By Katy Savage
Households spent an average of $326 on veterinary care in 2020, according to Forbes Magazine.
Ameila Jones, a student at the Killington School of Resort Management, wants to change that. She presented a product she said “will help save your pets’ lives,” to a group of investors at Killington Grand Hotel on May 23.
Her product — a pet water bowl — comes with a three dimensional shape in the middle that changes color when bacteria is detected. She said the product would cut down on vet bills and help pets live healthier.
Jones asked for a $300,000 loan, payable in five years with a 50% return on investment — and she got it.
“It’s a great idea,” said Bill Moran, one of the investors. “My wife will probably buy quite a few of them.”
Jones’ H2O Bowl was the winner of a fictitious investment as part of her entrepreneurship class led by Chris Coughlin, the vice president of mortgage servicing at Heritage Family Credit Union.
She secured an ‘A’ for the class for her winning product.
“I was happy for her,” Coughlin said. “She’s always been a quiet kid. They could see it selling in the marketplace. It wasn’t overpriced.”
Coughlin has been leading the entrepreneurship competition for 15 years. This year, students were tasked with developing products that have never been on the market before, developing a prototype, a marketing plan, and a financial analysis and an investment pitch. The class is modeled after the popular “Shark Tank” television show on ABC.
Four local business people— Dylan Watts, a commercial lender; Bill Ackerman, the chief marketing strategist at Killington Resort; Kirk Shields, the director of renewable project development and fleet operations at Green Mountain Power; and Moran, the owner of multiple rental properties, were given fictitious millions of dollars to invest in the students’ companies. They could choose just one winner.
A golf ball that comes with a GPS locator piqued the interest of the sharks, most of whom were golfers. The ball would connect to a cell phone and beep when the golfer is close.
But, the sharks questioned the physics behind the golf ball and the weight of the battery and electronics.
“I think once you’re in business, people will be hot on your tail. I think the competition will get crazy,” Ackerman said, adding: “I think it’s a great idea. I would buy it.”
Another group of students pitched a wristband that holds credit card chips to make payments effortless and cashless. You cut the chip out of the card and put it into a locket in the bracelet. The sharks liked the product but were concerned about security issues.
There was also a water bottle that turns snow into drinking water. The 34-ounce water bottle would come with double layered insulation and a heating pad on the bottom and a filtered straw. The product would be geared toward people who ski and snowboard in the backcountry.
A smart ski rack with Bluetooth technology that sends a notification when you’ve left your ski rack open was another popular product. It would be sold at a premium price for $650
“No more driving away with your ski rack open,” one of the students, Charlie said.
Charlie, who worked as a parking attendant for Killington in the winter, said many people leave their ski racks open and drive away.
“I saw it more times than I can count,” he told the sharks in his pitch. “It happens more than you think.”
The winning product surprised Coughlin. He guessed the wristband payment product would win.
“I get it wrong every year,” he said.
He liked the wristband for the sake of convenience.
“How cool would that be?” he said. “I want one of those.”
The sharks said the ski rack was too expensive and they were concerned there were too many water bottles already on the market.
“They felt the golf ball would get too damaged for golfers who frequently replace their balls,” Coughlin said. “I didn’t think that would appeal to the average golfer.”
As for Jones’ project, Coughlin didn’t think much of it.
“I didn’t really have an opinion on that one,” he said. “I thought it was good, I thought it could win. I liked the simplicity, I liked the global reach.”
Jones did the project herself after two of her teammates dropped out.
“She was an island on her own,” Coughlin said. “She did great.”
It also pleased the sharks for its simplicity.
It didn’t have any complicated science behind it,” Coughlin said.