In ‘Shark Tank’ style, Kempsville students present business plans to star judges including Youngkin and a music producer – The Virginian-Pilot


Virginia Beach – Five teams of young entrepreneurs will pitch their business ideas to a host of experts, including Governor Glenn Youngkin and music producer Chad Hugo at Pitch Night’s upcoming INCubatore party.

The students, all enrolled in Kempsville High School’s Academy of Entrepreneurship and Business, have been selected to compete in the “Shark Tank” style event on May 10. Hosted by hotelier and developer Bruce Thompson, CEO of Gold Key/PHR in Virginia Beach, the event is in its fourth year.

Ashley Houchins Smith, professor of entrepreneurship and business academy, said sophomores entered the classroom in September and formed 14 teams within weeks before spending the rest of the school year developing their businesses under the guidance of mentors.

The teams were narrowed down to the five strongest: Orcasunn, an eco-friendly organic sunscreen; Wavlength, a crowdfunding community platform; Refill, an eco-friendly refillable candle company; Beauty Perfection, a versatile company specializing in hair products and hair tools; and Port Power, a versatile portable wall charging port.

“I like to tell people it’s like watching an episode of ‘Shark Tank’ live,” Smith said. “Teams will submit and apply for funding at the end…for a specific amount of money they feel they need to actually launch the business.”

The judging panel, in addition to Youngkin and Kempsville High alum Hugo, includes CEO Jerry Miller of The Miller Group; Gilbert Bland, president and CEO of the Hampton Roads Urban League; Monique Adams, CEO of 757 Angels; George Clarke IV, President of the MEB; and Dennis Ellmer, President and CEO of Priority Automotive.

Smith said a total of $25,000, donated by Thompson, is given out each Pitch Night in varying amounts.

“We didn’t limit it to a certain number of winners; we really want the judges to select the teams that they believe have a real viable business,” Smith said.

Smith said it’s been amazing to watch the students solve a problem, come up with ideas, and work hard on their businesses throughout the year.

“It’s the culmination of months and months of work,” Smith said.

Two of last year’s winning teams, World Play, a published children’s book that teaches sustainability, and Swag Stick, a surf wax in a reusable container, will be at the event to share in the continued growth of their businesses.

Held in the school auditorium at 5194 Chief Trail, Virginia Beach, doors open at 4 p.m. and the event begins at 5 p.m. Tickets are free, but seats must be reserved in advance at

Sandra J. Pennecke, 757-652-5836, [email protected]


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