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Students pitch business ideas to local sharks

Catching waves at the beach is rad. But hauling a surfboard around is no fun.

Jonah Ambrosino has a solution — a valet service for surfboards. With just a text, your board will be ready and waiting for you at the beach to ride the gnarliest waves, leaving you with time and energy to enjoy the beach instead of worrying about safely getting your board from place to place and keeping it in top shape.

“After many years of surfing with my dad, we have felt that the hardest part about surfing isn’t catching waves but transporting your boards, maintenance of your boards and storage for your boards,” Ambrosino said via video chat.

Do you struggle to come up with thoughtful but reasonably priced gifts for people you care about? Mya Lukkes has got you. She’ll craft care packages with about a half-dozen items that almost anyone will appreciate and enjoy like candles, stickers, water bottles and a stress relief ball.

Luke Scrivanich received an enthusiastic and amused response to the marketing he uses for his vehicle detailing business, Diploma Detailing. Available services range from the $25 “GED Package” which includes handwashing, tire and trim dressing, Rain-X treatment for the glass and spray wax up to the “Ph.D. Degree Package” for $125 which will make your vehicle “look and feel better than the day you bought it.”

His business purpose is simple — the car detailing money will help pay for his college degree. For a special occasion or special people, customers can also request the “Rocket Scientist Package” where Scrivanich tops off all his available services with ceramic exterior coating for your vehicle. Scrivanich said an advantage for his business is there’s not much local competition.

These Smithfield High School students, and many others in Diane Fulton’s dual enrollment advanced marketing class, are all likely to see their business ideas come to life and grow through the award of seed money from the Youth Entrepreneurs organization.

Additional student business ideas included local nature photography, a business that sells art prints, customized apparel and jewelry, home decor items and hand sanitizer targeted toward younger kids.

Students made their pitches — which followed the formula set by the popular TV show “Shark Tank” — in March for their classmates and panels of school and business leaders.

“The whole theme of this program is called problem solving for a profit,” Fulton explained. “And what it does is not just touch on the fact that you want to earn money and how to earn money with your ideas but to find problems that exist in your community or in the world or needs that exist and try to use your business to solve that problem,” Fulton said. “And do it ethically. There’s a big emphasis on ethics.”

Business ethics are a key theme in class, Fulton said.

“Every time I have a class I say ‘Do you think you can be ethical and be successful? Can you be an entrepreneur who’s successful like Elon Musk or somebody else and be successful?’ They almost always say no — you can’t be ethical and run your business. They think you have to step on somebody to get there.”

Fulton said a key takeaway is that businesses and entrepreneurs can prosper through ethical behavior.

“When we first had to think of a business,” Lukkes said in her pitch, “I wanted to try and do something to please or help somebody. One day on TikTok, a couple weeks later, I saw a mom putting together a care package for her daughter in college. So I just kind of combined those two ideas.”

In early May, the students are expected to recap their spending and profits.

The judges included Smithfield High Principal Bryan Thrift; Assistant Principal Wayne Briggs; Tiffany Truitt, Smithfield High’s instructional coach; Jeff Mordica, the school division’s director of innovation and strategic planning; Lynn Briggs, the division’s director of community and media relations; Reeva Luecke, owner of O’doodleDoo’s Donuts and Cone Slingers; Bill Dempsey of Recycling Perks; Carlyn Menser with Anchor Realty; and Amy Lainhoff of Revutation; a revenue and reputation management company.

A virtual “Market Days” online store — “Packer Pride Products” — will be live soon. To view the products and services produced and offered by the students, visit packer-pride-products.myshopify.com.