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South Dearborn Students Win Cash Prizes With AIM YP Maverick Challenge Projects

Posted On May 01, 2014

Press release from AIM Young Professionals of Dearborn County

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Maverick Challenge finalists receive their prize checks at the South Dearborn Community Schools Board of Trustees Meeting on Monday, April 21. Shown are (left to right) students A.J. Wildridge, Kerry Raab, Crystal Nichols, AIM Young Professionals president Hollie Stoops, and AIM YP board member Alan Miller. provided

(Dearborn County, Ind.) – A total of $3,500 has been awarded to three South Dearborn High School seniors whose business ideas dazzled judges in local and regional competition in the Maverick Challenge, a business planning competition for students locally sponsored by AIM Young Professionals of Dearborn County.

The Maverick Challenge was founded in 2008 by the Columbus, Indiana Area Chamber of Commerce. The entrepreneurial competition gives high school students in 12 southeast Indiana counties the chance to learn what it takes to get a business going, receive direction on planning and managing finances, and win prize money which they can use to make their plan become a reality, attend college, or other way they please.

2014 Maverick Challenge champion Crystal Nichols gives her final presentation to the judges.

2014 Maverick Challenge champion Crystal Nichols gives her final presentation to the judges.
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“I learned that connections are everything. I met a lot of new people and they taught me a lot of new, interesting, and helpful things to power me through,” said Crystal Nichols, the 2014 Dearborn County Maverick Challenge Champion.

Nichols’ winning business plan was titled Job’s Tears of Joy. It consisted of seed-based do-it-yourself jewelry accompanied by inspirational Bible messages. After assembling the jewelry kits herself, Nichols’ plan sought to distribute and sell the kits through religious bookstores or craft shows.

“I’ve worked with Job’s Tears, which was something I did before. Then I sort of evolved the actual business out of that and added the faith-based part into it,” the champion explained.

Four teams of South Dearborn students entered the Maverick Challenge, which began last October with initial pitches to a local panel of judges. South Dearborn High School counselor Rocky Legge was thrilled to see so many students get involved.

“The best moment was when all the judges – who are successful people in this community – asked the question ‘Where are you from?’ They all said South Dearborn. So it was a proud moment just to be in there,” Legge said.

Also in the competition were Kerry Raab and Andrew Wildridge with their idea, Aliis. The two aspiring engineers’ green business idea carried the potential to change the world. They wanted to develop an orbital magnet-based engine that would require little to no fossil fuels to run. They would then partner with or market the patent to major automobile manufacturers.

Judges gave valuable input and advice for the competitors’ business plans over the next few months. Volunteering on the 2014 judging panel were Mark Banschbach of Top Quality Building Products in Lawrenceburg, Dearborn County administrator Terri Randall, Eagle 99.3 radio station general manager Melissa Murphy, Dearborn County Chamber of Commerce interim executive director Mark Neff, and Phil Messer of Black Swamp Steel in Cincinnati. AIM YP thanks the judges for the time they lended to the Maverick Challenge.

Following the competitors’ final presentation in February, Nichols was chosen the panel as the local champion. The Aliis team was named the runner-up. The two advanced to the Maverick Challenge regional competition in Columbus, Indiana on March 8 with the chance to put their ideas up against fellow Maverick Challenge finalists from the 11 other counties and win up to $10,000.

Judges at the Regionals were highly impressed with Nichols’ Job’s Tears of Joy and decided to award her a $1,500 prize because of her enthusiasm, professionalism, and the viability of the business idea. That check doubled her $1,500 prize for being the Dearborn County Maverick Challenge Champion. Nichols plans to put her winnings towards attending Ball State University next fall to major in acquatic biology.

Raab and Wildridge split a $500 prize for earning runner-up status in Dearborn County. The duo may use their prize money to advance the Aliis idea by building a prototype. They’ll use the knowledge they gained by participating in the challenge in their future entrepreneurial ventures.

“When we were looking at our financial projects we had to project three years of what we were expecting to make. We had to look at salaries, insurance on our building and employees. It really opened my eyes to how much one has to look into when starting a business,” Wildridge said.

AIM YP President Hollie Stoops presented the prize checks to the students during the South Dearborn Community Schools Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, April 21.

“Their confidence and their ability to speak confidently about their business plan earned them prize money,” Stoops said.

Prize money for the 2014 Maverick Challenge in Dearborn County was funded by EcO15 and matched by the Dearborn Community Foundation.

Other South Dearborn students who entered the Maverick Challenge include Adam Hill, Madeline Moisio, and Tanner Anderson with a flight school project titled Pilot Wings; also Robert Jensen, Dustin Beach, and Brendon Young with Just N’ Case, a project to create a combination iPhone protective casing and charger.

AIM Young Professionals of Greater Dearborn County plans to administer the Maverick Challenge in Dearborn County again during the 2014-2015 school year. Participants have the opportunity to win up to $2,000 on the local level, and up to $10,000 at the regional competition. High school students going to school or living in Dearborn County are eligible to participate. Registration will begin in the fall and will be announced in schools and at www.aimyp.com.

Raab encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to get involved.

“Don’t hesitate to sign up. You’ll learn so much that will benefit you later in life,” he said.

More information on the Maverick Challenge is available at www.maverickawards.com/maverickchallenge.