Students Shine at First-ever High School Startup Weekend

by Mark Carter  on Monday, Apr. 7, 2014 11:54 am  

High School Startup Weekend participants from 11 Arkansas schools gathered for a group shot with event emcees Jordan Carlisle and Max Farrell and Noble Impact founder and chairman Steve Clark (far left) Sunday night at the Clinton School's Sturgis Hall. 

Other schools represented were Lisa Academy, Hall High and Central High of Little Rock; Har-Ber High from Springdale; Fayetteville High; Maumelle High; the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences & the Arts in Hot Springs; and Fort Smith's Chaffin Junior High.

The Noble Impact program was introduced to eStem High School in Little Rock this year to much success and will be included as part of the school's cirriculum next school year. Noble Impact students from eStem participated in last fall's Startup Weekend Northwest Arkansas and two of those students -- sophomores Sydney Brazil and Jase Burton -- recently launched The Hole Thing, a gourmet donut "holery."

The student entrepreneurs are negotiating with Mary Beth Ringgold of Copper Grill to use the downtown restaurant's kitchens after school and even appear on its dessert menu.

Noble Impact CEO Eric Wilson thinks seeds for more real-life ventures were planted this weekend. Wilson said judges were asked to hold nothing back in their questions and critiques of the students' ideas.

"Our goal was to show that high school students are ready for Startup Weekend," he said. "Our intention was not to water down the process because they're high-school students. If you look at the ideas they came up with and how they responded to the questions that would be put before any business venture, then we definitely hit our goal."

Wilson said national Startup Weekend organizers were impressed by Noble Impact's programs and the response for the inaugural HSSW.

Swallow also was impressed to see the first-ever High School Startup Weekend launched in her home state.

"I was very impressed by the students' capability to think of real-world problems and come up with real-world solutions," she said. "A lot of entrepreneurs don't address real-world problems."

Mike Steely, co-founder of the Arkansas Venture Center, believes the event will serve as a "catalyst for students across the state to begin to think, create and grow their ideas."  

"I can't wait to see what new companies come out of this weekend and how many of the participants -- and the crowd -- are now inspired to take initiative with their ideas," he said.  



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