Premier High School of Brownsville senior Jaime Romero had the chance to test his business product idea last month at the InnovateHER Challenge. The goal of the challenge is to improve the lives of women and families. It is sponsored by the Small Business Administration and hosted locally in Brownsville, Texas, by the Women’s Business Center of Cameron County.
Jaime developed a product for the competition that is designed to prevent children from accidentally being left in a car.
“My idea was based on integrating front seat technology into the back seat so you know your kids’ safety belts are fastened and you don’t leave them behind in the car accidentally,” Jaime explains.
Jaime’s product attaches inside the seat belt buckle of a car and sends out a visual and audible alert to a driver’s cell phone if the buckle is not secured when driving or if it still attached when the driver leaves the car. He also is considering the possibility of a product that is built into the seat by the manufacturer.
Learning about the competition just days before the deadline, Jaime was one of the youngest competitors. Many of the other participants were adults, some with master’s degrees in business and some already with proprietary businesses. His product was still in the conceptual stage; but he presented a business plan, his product idea and the general practices of an entrepreneur.
“What I really wanted to find out is whether my idea is worth getting a patent. After the competition I got to meet with some of the judges, and they were really interested in my project,” he reported. “One judge was an economist who said to call him if I needed any help getting the funds to develop my product.”
It was at the recommendation of his Career and Technical Education (CTE) teacher, Encarnacion Hernandez, that Jaime sent in his application. He had already created the business plan for the Shark Tank-style competition for class, and his teacher thought he was ready to test his idea with a larger audience.
The InnovateHER Challenge fit well into the CTE class Hernandez teaches because his focus is to help students get jobs, strengthen interview skills and build their resumes.
“A requirement for being in the class is that they already have jobs, but the goal of the course is to get them thinking beyond temporary jobs and to future careers,” explains Hernandez.
“I am a big believer in being hands-on and learning on the job. The students’ reaction to Jaime participating in the competition showed that there is a lot of interest in these kinds of opportunities, so I hope to find more competitions to give students something to work towards,” Hernandez says.
At Premier High Schools, students work independently through the course work and ask for teachers’ help when they have questions or difficulties, but the CTE classes are taught through direct instruction. Hernandez believes the change in class structure helps keep school exciting for the students.
“With this CTE program being focused on careers, you can really see the change in students. At the beginning of the year, they often show up late, but by the end of the year they are showing up early. It helps them mature and gives them an added motivation to complete their education,” claims Hernandez.
Beyond developing confidence to speak in front of large groups, Jaime’s take away is to work on his 30 second and two-minute pitch.
“You never know whom you are going to meet. So you always have to have your pitch prepared,” advises Jaime.
This summer he is submitting his idea for a patent and plans to work towards further development of his idea. He is also thinking about his future. After his experience working as a busboy this past year, he is determined to advance his career and continue on to college.
“It showed me the hardships of only having a high school degree. I want a career and not just a job,” says Jaime.
Hoping to get involved in local politics after college, Jaime wants to find ways to help his local community.