Anyone who’s ever tried to get their ailing dog to take a pill knows the challenge and likely has thought there must be a better way.
A team from Glen Allen High School came up with one and walked away with the $2,500 first-prize on Saturday at the Virginia Entrepreneurial Challenge at Virginia Commonwealth University.
The team of Wyatt Bonovitch, Tyler Anders and Gary Nolen came up with the idea of Pet Dr., a dry dog food containing medicine for various ailments.
“Instead of having the dog have to scarf down a pill causing him harm, all it has to do is eat its dog food,” said Bonovitch, noting the food would be healthy, as well.
Though their project was an academic exercise and the team didn’t actually develop the dog food itself, Bonovitch said, “Over time we realized … we could really help people out with this, so we do have the motivation to go with it.”
For now, though, Bonovitch and Anders, both seniors, are eyeing college next year. Nolen is a junior. The three students will split the $2,500 prize evenly and can use the money to help finance future education, to fuel development of their business plan or however they wish.
Glen Allen teacher Laura Owen assisted the team, as did Junior Achievement volunteer Troy Fowler and VCU mentor Shalma Akther.
Administered by Junior Achievement of Central Virginia and sponsored by Accenture, the Entrepreneurial Challenge is in its third year. Seven teams from six schools who participated Saturday– Meadowbrook Academy for Digital Entrepreneurship in Chesterfield sent two teams – were among a number of teams from around the region that met for seven sessions each beginning in the fall with Junior Achievement volunteers to develop their projects.
“The sessions taught the students how to think and act like entrepreneurs,” said Andrew Kirk, Junior Achievement senior programs manager.
Junior Achievement president and CEO Daphne Swanson said the earlier sessions “really prepared the students to be ready today.”
“I think it has enhanced the experience for the students,” she said.
The students arrived Saturday at VCU’s School of Business and produced one-minute videos to promote their products, then made brief pitches to a panel of four judges from the Richmond business community.
A team from Chesterfield Career & Technical Center, Hull Street campus, was awarded a $1,000 runner-up prize for its business plan to develop a more portable and affordable meal plan for a college campus. Team members included Ling Huang, James Klein, Brandon Hughes, Benjamin Engel and Noah Wilson.
Other high schools represented included Albemarle, Huguenot and Tucker. Among their pitches were a peer-to-peer program for students to help one another, lip balm for athletes and outdoor enthusiasts and chicken tenders with the dipping sauces cooked inside.
The Entrepreneurial Challenge aims to give students a taste of real-world entrepreneurship and, in the process, a shot of confidence. In his view, Glen Allen’s Bonovitch said it certainly succeeded.
“It’s such a cool experience,” he said. “I could never have seen myself doing this a couple of years ago, and I’m here now. It’s crazy.”
He said the experience encourages students to “push yourself to an uncomfortable barrier, and then just break through it.”