Standing amid the crowded hallways of the Nassau County capitol building in Mineola late last month, Oceanside High School senior Eugene Raczka described a problem common to young adults: Finding time for breakfast. “There’s never enough,” he said. “… And convenience is a factor.”
Citing statistics from the Kellogg Company that pegged the number of high school-aged teenagers that skip out on the meal at 36 percent, Raczka gave his elevator pitch for a solution — Snack Attack, a subscription-based company that would deliver weekly boxes of breakfast snack foods.
By all appearances — including membership in the Oceanside Chamber of Commerce — Snack Attack looks like a real business, but is actually a simulation of one. The company is part of the high school’s virtual enterprise program, and Raczka along with his team of fellow student entrepreneurs were at the county seat of government on April 25 to compete among 26 teams of student entrepreneurs across 15 high schools in the 6th Annual High School Entrepreneurial Challenge Business Competition.
Shark Tank this was not, but it bared remarkable similarities. The teams gave their pitches to panels of judges made up of local business owners to determine who had the best and most viable business idea. Jillian Weston, an Oceanside High School graduate, and founder of the Oceanside-based online marketing firm Jillian’s Circus who served as one of the judges for the event, said the panels look at a variety of factors in determining whether a business idea is viable.
“I want to know that it’s well researched, that they thought about it and I want to know that they’re realistic about the financials,” she said. “That they’re realistic about how much it’s actually going to cost to develop this, and what the reality is as far as building and sustaining a business.”
Weston added that presentation was important as well, and that the students look confident conveying their ideas. Details matter as well, she said, such as whether they shake the judge’s hand, and how well they carry themselves, “Things,” she said, “that you would look for in a job interview.”
Snack Attack is the “brainchild” of Raczka, its chief executive officer, and his team of fellow Oceanside student entrepreneurs, according to Mike Lowrey, their virtual enterprise teacher. “It’s really driven by them,” he said of his pupils.
A requirement in the contest is for the companies to have an eco-friendly element, in this case, Snack Attack would donate a portion of their proceeds to Operation Splash, a not-for-profit dedicated to cleaning the South Shore’s waterways.
“We thought that it would be good to work with them,” said Ashley Murch, vice president of marketing for Snack Attack. “Because I feel that cleaning our waters is important, but it’s also an issue that affects everyone, not just a certain group of people.”
Murch added that Snack Attack’s target market is customers aged 15 through 30, “People with busy lives,” she said.
“Today has been an excellent day,” said County Comptroller Jack Schnirman, who hosted the event. “We’ve got some really sharp high school students.”
He said he was impressed by how the young entrepreneurs embraced technology and civic engagement in their business ideas, adding, “I feel great about the future of Nassau County.”
For the founders of Snack Attack, they said they hope the next class of virtual enterprise students continues to maintain the company and brand. Chief Financial Officer Amanda Bonacasa said Snack Attack’s sustainability is contingent on whether the next group decides to expand on the idea. “Hopefully, the class next year continues our business,” she said, and taking into account real financial concerns. “They have to make sure they boost sales and name recognition, or otherwise reduce payroll expenses.”