Looking Back on a Year of Student Entrepreneurship

It’s hard to recall a time when our after-school incubator was not an integral part of our School.

Founded in 2015, Spark Tank quickly became a Dwight signature program and our School was distinguished as one of the first to empower K-12 students to launch their own enterprises. Since then, over 100 young entrepreneurs have embarked on exciting journeys to develop a business, bring to market innovative products, and kickstart socially responsible initiatives fueled by Spark Tank. 
 
A Spark Tank Primer

Spark Tank’s own launch was fueled by the belief that young people shouldn’t have to wait until they’re in college or older to realize their dreams of starting their own business or nonprofit. In the incubator, students learn how they can make an impact now and build a better world through entrepreneurship, innovation, and leadership. Each year, we are continually impressed by their ingenuity as they dive into Spark Tank to develop their ideas inspired by their own passions or real-world problems they want to solve — sometimes born from personal experiences. 
 
Along the Spark Tank pathway, students develop a range of practical and business- related skills needed to bring their ideas to fruition, ranging from budgeting and marketing to production and public speaking, providing invaluable experience and preparation for the working world. So, too, do students receive validation for their initiative, develop their own voice, build confidence, and forge relationships with mentors. Some of these mentors are members of The Dwight School Foundation’s Spark Tank Committee — industry experts and entrepreneurs in our parent and alumni community who provide feedback and guidance to students as they develop and pitch their ideas through Spark Tank events. 
 
2021-22 Highlights
The five-stage Spark Tank project development cycle (idea, research, prototype, operations, launch) is similar to the IB design thinking process, which students learn in the classroom. This past school year, over 100 students in grades 9 and 10 worked on entrepreneurial projects as part of their Design class curriculum, and an additional 25 participated in Spark Tank under the stewardship of Design and Technology teacher Matt Moran, who has served as the Director of Spark Tank since its inception. 
 
“When we first began working with students in the incubator, we anticipated that many would want to develop their own apps and inventions, which we certainly have seen, and start businesses to earn a profit.” reports Mr. Moran. “Recently, more students have become involved out of a desire to help others, especially during the pandemic, through community service-focused efforts and nonprofits, which involve groups of students sharing the same vision and commitment to making a difference even in the most challenging times. This year, ten students presented their projects at Spark Tank events that ran the gamut, from nonprofits to the arts.”
 
Congratulations to the following student-entrepreneurs, who received recent Spark Tank innovation grants from The Dwight School Foundation to support their projects:

  • Lulu Deyer ’25, who began Dwight’s Make a Wish Club to raise money for the Make a Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to children with critical illnesses, passed the Plan Stage. The Club had two successful fundraisers with seed money from the Student Council and sought additional funds for an upcoming “puppy party” fundraising event to raise more money and fuel more events, while also raising awareness for the cause. The club is also dedicated to helping members build organizational, budgeting, and communications skills they can use in the future. 
  • Nick Padilla ’23, who tapped into his own passion for basketball, which began when he was three and has included playing on the Adidas circuit and Dwight’s championship-winning Varsity Basketball team, to create the Nick Padilla Skills Camp. He passed the Plan Stage and hoped to have 50 or more youth basketball players participate to learn about the game and develop important skills, while also connecting to a mentor. 
  • Zoe Droulias ’23, who combined her passions for coding and writing to create the prototype for Promptl, an app she built in Computer Science class. It is designed to help students who struggle with creative writing or may need inspiration by generating writing prompts and motivating them with a point system to make writing fun. 
  • Albert Randsborg ’22, who continued SustainABLE Start, a nonprofit Dwight students launched a few years ago to provide eco-friendly hygiene products to New Yorkers who are homeless. He sought additional funds to provide more kits and to make the student-run organization itself more sustainable as well.

Congratulations to the following students who reached the launch stage of their projects this school year and were awarded a $1,000 innovation grant: 

  • Victoria Buendia-Serrano ’23 and Matthew Archer-Nieto ’23 for Forming Futures, a non-profit dedicated to providing hygiene kits and school supplies to families with low income, who have been facing additional economic challenges during the pandemic.
  • Kyra Spahn ’23 for Tutorpeers, an online tutoring platform built by students for students. Accessible and affordable, Tutorpeers was launched last September and quickly became a go-to resource for students on campus and in Dwight’s own after-school tutoring program.
  • Brody Shuffler ’25 for Fastbreak Visuals, his own graphic design and photography business. Brody shared his expertise with Dwight this year by taking photos at our own athletic competitions.

With a new year not far off, we look forward to more student-entrepreneurs joining Spark Tank to bring their novel ideas to light and life!

  • Spark Tank
  • Student Spark