In December of 2020, alumnus Yee Su ‘12, a successful entrepreneur and current Carnegie Mellon MBA student, approached Mr. Dennis Conner with an idea: Yee saw untapped potential in The Gregory School Fab Lab. What about starting an entrepreneurship program for TGS students that combines the Fab Lab’s emphasis on imagining and conceptualizing and its resources for designing and building with the mentorship of alumni and community entrepreneurs and the guidance of stellar Gregory School teachers? Mr. Conner, who instituted and oversees our Fab Lab, took the idea to economics teacher Mr. Dan Young, who began researching how to turn it into a curriculum, and the concept for The Gregory School Entrepreneurial Institute was born.
The aspirations of Yee Su, Dennis Conner, and Dan Young were clear. They wanted to create a new program of the highest academic caliber and value to the students. As Mr. Young said, “We want this to be as close to a real-world experience as possible.” A program of this magnitude requires special funding. That’s when alumni parents Gurpreet and Reema Jaggi (Anisha ‘20) stepped in with a generous gift, seeding the program for the first two years by supporting additional Fab Lab supplies and equipment, faculty salaries for extra work, travel funds for alumni guest speakers, and much more.
The Entrepreneurial Institute was officially launched in the spring of 2021, when TGS juniors and seniors were invited to submit cover letters expressing their interest in the program and outlining the talents and interests they would bring to it. Thirteen students joined the inaugural Entrepreneurial Institute class, beginning in fall, 2021. The class met three times per week, during A block and Friday Exploration 2, for the entire school year.
The fall semester began with students learning entrepreneurial concepts and theories, using the Fab Lab equipment, becoming comfortable interviewing people, and talking with alumni and community entrepreneurs in a variety of fields. During this time, students practiced what they were learning by working in teams to build and pitch toys, relying on feedback from our fifth grade students—a wonderful opportunity for cross-grade communication and learning.
As the fall semester ended, each student was assigned to think of one idea for a product and bring it to a class pitch party. Once each idea was pitched, the class voted, selecting three of the ideas as the ones they would pursue. The students whose ideas were chosen went to separate rooms and the remaining students circulated from room to room interviewing to determine which team would be the best fit. Spring semester started with the three teams designing, creating, branding, and marketing their product, touching on everything from conducting market research and interviews, to financial calculations and projections, to logos and social media, to fabrication and testing, to creating their pitch deck, and everything in between.
On May 20, 2022, the three Entrepreneurial Institute teams formally pitched their products to faculty, staff, students, families and a team of three judges in The Gregory School theater, as if they were appealing to investors for funding.
Introducing the concept of the Entrepreneurial Institute before the students began their pitches, Yee said, “This is an awesome opportunity for students in high school. Students are waiting until college, waiting until grad school in an MBA program, to do what we’ve done with the students today, and I am so proud of how far they’ve come.”
We are proud to have established this exciting new program for our students. Next year's juniors and seniors have already applied and been accepted for the 2022-23 Entrepreneurial Institute. They will have a rewarding year ahead of them!
The 2021-22 Teams
Build-it-yourself crossbow toys for older children, teens and adults
Caffeinated juice beverages with a focus on nutrition
Toe shoe and foot-care kits for ballet dancers
We are grateful to these alumni and community members for working with and mentoring our students and being part of the Entrepreneurial Institute.
Arteen Arabshahi ‘09