Aidan Shepard, 16, got another sign that he was headed in the right direction with his startup business, Candy Compass, when the idea won a first-place prize in the first Chancellor’s High School Innovation and Entrepreneurship Competition at UNCW last year.
The judges told Shepard that Candy Compass, which packages candy and other items from different parts of the world and sells the boxes online
, needed to happen. And with the help of the $1,500 prize, it did.
Shepard, a Topsail High School sophomore, said Thursday that Candy Compass has launched its second box. The first included products from Great Britain while the latest box is filled with candy and items from Japan.
While the company is growing slowly, Shepard said, he’s noticed that Candy Compass has been gaining traffic and interest from other parts of the country.
On April 29, Shepard attended the second year of the competition at the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. UNCW Chancellor Jose Sartarelli, who founded the competition in 2016, said in an interview this week that he was happy to see Shepard again.
“I believe that if you can get young men and women between the ages of 15 to 17 interested in business, in creating their own business, in becoming their own bosses, in giving flight to their imagination, in giving flight to their ideas, why not? That’s what we’ve been doing,” Sartarelli said. “All the studies show that if you get interested in starting a business when you’re young, that stays with you.”
Shepard was inspired to create Candy Compass by a trip he took with his father to China several years ago.
“The biggest thing that stood out to me was food and candy,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in trying new food and candy and different cultures.”
But getting candy that is unique to another country isn’t always easy, outside of traveling there or buying it wholesale, Shepard explained, and that’s where Candy Compass comes in. He said he hopes he can continue to expand his startup.
“I just want to keep growing,” he said.
According to a UNCW news release, of the six high schools that competed this year at the UNCW competition for teens, the first-place winners in the social enterprise track were Mary Lila Blackburn, Will DeAndrade and Aidan Kunst, from Harrells Christian Academy, for Feelz, an integrative app that would work within social media sites to minimize bullying through filters and provide users with positive quotes or sayings.
In the for-profit track, Darius Herring from Union High School won first place with Plexus, a homework helper app that works with students as a tutor of sorts – allowing them to learn how to answer a question correctly without giving them the answers.
Seventeen-year-old seniors from local private school Coastal Christian High School (pictured below
) won second place in each of the tracks, Clint Turbeville for a company called Special Sugars (social enterprise) and Katherine Taylor for an app named Tipstr (for-profit).
For Turbeville, who plans to attend Lynchburg College in Virginia after he graduates in June, last weekend’s competition was the second time he’s entered the contest. His pitch was for a business called Special Sugars that employs young adults with special needs to make natural skin care products.
“I think it’s a great opportunity ... if you know about it, then you get the chance to win some money and come up with some cool ideas for yourself and other people,” he said of the event.
Taylor, who plans to attend UNCW, comes from an entrepreneurial-minded family. Her cousin Kurt Taylor founded Next Glass and his brother, George Taylor III, founded Likeli -- now called Jomo -- both in Wilmington.
Katherine Taylor said her idea idea came about with the help of her family and her internship at Untappd, the name under which Next Glass now primarily operates. Tipstr would allow people to use the app to donate in coordination with Salvation Army locations to homeless people as well as street performers, Katherine Taylor explained.
At the competition, students pitched their products during 5- to 7-minute presentations to a panel of judges at the CIE.
“It definitely prepares you for college in general because you’re in front of all these scholarly people,” Katherine Taylor said.
Taylor and Turbeville won $1,000 while third-place winners won $500. The winners also received trophies and a copy of "The Lean Entrepreneur," the book by Brant Cooper and Patrick Vlaskovits that inspired the competition.
The third-place winners this year were Ashlyn Beddingfield, Destyni Noble and Zamiaya Rouse from Duplin Early College High School for Dazzle Tires in the social enterprise track and Holden Quinn and Talina Giles from Harrells Christian Academy for Clothing Coordinator in the for-profit category.