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Groundbreaking high school accelerator program graduates nine entrepreneurs

When Zach Schwartz, Samir Amrania and Vibhu Krishna graduated from high school last year, they wanted to create a better program to help high school entrepreneurs. So in May 2012, they approached LaunchHouse and started LightHouse Ohio and the LEAP (LightHouse Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program). The program is the first high school accelerator program in the country.
“Northeast Ohio has a problem with brain drain,” explains LightHouse CEO Schwartz. “If we can get these kids involved in high school, to get connected in organizations like LaunchHouse, maybe more would stay.”
LaunchHouse CEO Todd Goldstein couldn't agree more. “We believe the next generation of entrepreneurs is coming at the high school level,” he says. “These kids are tech savvy and have a higher level of entrepreneurial spirit.”
This summer nine teams from area high schools enrolled in the six-week LEAP program, run out of LaunchHouse, to flesh out their business ideas and learn what it takes to develop and run a business. The nine were chosen from 70 applicants.
On Friday, August 2, the nine teams pitched their companies to the community and investors. It’s too early to tell if the teams secured any investors, but Schwartz says there was quite a bit of interest. Senator Sherrod Brown addressed the group via video.
Four of the nine businesses already are generating revenue, including Shaker Mowers, a landscaping company started by Shaker High students James Caffrey and Kyle Whitlach, which has more than 50 clients. The company has hired three people and has a 10-person waiting list of potential employees.
Another successful company is Vexum Supply, a skate and arts-based clothing company created by Solon High student Jacob Roscoe. He uses recycled fabrics and does all printing, sewing and stitching in Cleveland. The clothes already are on the racks in many area stores. Roscoe has hired one employee.

Chicken Coup Studios is a video game development studio that is creating a remake of Donkey Kong. Shaker students and founders Patrick Pastore and Charlie Hummel have hired two employees. Hawken student Phillip Hedayatnia and Gilmour student Megan Porter also hired two people to help with YouCue TV, a digital media-streaming box.
“These companies are generating revenue and are profitable,” says Goldstein, “They’re not only growing their businesses, but they are hiring employees. It’s a true testament to the LightHouse team and the hard work of these students.”
The LEAP program is funded through a grant from Craig Stout and the Arminius Foundation.

Sources: Zach Schwartz and Todd Goldstein
Writer: Karin Connelly

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