Curiosity Inspires Entrepreneurship Program

BROOKFIELD, Ohio – A new business program for Brookfield High School students that emphasizes entrepreneurism got its spark when a café employee overheard a conversation between two customers.

Late last year, Ron Emery was having a chat at the Market House Caffe in Howland. Mario Furillo, a café employee and a Brookfield High sophomore, became intrigued at what Emery and his companions were saying and started talking to them.

After having a discussion with the student, Emery approached the Brookfield Local Schools administration with his ideas. Emery’s proposal provided fresh insight, says Toby Gibson, district superintendent.

Emery, president of Alchemy Associates LLC, and A.J. Bove, business development analyst at Iten Industries, presented a program on entrepreneurship April 10 to Brookfield High School juniors and seniors. Their goal was to create enthusiasm for a business curriculum that emphasizes entrepreneurism, professional development, civic and social responsibility. A capstone event such as a business pitch contest would conclude the program at the end of the next school year, they said.

“It was kind of funny how it all happened,”

Emery says. “[It was] all because of that chance meeting in the coffee shop where Mario was eavesdropping on my conversation, listening to what I was saying and how it related to him at the school.”

Emery and Bove provided a new perspective that could fill in the gaps with what the school system is trying to accomplish in terms of entrepreneurship education, Gibson says.

Brookfield Local Schools is already immersed in building a business education model, paid for with a $60,000 grant from Arconic Foundation in 2019, along with grants from The Strimbu Foundation, General Electric and other companies.

The funds foster the high school’s spirit store/makerspace, which helps students understand business fundamentals and manufacturing processes.

The makerspace includes woodshops, 3D printers, audio-visual equipment and hand tools used inside the school to make goods. The high school’s Spear-It-Shoppe – reflecting Brookfield’s Warriors mascot – creates and sells wood plaques, T-shirt designs, emblems, stickers and other items.

“This idea of entrepreneurship fits all those aspects of what that grant was hoping to accomplish,” says the superintendent.

During the April 10 assembly, presenters tossed Ramp Armor Surfacing Technology T-shirts and hats into the gathering of students. The company, part of Iten Industries, provides protective surfaces for high-performance skate and bicycle ramps.

The idea behind tossing Ramp Armor wear was to spur the students into thinking they could produce and distribute clothing items, banners, embroidered items and other gifts. Buying raw materials, manufacturing the products, packaging and shipping is all part of the single-line process, Emery says.

“How much more valuable now is a Brookfield education?” he asks.

For the immediate future, the group is planning a mid-May “Shark Tank” event, either virtually or live, for interested high school students.

Entrepreneurial endeavors stem from ideas used daily, Bove says.

Taking those ideas, learning how to incubate them and collaborating with others to develop the thought into a palatable presentation is what he hopes to see before the “Shark Tank” event.

“I’m sure a handful of them could be turned into money and turned into a business that could make money,” Bove says.

Bove was awarded the 2017 David W. Edward Entrepreneurship Scholarship at Westminster College for his Odorex Gloves.

Bove and Marcus Gurgiolo co-founded Odorex Athletix, a company that produces a machine-washable glove liner that is worn under padded hand protectors by soccer, hockey and lacrosse players. The liner traps the smelly moisture emanating from that material. Bove knew the stinky reality firsthand when he donned the mitts as a Westminster College soccer team goalkeeper.

The idea earned Bove and Gurgiolo money. It also launched a western Pennsylvania-based company that went from incubation to production.

The Brookfield “Shark Tank” event is about promoting a student’s idea into business ventures for a student like Furillo, who says he has friends and family who are entrepreneurs.

Furillo is touting the “Shark Tank” event to his classmates. “You’re going to get yourself out there in the business world,” he says.

A female student who attended Emery and Bove’s presentation states she wanted to have her own makeup line, intriguing Emery.

Emery, who is president of the Youngstown chapter of Score, told her to keep abreast of Score’s upcoming women and entrepreneurship series. He also instructed the student to connect on LinkedIn with Carmella Williams, a local businesswoman who makes and sells beauty products online and in stores through her brand, Carmella Marie.

Inspiration can come from anywhere, Emery says. “If we don’t show them how to do it, how to bring it all together, it’s wasted energy,” he says.

Pictured: Youngstown Score Chairman Ron Emery and A.J. Bove, business development analyst for ITEN Industries and co-founder of Odorex Athletix, presented the new program to students at Brookfield High School.