San Marcos Teams take First and Third Place in the New Venture Challenge



SMEA students supported their classmates during a viewing party on April 28 while finalists pitched original business ideas to judges.

One thousand dollars for anything! All the hard work paid off with a glorious award, but students were rewarded even more with the knowledge gained through this experience.

Last week 20 teams from the San Marcos Entrepreneurship Academy (SMEA) participated in the 13th Annual Santa Barbara City College Scheinfeld New Venture Challenge with high schoolers from all around the county by submitting business plans on April 24. On April 28, the finalists joined a Zoom meeting to pitch their original business ideas to a panel of judges consisting of local investors and entrepreneurs, just like the famous TV show Shark Tank. Eight out of the ten finalists were teams from San Marcos High School. Furthermore, teams from San Marcos placed first and third in the New Venture Challenge. 

The winning team, who won a cash prize of $1,000, was Green Thumb. Juniors, Avital Abramov, Cameron Earls, and Micah Menth, presented their business plan for an indoor plant cultivator device/app that manages plants for busy plant owners with automated features such as monitoring the plants and sending notifications to the plant owner.

Here is what Green Thumb had to say about their victory and time in the New Venture Challenge:

 “I feel elated. This experience helped us understand how starting a business really works,” said Avital Abramov. She went on to express how this opportunity showed the importance of public speaking, preparation, and more skills that are essential in business.

Cameron Earls said, “We worked really hard on the project and it was nice to get recognized.”

And Micah Menth said, “I learned how to work better as a team and be open to new ideas.”

Students from SMEA participated in the SBCC Scheinfeld New Venture Challenge competition. (@smhs_entrepreneurshipacademy on Instagram)

Coming in third place with a $400 award was Small Stage, whose mission statement read, “A mutually beneficial digital platform that connects small artists and bands with performance opportunities at local venues, fostering a vibrant community that uplifts and supports local talent.” This business idea was founded by seniors Bekah Sugano, Ethan Van Mullem, and Kelsey Davis.

“It was a great opportunity to get hands-on experience and collaborate with peers my age,” said Bekah Sugano.

Ethan Van Mullem said, “I feel very proud of the business plan we made and although pitching was nerve racking, I feel like we did very well.”

Before becoming finalists, SMEA students worked vigorously on developing their own business ideas and working together on writing-up a business plan and preparing a concise pitch presentation.

“I couldn’t be more proud of our young entrepreneurs for what they accomplished in the New Venture Challenge,” said SMEA teacher, Mr. Oleson. “They demonstrated amazing problem solving skills and perseverance, and above all, the willingness to put their ideas into the world. These are the type of young folks that are gonna lead us well in the 21st century.” 

In addition to earning a monetary award like Green Thumb and Small Stage, all SMEA students dove into the process of what business development is like. The real award was the practical experience. Besides brainstorming over 50 ideas from personal problems (like dying house plants), SMEA students learned how to write a proper business plan with financial and sales estimates, marketing, and other components, all which led the finalists to their successful 10-minute presentations (eight minutes pitching and two minutes for the Q&A portion by the judges). 

For anyone interested in watching, the full live stream of the event is on YouTube (Scheinfeld Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation channel). If you would like to see the finalists being awarded in person, come to the West Campus, BC Forum at SBCC tomorrow, Friday, May 5 at 2:00pm!