After previously competing at their schools and being chosen to move on to the county-level competition, 34 teams of student finalists presented their products in the ASPIRE3 New Venture Competition at the Ventura County Fairgrounds on Saturday.
ASPIRE3 is a program that encourages students to learn business and entrepreneurial skills. Teams of students identify a problem that they are passionate about solving and then design and create a product solution.
Sean Bhardwaj, Founder and CEO of Aspire: Entrepreneur Education Initiative, explained that “the goal of the competition is to give every student the chance to explore entrepreneurship, and while doing that, develop essential career skills they need to be successful in the modern global economy.” It also creates a pathway of entrepreneurship for students before they graduate.
The teams were split into three divisions: collegiate, middle school and high school. Collegiate finalists included teams from CSU-Channel Islands, middle school finalists included teams from De Anza Academy of Technology and Arts, Chaparral Middle School, Campus Canyon College Preparatory Academy and Monte Vista Middle School, and high school finalists included teams from Thousand Oaks High School, Royal High School, Simi Valley High School, Moorpark High School and Foothill Technology High School.
Each team presented their product in an expo-style fair where judges could learn about their problem and solution. The judges then chose teams to move on to the next round, where they pitched their products on-stage to an investor panel.
The winning teams were awarded money, which they can use to further develop their product if they choose. The Collegiate Division winner, “Recycling Vending Machines,” was awarded $3,500. The Middle and High School Divisions were combined for a Best in Show prize of $2,500. This was awarded to “Skywater,” a middle school team from that designed a kit for harvesting fog to water home gardens in California’s drought.
Foothill’s team, “JCAR,” was awarded $500 as a runner-up. Sophomores Jaqueline Fregoso, Chris Kuchta, Anson Tan and Ryan Bova were all members of this team. They designed an app that disables a person’s smartphone while driving to minimize accidents caused by distracted driving.
Aspire staff member Ana Gonzalez discovered her passion in business and found that Aspire was the type of program she was looking to work with.
“It’s in helping people who have ideas get to the next level, and try to identify how to formulate that. I wanted to [be part of] something that rose from our backyards and is really able to benefit the economy here where I grew up,” Gonzalez said.
While innovation, creativity and communication skills are a huge part of a business plan, Bhardwaj said that, “at the end of the day, it’s about taking action.”
Whether or not their team wins the competition, he would encourage students to take part in the program.
“It’s just a try. The biggest thing about entrepreneurship is to just jump right in. You don’t need any prerequisite. No one needs to tell you you can do it, you don’t need a degree, you don’t need anything other than the passion to do it and your effort, so dive in,” Bhardwaj said.
Photo Credit: Darcy Duffy (Used with permission)