Sophie Kreis and Sarah Rollins faced a challenge as they presented their plan for starting a business making jumpsuits and rompers.
As they entered the room at the Community Foundation of Jackson County in Seymour, the 18-year-old Brownstown Central High School seniors noticed all of the judges were men.
They had to spend a little more time explaining the purpose of their product and how it would benefit women.
The judges apparently were impressed.
With their concept for Romantique jumpsuits and rompers, Kreis and Rollins were declared the winners of the seventh annual Jackson County Maverick Challenge, a business planning competition for high school students, and earned $2,000.
They received the results the next morning.
“I kind of wanted to cry. I’m just kind of an emotional person,” Kreis said, smiling.
“We were pretty confident just because we actually made these,” Rollins said of the jumpsuits and rompers. “I feel like we did something that’s a new idea, which is what entrepreneurship is basically, just kind of creating your own thing. It feels really rewarding because coming into the class, we didn’t have an idea, really, and so it’s kind of crazy that we actually took something, ran with it and won.”
The seniors along with Brownstown juniors Destiny Mowdy and Arly Peters, who placed second in the county competition and earned $1,500, advance to the regional March 3 in Columbus. There, they will have another chance to earn money if they are among the top placers. Mowdy and Peters’ presentation was for Brewed Awakening, a new student-run coffee shop at the high school.
The Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce started the Maverick Challenge in 2008. High school students from 12 area counties are invited to participate.
The Maverick Challenge allows students to compete individually or with a partner or two. After pitching their ideas, students submit written business plans.
In Jackson County’s seventh year of participation, 17 written plans from Brownstown Central, Seymour and Trinity Lutheran high schools were submitted for the county competition, which is a joint partnership between Jackson County Industrial Development Corp., the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce and Brownstown Chamber of Commerce.
Local business professionals helped narrow those down to eight to present in front of the judges Jan. 24 at the Community Foundation of Jackson County. In the end, the judges divided $7,000 between the finalists.
Since 2012, Brownstown students have won $33,500 in cash for their efforts in the Maverick Challenge. In 2014, a three-member team from the school won the county and regional competitions.
Brownstown students come up with their projects in Robin Perry’s entrepreneurship class during the first trimester.
That consists of doing research, learning how to make a business call, writing a college-level business plan and using an extensive financial spreadsheet. Students do all of the work themselves, and they can seek guidance from business mentors.
nts try to generate original ideas that are not already in existence somewhere in the marketplace.
When Rollins and Kreis were trying to come up with a project, Rollins wore a jumpsuit to school one day and felt there had to be an easier way to wear it.
“A normal romper or jumpsuit has an elastic waistband, so it’s completely attached. So when you have to use the bathroom, you have to take off the entire outfit, and it’s kind of awkward, so obviously, we wanted to eliminate that problem,” Rollins said.
“My grandma sews, and me and Sarah both sewed in 4-H, so we asked her how we could really make this work so you wouldn’t have to take off your whole outfit,” Kreis said.
They initially thought about using an invisible zipper that would zip in the back and snap in the front, but that didn’t work.
Then they tried a jacket zipper and a belt at the front waistline, and that made it more convenient.
Then it was time to put the business plan together, explaining what their product is and does and who it targets, laying out the financials, listing competitors and sharing marketing ideas. They decided to market the the products to women ages 15 to 34 and sell them for around $60.
They also came up with a slogan: “If you’re comfortable with what you’re wearing, you’re comfortable with you.”
“We just want to say that when you wear your outfit, we don’t want you to feel vulnerable when you’re out in public when you do have to use the restroom. We want you feel like you’re confident in what you’re wearing,” Kreis said.
“Women, what they wear can either make or break their confidence, and so we just wanted to aid in that and help them boost their confidence,” Rollins said.
During their presentation, the girls wore jumpsuits. Kreis said she made a romper for a 4-H project last year, but that involved following a sewing pattern. She hadn’t made anything with a zipper or come up with her own design.
With the help of her grandmother, though, she made a maroon jumpsuit, a navy blue jumpsuit and a romper with rayon material.
“It’s stretchy, but it’s not super-stretchy to where you can’t sew it,” Kreis said. “Some of the longest parts are getting it all cut out and putting it together. Then once you get it all together and all cut out, it’s just sewing it, super-easy.”
At the start of their presentation, the girls incorporated some humor and tried to relate to the judges by selling the idea of the products for their wives or daughters.
After spending a great deal of time explaining their products, the girls received positive feedback from the judges.
“They said, ‘I don’t really know much about (the products), but we can appreciate that you found a solution to a problem.’ I feel like that’s what we really did. We found a problem, and then we literally created a solution to it,” Rollins said.
“And we didn’t just come up with something that’s already made and then just remake a version of it,” Kreis said.
Perry said the girls were extremely professional in their presenting skills.
“They were just like any adult would be in a workplace situation,” she said. “They really thought through their business plan, they had practiced their business plan and they enacted their business plan, so they are doing exactly what the Maverick Challenge is about and what they are wanting them to do. I’m proud of them.”
Perry liked their concept, too.
“I personally don’t wear rompers or jumpsuits, so I had no idea, really, about the problem that they were talking about,” she said. “It’s definitely a need in the marketplace, and I think once people notice how they do this and they file for their patent and they get into production, they are going to be selling a lot of material.”
Rollins said they plan to make some rompers and jumpsuits for other girls to wear and try out and then use their testimonials in the regional presentation.
From there, they plan to set up a booth at the Hen and Chicks Barn Market in Seymour and look into other opportunities to sell their products.
Both girls said they are fortunate to have an opportunity like the Maverick Challenge. Winning and earning money were bonuses.
“Even if you didn’t win, you still got money. That’s pretty cool for just coming up with an idea for a school project,” Rollins said. “I’m thankful that Brownstown offers the entrepreneurship class because I don’t think the other schools do, so they just have to do it on their own, but we had Mrs. Perry to kind of guide us.”
Kreis said the Maverick Challenge teaches responsibility.
“We’ve actually learned so much about building a business,” she said. “There’s so much that goes into it that you don’t even realize, so we learned a lot about that if we really do want to pursue that.”
Rollins plans to study radiation therapy at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and Kreis wants to study business management at Indiana University and earn a master’s degree in human resources.
With this year’s Jackson County Maverick Challenge high school business planning competition, 17 plans were submitted. The eight finalists recently made presentations in front of the judges.
Here are the results:
First place: Romantique, Sophie Kreis and Sarah Rollins, Brownstown Central High School, $2,000
Second place: Brewed Awakening, Destiny Mowdy and Arly Peters, Brownstown Central High School, $1,500
Third place: Aquapon, Michael Claycamp, Trinity Lutheran High School, $1,250
Honorable mention: Simple Creations, McKenzie Bailey, Maria Lara Lopez and Emily Hume, Seymour High School, $825
Honorable mention: Hidden Ridge Farm, Ryland Nierman and Mark Shoemaker, Trinity Lutheran High School, $825
Participation award: Conee Coffee, Brayton Hattabaugh, Hannah Hughes and Nate Price, Brownstown Central High School, $300
Participation award: 4 Corner Baseball, Seth Borden and Gunnar Zickler, Brownstown Central High School, $200
Participation award: Roba, Luke Turner, Seymour High School, $100
The top two move on to the regional competition March 3 in Columbus.
For information about the Maverick Challenge, visit maverickchallenge.com.