Students design startups at entrepreneur camp

by Robin Mero ( 678 views 

(from left) Springdale High School students Malachi and Dalton Hopkins, who are brothers, and their partner Emmanuel Smith, won first prize Friday in a pitch contest at Entrepreneurship Bootcamp, presented by Startup Junkie. The students designed a business plan for a cupcake company where a majority of employees have special needs.

Cupcakes aren’t a new idea. But a cupcake business, reimagined, paying competitive wages to employees with special needs? That was worth a frosty $500 at Entrepreneurship Bootcamp on Friday (June 29).

Springdale High School students Dalton and Malachi Hopkins, along with pitch partner Emmanuel Smith, presented their sweet idea to four judges to cap off a week-long bootcamp produced by Startup Junkie. This was the fourth year for the event, which is free to participants.

The proposed cupcakes were drool worthy: cherry bombs with pop rocks inside, peanut butter delicacies inspired by mom, and mango chili powder flavors in a salute to the Hispanic community. But what elevated the pitch for Indescribable Cupcakes was largely the courage of 17-year-old Dalton, who is autistic and wants everyone in his community to have a good job with a fair wage.

Less than 20% of people with disabilities are employed, Dalton said, and more than 50% of the startup’s employees would have disabilities. Initial costs were estimated at $6,000. The Hopkins family has already tinkered with the concept, selling cupcakes at pop-up locations in the area; the startup already has a website and Facebook presence.

Throughout the week, the 12 campers visited Fayetteville startups, including Skosay, which introduces brands to consumers through sampling. Students also heard from founders of startups such as Lineus Medical, Simkins Brothers Sweets and More Technologies. Students learned a lean canvas model for creating a business plan, along with leadership and teamwork skills, time management and customer development techniques. They also practiced 60-second elevator pitches.

Another idea presented Friday was for Biolang, an app offering tutoring, messaging and translations into English for several languages, presented by students Rogelio Cardenas and Joshua Smith.

Two female students pitched Pampered Paws, an all-in-one concept for grooming, veterinary services, day care, adoption and training, where proceeds fund a Puppy Love program to reduce euthanizations by providing grooming and vet services for the least likely to be adopted animals.

A proposal for an app to coordinate soccer tournaments – reducing the costs of recreational sports – was presented by Anaya Vangoor and Julia Matteson. And a startup named Project Plex was proposed to design and produce custom clothing without labels and sizes in order to promote a positive body image.

Judges were Rita Littrell of the University of Arkansas Moore Center for Economic Education; Jeff Amerine of Startup Junkie; Tom Douglas, Walmart Director of Emerging Technologies; and Anna Morrison of Do College Better.

“Each one of your ideas showed passion and enjoyment,” Douglas told the students. “They are viable business ideas and you should pursue them with enthusiasm.”