Dundee-Crown High School's First STEP team last week won the 2016 INCubatoredu National Pitch Night Competition in Chicago against four other high schools, taking home a $5,000 grand prize. Senior Gabriel Martinez represents his team, First STEP, at the Business Incubator event in May at Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville. A business idea to compost food waste from restaurants and turn it into organic fertilizer is taking root at Dundee-Crown High School, with some outside financial help.
The concept is the brainchild of First STEP, the winning team of Dundee-Crown's inaugural Business Incubator class "Pitch Night" held in May. The team also won the 2016 INCubatoredu National Pitch Night Competition last week in Chicago beating four other high schools -- Barrington, Buffalo Grove, Lake Forest and Hononegah Community in Rockton, Illinois -- to take home a $5,000 grand prize. With the funds, team members Gabe Martinez, Ariana Diaz, Cuauhtemoc Fabian, Michael Holmes, Charles Gilly and Esteban Gonzalez are on their way to accomplishing their dream. High school entrepreneurship program INCubatoredu -- a nonprofit founded in 2014 and first launched in Barrington -- involves roughly 60 schools and more than 2,000 students across eight states.

Buffalo Grove and Dundee-Crown are in their first year of the Business Incubator program, while the other high schools that participated in the national pitch competition have been running it for two or three years, Pahl added. First STEP's business concept involves getting local restaurants to pay a monthly fee for First STEP employees to pick up organic food waste, which then would be composted, packaged and sold to tree nurseries, landscaping companies and stores.
By next week, First STEP and the team that placed second in Dundee-Crown's pitch competition will be registered as limited liability companies (LLC) and operate their businesses from the high school this upcoming school year.
The second place team's concept is creating a monthly subscription service, dubbed "MaleBox," for boys and men between 16 and 30 years old. Both teams also will be entered into other national and regional business pitch competitions, such as Judson University's "Shark Tank" contest in November, Pahl said. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. First STEP was among five Dundee-Crown teams of student entrepreneurs that presented business plans and was awarded a $20,000 startup package.

Currently, the students are picking up food waste from Emmett's Brewing Company in West Dundee, whose owner Andy Burns was their mentor last school year. In addition to the $5,000 grand prize, they received a couple of investment offers during the national pitch competition, Pahl said.
For $20 a month, they would receive five products for grooming, health, food, tech gadgets and productivity.
The team went on to win the recent INCubatoredu National Pitch Night Competition in Chicago.

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