sponsored by Jobs for Montana’s Graduates).

MAURICE HILLEMAN INSPIRATION($500 Prize each): Aiden’s Custom Kicks, Aiden Perkins, Culbertson; James Crazymule Memorial Dialysis Center, Shakira Burns, Colstrip; LaRue Hot Springs Museum (Sponsored by the Maurice Hilleman Scholars Program at Montana State University — Bozeman).

MARKETING MENTORSHIP: Wholesome Hal’s, Hallie Thompson, Great Falls High(Sponsored by Tara Beam, Roadhouse Diner, Great Falls).2DRONES & DATA: Pipeline Tech, Lily Herzog, Kylee Bryant & Matthew Brubaker, Rapelje High School (Sponsored by RDO Equipment).

BUTTE AREA AWARDS ($500 each): A Newly Outfitted Butte, Butte Grown, Continental Complex and Variant(Sponsored by the Butte Community Development Corporation).

GOLDEN TRIANGLE AWARDS ($500 each): Sun River Valley Robotics and Via’s Productions(Sponsored by the Great Falls Economic Development Authority).

BOZEMAN CITY AWARDS ($500 each): Kratos Apparel and Tyler Kye Productions(Sponsored by the City of Bozeman).

HONORABLE MENTIONS ($250 Gift Cards each)

Adventures Through Learning, Hadley Johnson and Callie Kaiser, Twin Bridges; Colstrip Clean-up Crew, Colstrip; Get Yolked, Connor Nye and Reid Johnson, Twin Bridges; Hailstorm Silver, Billings; Harlee’s Hen House, Culbertson; Hart to Heart Semi Detailing, Billings; JordenPiano, Billings; Little Bridgers, Ayla Janzen and Ellie Meek, Twin Bridges; Pederson Brothers Mechanic Shop, Culbertson; RV Organic Chow, Carl Shaw and Sam Konen, Twin Bridges; Secure Board, Missoula.