Social Entrepreneurship Class Holds Friendly Shark Tank-Style Final

Three groups of students in the Upper School Social Entrepreneurship class combined social good with business savvy when they pitched their ideas for a new nonprofit to a panel of friendly judges consisting of parents and alumni.

After a semester of learning how to use design thinking alongside business startup tactics, such as market research and basic finances, the students developed their own idea for a social-good business and set to work bringing it to life. They then presented their business plan to a panel consisting of Parker parent Jason Lobel, parent and alum Matt Brown ’89 and alum Griffin Amdur ’14, all of whom have had successful ventures in either business or social-good ventures and are supportive of TIDES programming.

The first group presented an idea called The Playback Foundation, which would gather musical instruments and materials and repurpose them to distribute to students in need. This group determined a need for this service through competitor research, interviews and the overall high cost of instruments. After hearing their presentation, the panel suggested people who might help get their idea off the ground and places to find instruments.

The next group focused on the ecological front and incorporated the use of technology in their proposed idea: GreenPact, which would allow consumers to scan any item to see the real cost of everyday products through their impact on the environment. The group proposed partnering directly with brands and using a crowdsourcing information platform to help calculate each item’s impact on the planet. The panel discussed the pros and cons of a crowdsourced data platform and commended the group for their work.

The last group pitched their idea of providing a higher-end shopping experience for lower-income families. The Closet Collective would work with brands to collect donations of their unused clothing products to offer them in pop-up-style shops in high-need neighborhoods. The concept would serve as an alternative to other thrift and consignment shops with the intent of creating a warmer and more comfortable shopping experience. Panelists applauded the group on its consideration of dignity for its consumers.

Guided by the Parker mission, the students displayed empathy and understanding for their potential consumers and used creative problem-solving to offer real solutions to gaps in our world.

“I think sometimes teenagers are underestimated by society, but this year’s Social Entrepreneurship students are evidence of how committed young people are to bettering the world,” said Middle and Upper School Librarian and Social Entrepreneurship teacher Annette Lesak. “I hope they learned a bit more about some of the systemic problems plaguing society (this semester we focused a lot on sustainability) and were able to see themselves as changemakers to these problems.” 

After their senior classmates departed for their May Term projects, sophomores Alex Fidler, Anika Gehani and Cate O'Connor are the three students left in Social Entrepreneurship. To use the business development skills they learned earlier this semester, the three students are making a variety of goods to sell at County Fair this year, including 3D-printed succulent planters, handmade candles, laser-cut jewelry and more. Proceeds of the sales will go to a to-be-determined charity.

Check out their table at County Fair!

Click here for photos.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.