Monett Chamber of Commerce creates ‘Spark Tank’ competition to help entrepreneurial students achieve their goals

MONETT, Mo. – In a spinoff of ABC’s television show ‘Shark Tank’, Monett Chamber of Commerce started a similar contest this year called ‘Spark Tank’ that allows teenage entrepreneurs to compete for a chance to receive funding for their business idea.

Two years ago, a high school student came to Monett Chamber Foundation Executive Director Jeff Meredith to ask about starting a new business, but was lacking fundraising ideas to carry out his dream. After speaking with the child’s mother, Meredith found out that the student was also planning to purchase a car, having to prioritize the vehicle purchase over his business idea.

Meredith began brainstorming but couldn’t come up with a solution to help the student until Monett school teacher David Williams told him about the Missouri Afterschool Network’s grant, which helps kids pursue entrepreneurial dreams.

The grant money is used to send kids to career fairs, job shadow and attend entrepreneurship classes. After some consideration, Meredith applied for and received a $5,000 grant from the program and ‘Spark Tank’ was born.

Meredith told The Heartlander that the idea behind the name was to “spark creativity and spark a new business”. The program is a six-week long process where students attend educational sessions about the importance and responsibilities of business ownership. Then, the students prepare business pitches to present to the Chamber at the conclusion of the six weeks.

During the first session, ‘Spark Tank’ not only brought in individuals who owned businesses, but also those who had businesses that failed. One speaker in particular said words that will stick with Meredeth forever.

“Your family, they’re going to discourage your entrepreneurship efforts because it’s not a sure thing,” Meredith quoted the speaker. “They’re gonna tell you that you need to get a job with a steady paycheck and that you need to know where your money is coming from and you know what you get for it. Entrepreneurship is a dream and a hope.”

The sessions also included visits from the director of entrepreneurship at Missouri Southern State University, a bank president and CPA. Marketing and communications were discussed during various visits and students also had the chance to participate in mock sales pitches. 

Last week marked the conclusion of the first Spark Tank competition when three seniors presented their business pitches to the Monett Chamber.. After considering each idea, the Chamber chose to sponsor Candace Lee of Wheaton and Andrew Kranz of Monett’s business ventures.

Lee plans to open a business called ‘Shop Press On’, where she will sell and ship high quality press-on nails for a fraction of the cost for a trip to the salon. Kranz plans to expand his already-existing car and boat detailing business called ‘Perfect Shine Detailing’ to take on more customers.

According to Meredith, Kranz and Lee will receive $2,000 towards items and products for their business. Anything over $500 will be owned by the Monett Chamber Foundation and will be leased to the owner over a 6 month to a year span.

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