Lake Zurich High School Student Media

Bear Facts

Lake Zurich High School Student Media

Bear Facts

Lake Zurich High School Student Media

Bear Facts

ACCELerated futures

Business students discuss how INCubator and ACCELerator have shaped their futures

One of the benefits of being a high school student is having access to elective courses that are specialized towards your specific career goals and interests. For students interested in business, the INCubator and ACCELerator classes give them the opportunity to come up with their own business ideas, pitch them to panels of judges, and create prototypes of their product. Whether or not these students continue on in their business venture, both INCubator and ACCELerator give students valuable skills for the future.

Colin Smith, senior and INCubator student, is planning to major in political science rather than business, but still believes the skills he has gained from INCubator will help him in the future.

Smith’s group has been working on their business Homestyle Chew, a human friendly, vegetarian pet food, for the past year. Their main goal and business slogan is that they want pet owners to be able to “eat with their best friend.”

Smith and his business partners pose in chefs hats and aprons when making a prototype for their product. Though Smith is unsure if he will continue with business post secondary, he believes that Incubator has given him good experiences with collaboration and perseverance.

“A lot of people face the issue of not knowing what [is safe] to feed their pets,” Smith said. “[…We aim to give] you a healthier and happier pet.”

When developing his business idea and prototype, Smith has developed strong time management and cooperation skills that he is confident will be useful in any field.

“In INCubator, we are given a lot of assignments at the same time and how [we chose to divide] those up kind of built our time management skills for sure. And personally before going into this, I had […] trouble working with a group. [… But] now I feel a lot better working with a group [and] I know how to cooperate with people, [in a work environment.” Smith said.

Additionally, over the course of the past year, Smith has found that INCubator has helped him overcome his fear of public speaking by pushing him out of his comfort zone, a skill he believes can prove useful in any career path.

“[INCubator has helped me develop my] public speaking skills and presentational skills for sure because we’ve done like 10 presentations for investors now so I feel a lot more comfortable. Just presenting in front of people [will help me in] the long run,” Smith said. “[INCubator] definitely gave me a lot of valuable skill sets.”

Some of these valuable skill sets, according to Smith, came from initial challenges he faced in INCubator. For example, Smith had trouble collaborating with his teammates at first, but now sees the relationships he has built with them as a huge benefit of the program.

“Personally, I had a rough start with my group. and as much as I wanted to switch groups and [even though I initially wanted to] drop the class, I ended up just working through it and I’m really glad I did because I have a lot better relationship with my group,” Smith said.

Smith believes this obstacle has better prepared him for his future in the workplace, as teamwork may not always come easy, but will often be necessary to get the job done.

“If I go to a law firm, I’m gonna have to work with a group [that’s been given to me]. And if I’m completely honest [and] not sugarcoating it, there’s been fights with my group. There’s been times where we’ve been frustrated with one another and that’s just going to happen,” Smith said. “[Working with my group] gave me a sense of the real world and how [work life] is going to be because I’m not always going to [get along] with people [I have to work with].”

Similarly, Kyle Sopkin, junior, believes that his time in INCubator has impacted his future greatly; however, in contrast to Smith’s experience, it has inspired him to pursue business directly.

Sopkin has spent the last year in INCubator working on his business Project Grounds, an “environmentally sustainable instant coffee pod producer dedicated to providing consumers with a guilt free coffee experience. [… The coffee grounds are] encased in an edible, dissolvable film that melts straight into the coffee cup,” Sopkin said.

According to Sopkin, Project Grounds is a unique business in the world of coffee, especially when it comes to environmental efforts.

“Other company’s such as Nespresso offer recycling centers that are inconvenient to rural customers and suburban customers not in close proximity to a designated center, and in turn consumers throw it straight into the garbage, defeating the purpose of recycling” Sopkin said.

Sopkin’s group, Project Grounds, accepts a cheque for $12,000 at the INCubator Pitch Night, to continue their production of the dissolvable coffee pod. Though he did not plan to pursue business seriously prior to his time in INCubator, he found that the “INCubator program has helped me get used to working as a group in business as well as other terms and financial models that could be useful for not only my business through Incubator but other business ventures [as well],” Sopkin said. (Photo by Sadie Good)
Additionally, INCubator has given Sopkin many opportunities to show his passion and skills in the business field, such as the mentorship program, which Sopkin has appreciated greatly.

“The mentor program […] is probably my favorite part [of the INCubator program],” Sopkin said. “My mentor, the general manager of Bundt Cakes, offers helpful insight not only in the food industry but from a business standpoint in management and networking.”

Along with the lessons he has learned from his mentor, Sopkin found that his time in INCubator, he has gained a larger appreciation for the business he and his teammates started. This revelation became especially clear, according to Sopkin, during a business pitch in Kankakee, Illinois.

“To be completely honest, when I first entered the INCubator program, I did not think I was going to pursue my business after junior year,” Sopkin said. “But as we found success not only in the Createur pitch in Kankakee, but also our success in school and at the final pitch coming up, I realize that our business and our product has a serious impact and standpoint in the current environmental situation of the world.”

Along with inspiring him to pursue business in high school, Sopkin said that INCubator has effected his pursuit of business post-secondary, by preparing him for future business ventures and providing him with an array of skills.

“Before entering the INCubator program, I planned on pursuing business as a side hustle, not as a major in college. I still have not made my decision on my major, but I think that the INCubator program has helped me narrow down my possibilities for college and build my entrepreneurial drive […],” Sopkin said. “Incubator has taught me necessary team building, leadership, time management, networking, and communication skills.”

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About the Contributor
Sadie Good
Sadie Good, Staff Writer
During her second year on staff, Sadie will continue writing for LZ Life and is looking forward to fulfilling her role of Junior Editor-in-Chief for the Bear Facts Magazine. In addition to journalism, Sadie is involved with the LZHS Literary Magazine; after school, she works at the Fish Market in downtown Lake Zurich. Outside of work and school, she enjoys reading, experimenting with new recipes, and spending time with her loved ones. In the future, Sadie aspires to become an investigative journalist.  

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