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Lake Zurich teens earn start-up cash from Chamber

Tom Stawinski displays his protype sweatbproduct he hopes market.   | Joe Cyganowski-For Sun-Times Media.

Tom Stawinski displays his protype of sweatband product he hopes to market. | Joe Cyganowski-For Sun-Times Media.

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Updated: June 1, 2013 2:29AM



With $13,000 worth of start-up cash, the Lake Zurich Chamber of Commerce helped seven local high school students launch their own businesses last week.

The students presented their business plans, marketing strategies and sales projections March 21 to a panel of five investors in Lake Zurich High School’s Performing Arts Center. The event marked the end of the Chamber’s Young Entrepreneur’s Academy, a yearlong class in which students develop their own small businesses.

Alec Brady, a senior at Lake Zurich High School, earned $3,000 from investors for his online community, Dinner Loves Company, which promotes recipes from local chefs to help users host their own, unique dinner parties.

“Chicago has a flourishing restaurant scene and a growing sustainable food movement,” Brady said. “What separates us from competitors is the implementation of chef’s recipes.”

Connor O’Neil, also a Lake Zurich High School senior, received $800 to help kick-start Swing Score, a mobile business that provides baseball teams a service to analyze players’ swings.

O’Neil said he would begin marketing Swing Score to youth baseball coaches.

“Generally, this would only run through baseball season,” O’Neil said. “Next season, I want to sponsor teams and put up an ad at a local field.”

Stevenson High School senior Tom Strawinski explained that he came up with his idea for a Battlefield Bandana as a way of honoring troops overseas. The lightweight skullcap is designed specifically to keep sweat from getting in the eyes. Strawinski, who also was selected by the panel to compete for the Saunder’s Scholarship in Rochester later this year, received $2,051 for his Battlefield Bandana.

“It’s the greatest feeling,” said Strawinski after being chosen to go to Rochester. “I know I have a profitable business and I know I can make a difference and support our soldiers. Why take business classes at school when you can start your own?”

Strawinski’s plan is to send one Battlefield Bandana overseas for every $10 earned here at home.

Carly Rubin, a Lake Zurich resident who is a junior at Deerfield’s Chicagoland Jewish High School, and Jeffrey Epstein, a senior at Stevenson, received $3,000 to help start Infinity, a dance club for teens that they hope to open in Lake Zurich. Rubin said Infinity would provide her fellow teens a fun, alcohol and drug-free entertainment option close to home.

“Anyone who wants to go out and have a good time with their friends is a potential customer,” Rubin said.

Jennifer Heynez, a senior at Palatine High School, received $750 to help start Eco Bear, a stuffed bear made entirely of recycled materials.

“Eco Bear is meant to teach children about the environment,” Heynez said. “I believe people don’t recycle because they don’t know how. This is a company that helps the next generation.”

Ten percent of Eco Bear proceeds, Heynez explained, will benefit environmental charities.

Connor Lewis, another Stevenson senior, said he was inspired by Groupon to create BluZone, a coupon power app that alerts the user to coupons being offered within a half-mile radius. Lewis explained that users can select their interests and BluZone would tailor coupon lists with that criteria.

“BluZone is better because it sends a notification to the user when they are near the store,” said Lewis.

Bonnie Conte, president of the Lake Zurich Area Chamber of Commerce, commended all the students for their creativity and perseverance in getting their small businesses off the ground. She said she enjoyed the uniqueness of all the ideas presented.

“When you’re an entrepreneur, you can put your own quirks into what you do,” Conte said.

The panel of judges at the March 21 event included Ela Township supervisor Lucy Prouty, Ela Township trustee Anne Dobberton, Phil Guerrero of PMG Wealth Management, Olive Tap owner Rick Petrocelly and Ben Ripstein, president of Midwest Motors.



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