Education

Her dog got cataracts, couldn’t see its toys. So high school student created ‘Barko Polo.’

(Left to right) Students A.J. Vowels, Emma Harper, Yufei Wang, and Miguel Luster make up the Barko Polo team.
(Left to right) Students A.J. Vowels, Emma Harper, Yufei Wang, and Miguel Luster make up the Barko Polo team. Provided photo

High school student Emma Harper started a business because she had a dog with cataracts who couldn’t play with toys anymore.

The Lexington Catholic High School junior made a toy called “Barko Polo” that lights up and plays music to help the dog play again despite diminished vision.

With a Jan. 4 deadline for applications for the 2017 summer Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs, director Mac Glidewell is hoping that more Kentucky teens try the three week residential summer program that helps them start their own company.

At the Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs at Georgetown College in Lexington this past summer, Emma turned her idea into a company that continues to develop.”

“We have a working prototype,” Emma said. “We still need a manufacturer. We are talking about in the future expanding the business to (help) other disabled pets.”

Stefan Kwiecinski, a student at The Craft Academy for Excellence in Science and Mathematics at Morehead State University, and Kyle McGlothlin, a student at Madison Central High School, started a company at the Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs called Guard Box. GuardBox is a black box for your business. It's made of 1/4 steel and other fire retardant materials.

The Governors School for Entrepreneurs prepares Kentucky high school students to be successful by exposing them to the mindset and skills necessary to start a company, Glidewell said. Forty percent of the Governor’s School of Entrepreneurs funding comes from the Kentucky Education Workforce Cabinet and sixty percent from private sponsors. Toyota and the Appalachian Regional Commission, a regional economic development agency, top the list, he said.

After attending the entrepreneur school, Emma and a fellow team of students won $750 at a Lexington Venture Club event that fosters sharing between entrepreneurs, businesses, investors and professional service providers.

She was joined by Miguel Luster, a student from Danville, and A.J. Vowels and Yufei Wang, students from Louisville, said Glidewell.

Emma and her team will appear on a taped Louisville station WBNA 21’s Dream Funders TV show at 8 p.m. January 4th, 2017. Dream Funders is Louisville’s local “Shark Tank” style television series. The students cannot disclose whether they secured an investment until the show airs. The program includes a University of Louisville Forcht Center of Entrepreneurship review panel that will provide “post-pitch” analysis of what the company did right and what they did wrong.

GuardBox, the Richmond students’ product, ensures that no amount of natural disasters or computer failure can compromise data. GuardBox combines automatic backup abilities of a cloud service with the privacy and security of keeping a backup drive in a safe at home without monthly fees or maintenance past the initial setup.

“We realized that it would be a really good solution for small businesses,” said Stefan.

GuardBox won the Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs 2016 Pitch Competition. On a Dream Funders show that aired in December, GuardBox raised $2500 and $4000 worth of in-kind marketing services, Glidewell said.

Stefan said they are in the process of building the first round of Guardboxes to be shipped to about a dozen testers.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: 859-231-3409, @vhspears

2017 Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs

There is no fee to apply or attend. Open to all Kentucky 9th, 10th, and 11th grade students.

Where to apply: kentuckygse.com

Application deadline: Jan. 4, 2017 (online application, video, and 2 recommendations must be received before this date)

Dates: June 25, 2017 to July 15, 2017, Transylvania University, Lexington, Kentucky

Questions: Email keen@keenstart.org, or call 859-568-2199

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