High school business students swim with the ‘sharks’ and come up winners


Riverhead High School marketing students went swimming with the sharks — not the ones at the L.I. Aquarium, but the “sharks” of the local business community.

The Riverhead Chamber of Commerce hosted a “Shark Tank” style competition in which 20 students of business teacher Diana La Spina worked over seven weeks to develop business ideas. They worked with coaches from the business community who lent their expertise in marketing, budgeting, crisis management, government affairs, brand recognition and startups.

The students pitched their ideas to a panel of “sharks” from the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce at Riverhead High School on April 27.

The winners were announced at an event at the Residence Inn ballroom Tuesday night, where the students and two guests were treated to dinner.

Five individuals/teams were awarded $600 each:
Colin Lynch, Zach Maligres & Kaden Lynch – Veggie Daddy
Julian Cortez & Brandon Ricco- Auto Shield
Madison Toolan- Plant Pop
Andrew Garcia- Smart Backpack
Kanye Milton- The Novel

Four individuals/teams received second tier awards/investments of $250 each:
Sophie Ruschin- East End Property Management
Laurel Terry- Symbiosis Tutoring
Zhuontong Xue- Rosebud Vintage Boutique
Joselyn Valentin, Ashley Censoprano, Wendy Palacios- Blue Wave Bandanas **

The Blue Wave Doggie Bandana team’s award is going to the school to purchase an additional machine to help handle the increase in bandana orders. The team was also awarded a vendor booth at the 2021 Cardboard Boat Race.

Other participants and their ideas were:
Joel Sabino- Trovo
Christopher Donnelly- Life Style Fitness
Ken Griffing- Guitar Skins
Ryan Copenhaver- Smooth Grind Skateboards
Mathew Powers- iTrack
Andres Carrera & Darwin Esteban- Partum Designs
Michael Gaffney- Solar Power Traffic Lights
Ayden Concannon- Smart Fishing Rod
Ava Knight- Safe Hair
Riverhead Chamber of Commerce president Bob Kern is helping the Auto Shield team pursue a provisional patent. Courtesy photo; Riverhead Chamber of Commerce.

Many of the students made connections to help further their ideas. For example, Dean del Prete is continuing to mentor Veggie Daddy to get their business up and running and Bob Kern is helping Auto Shield get a provisional patent. Freddie Wilkinson is steering his customers who need additional services to Sophie Ruschin of East End Property Management. At least one student is getting involved in the chamber itself, said executive director Liz O’Shaughnessy said.

“These are our future business leaders and chamber members and we are thrilled to be able to bring this program to Riverhead High School, especially during a difficult year with programs cut due to budget issues and COVID,” O’Shaughnessy said.

“It was a huge success and will certainly become an annual event. I anticipate 2022 will be even bigger and better,” she said.

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