Hardwood Tees Patrick Beighle and Sidney Counts

Last year’s winners, Patrick Beighle, at left, and Sidney Counts, won for their t-shirt company Hardwood Tees. Photo courtesy Lake Washington School District

Calling all budding entrepreneurs, the Lake Washington School District has put together a Shark Tank-style competition for teens. Students in the school district have a unique opportunity to test their business skills at Teen CEO. The program, started in 2014 by LWSD, allows high school students to compete for cash prizes and learn more about the business world from local business professionals. Last year’s winners Patrick Beighle and Sidney Counts walked away with $2,500 to put toward their T-shirt company Hardwood Tees.

“It’s fun because it develops and enhances entrepreneur skills for students,” said Rita Smith who serves as one of the event’s organizers and is a Career and Tech Ed Program Specials at LWSD.

In order to compete, students complete an application that asks in-depth questions about their business, products, and marketing plans. Smith says it’s a good opportunity for high school students to answer hard questions about their business that they might not have thought about.

Eligible participants must own their own business without any participation or ownership from a parent or other adult. Past entries have varied from clothing design to boat maintenance.

This year, the competition will be held from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on March 28 at the Lake Washington Institute of Technology in Kirkland. Throughout the day, students will pitch their business plans, financial overviews, and marketing plans to a panel of local business leaders. While the structure is similar to NBC’s Shark Tank the judges are a whole lot nicer.

“No one is going to berate you or tell you you’re a cockroach, nothing like that,” said Smith. She added that last year the judges provided a lot of great advice for the young business competitors.

At the end of the day the judges will award a variety of cash prizes to the teens with the best plans and presentations. Teen CEO encourages participants to think creatively, develop a strong sense of leadership and teamwork, and cultivate their business skills.

The competition is sponsored by more than 10 business partners including Kirkland Rotary Club, which will match donations up to $2,500, and Passport Unlimited.

To all those brilliant business teens, ready, set, and go.  Applications are due by the end of the day on January 28, 2015.