By Michele Evans, Grants & Communications Director
With names like Silver Lumentello, Custom Bikes 4 U, Muffin Squad and Old Town Rides, teams of young entrepreneurs competed to pitch their electric three-wheeled motorcycles to a panel of judges on the final day of Entrepreneur Camp.
The weeklong camp at The Vault in Clinton gave participants the chance to design and build their own electric motorcycles, brand and market their business, create an infomercial, visit local businesses and pitch their ideas to a panel of “investors.” Seventeen students in 5th to 8th grades participated in the camp, said Connie Unruh, Financial Literacy Coordinator at TS Institute, a nonprofit foundation committed to creating a stronger, more financially savvy future generation through a K-12 financial literacy program.
Illinois State University’s Center for Mathematics, Science and Technology loaned the electronic trikes to the camp. Teams were given a budget of $600 to spend on parts to construct their trike and they earned an additional $20 per student daily. Unruh noted that “it costs more than $600 to build the vehicle,” so campers figured out ways to share materials or get a loan with interest.
Throughout the week, the group learned about how a business runs and is financed, and visited local businesses including a newspaper, hardware store, doctor’s office, alpaca farm, agriculture equipment supplier and a Mexican restaurant.
The final day of the camp included a community event for parents and others to view the students’ final bike designs and their plans for the future of their business. They then pitched their product ideas, infomercials made on iPads and financing plans to a three-person panel of community members including a bank vice president, Vault intern and community foundation staff member.
Among the selling points of the Silver Lumentello team was that the electric motorcycle is perfect for teens because it’s cheaper than a car with a sales price of $1,499.99 and is environmentally safe. Among their services was the opportunity to purchase specialty plates for their cycle and a discount when purchasing a second cycle.
The Custom Bikes 4 U team stressed their team’s ability to customize their cycles which would cost only $1,299.99 for a base model. Their presentation included a book of available colors and accessories could be purchased for an additional cost.
The Old Town Rides presented their cycle called The Valley Rider with a sales price of $1,499.99 and promised to repair any damage done to their bike during its lifetime at their shop. They were the only team to pitch purchasing their location instead of renting because they felt it would be less expensive to buy a site in the long term.
The winning team, the Muffin Squad, identified a target market of people ages 10 to 50 who are hungry and thirsty. Their cycle includes a drink holder for a travel cup, a hanging basket for muffins and a coffee carafe for taking beverages on the road. They developed a catchy slogan of “I got a muffin. I got a coffee. Boom – Coffee muffin bike!” A purchaser of their $1,680 cycle would receive a free dozen muffins (chocolate chip or blueberry) and a 10% discount on coffee and muffins for life.
The Muffin Squad’s four team members each received a $50 cash award from First National Bank and all camp participants received a stainless water bottle.
After making their presentations, the campers took their cycles to a nearby parking lot and enjoyed driving around the lot. One team’s cycle would not start, so members of another team offered their cycle up so all could have an opportunity drive a vehicle.
“They all learned about teamwork this week and how to be humble,” said Unruh, explaining that participants had to make concessions to their group to keep the peace. “They learned being a boss doesn’t just mean telling others what to do.”
Illinois Prairie Community Foundation’s Youth Engaged in Philanthropy awarded a 2019 grant for $1,540 to Treynor State Bank Community Foundation’s TS Institute for “Entrepreneur Camp,” to provide a week-long summer entrepreneur camp for junior high school students throughout DeWitt County.
If you would like to help fund more programs like this in the community, donate online to the YEP Endowment Fund which helps fund grants for youth in Central Illinois.
Top Photo Caption: Members of the Muffin Squad team are Zander Cicenas, Rowen Kaufmann, Patrick Morge and Owen Rexshell