Ian Smith is so excited about his idea for a mobile hair-washing station for the disabled that he promises to someday advance the idea from its clay-model state to a working product.
But the concept, even in its lumpy form, was enough to secure for the Columbus North High School senior one of two Maverick Awards in the annual Maverick Challenge, a competition for high school juniors and seniors in Bartholomew County.
The other award went to Marie Wildemann, also a senior at North, who proposed on paper to build a restaurant in downtown Columbus that would use energy-efficient appliances, paper products from recycled materials and organic ingredients.
The Columbus Education Coalition and Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce for five years have put on the annual competition to stir the spirit of entrepreneurship among young people who might choose business as a career. It announced this year’s winners at last month’s Chamber of Commerce annual meeting.
Smith received $3,000, Wildemann earned $2,000, and the 10 finalists each received $100 for their efforts.
All had to show their math to prove that their ideas could sustain themselves financially and make a profit after a certain amount of time.
Amber Fischvogt, director of Enterprise Columbus, a division of the Chamber of Commerce, said 75 Bartholomew County juniors and seniors participated this year, which she said was on par with other years.
“The entries this time around were very creative,” Fischvogt said. “But for this year’s winners, the judges were blown away.”
As a general rule, winners are encouraged to apply their cash awards toward attending college or developing their winning concepts. Smith and Wildemann, who prepared their projects as part of the same Business Principles and Management class at North, intend to do exactly that.
Smith, 18, said he felt good about his chances after getting enthusiastic feedback from a judging panel that included business people and retirees. He said he grew even more so after he was invited back to present his idea to a different group.
Smith hatched the idea while having a meal with his mother at the Bob Evans restaurant in Columbus. He said his mother, a hairdresser, mentioned how hard it is for her to cut people’s hair when they’re unable to move in the nursing home.
Smith modified the idea and came up with a product for the Maverick competition called Bedside Clean. He designed the product to incorporate a sink, water, water pressure and hoses, all on a cart that can moved almost anywhere.
A kind of bowl fits around the person’s head so water is channeled away without dripping onto the individual’s clothes.
“It gets you clean, and it makes you feel clean,” Smith said.
He said he will use his award money for college at Eastern Kentucky University, where he plans to major in business. A golfer on the North team, he said he hopes eventually to teach golf or manage a course.
Wildemann, 18, said the idea for her Green House Cafe downtown establishment grew out of the value she and her family places on recycling and saving energy when possible.
The restaurant, hypothetically located in an office building on Eighth Street, would serve only lunch, she said. She proposed that it would sell itself on being environmentally friendly, healthy and supportive of area businesses by buying local produce that doesn’t have to travel long distances to get from one location to another.
She said the business also would offer catering and use the slogan “A Unique Take on Unique Taste” or something similar. She proposed to hire seven or eight employees.
In real life, she plans to use her award money for business schooling at Xavier University in Cincinnati. She said she doesn’t know yet which area of business she will pursue.