Last month, businesswoman and author Lowey Bundy Sichol channeled the entrepreneurial spirit of her middle grade series, From an Idea to... (HMH), into the first-ever IDEA Tank for children ages eight to 14. Held at the Winnetka Chapel on Chicago’s North Shore, the Shark Tank-style event offered more than 50 young pioneers the chance to pitch their concepts to a panel of executives and entrepreneurs. The judges included Rocky Wirtz, chairman of the Chicago Blackhawks; Thomas Parkinson, co-founder of Peapod; Val Haller, founder and CEO of Valslist.com; David Donaldson, managing director of Merrill Lynch; and Liza Solberg, founder of Spynergy Chicago. The winner received a grand prize of $1,000, and all participants took home awards of some kind. We’ve gathered a selection of photos from the competition.
Lowey welcomes participants to the inaugural IDEA Tank, based on her book series that profiles the childhoods of famous business people such as animation tycoon Walt Disney and Phil Knight, co-founder of Nike. The series continues this summer with entries on the creative minds behind Lego and Google.
Helena Martinez, age 13, was the first runner up for her eco-friendly arts project, the Bio Paint Program, which she described as “a program that walks kids and communities through creating a bio mural out of a formulated moss paint.” Martinez concluded her pitch by saying, “I believe that being a world changer should not have an age limit.”
The next runner-up was 10-year-old Spencer Comstock (standing, l.) and his siblings, who pitched North Shore Miniature Golf, a portable mini golf course that features obstacles and themes based on Chicago attractions. Comstock said, “I could bring the course to a park or beach and sell individual rounds of golf to families, couples, kids—anyone looking to have fun together. The other options would be to have the course at a block party, birthday party, or any private event.”
(From l.): Additional finalists Brigitte Sisto, Kate Ptak, and Alexis Erickson, all age 10, present their idea for a party planning business, Kids for Kids, to judge David Donaldson. The trio would provide party concepts and execution. Their motto: “We know that only kids really know what’s up.”
Eight-year-old finalist Juliana Weisz talked up J Snack Sisters, her “healthy delicious snack for kids and adults.”
The judges deliberate.
It was a close competition, but the winning concept was Scoot-Knees: roller skates for your knees, pitched as “a revolutionary new way to get around.” Here, teammates (from l.) Brett Hannafan, Anthony Hartmann, and Philip Baker—all age 11—show their idea to the judges.
For more on this year’s participants, visit WinnetkaIDEAtank.com. Sichol is planning to bring the event back in 2020, and is looking to expand to additional cities.