Student entrepreneurs, organizers ignite EntrovationCLE

Come the end of this month, an energetic group of 44 high school seniors will see an entire year of planning, collaboration, and hard work come to fruition for a day-long event that promises to rival the area's best professional business expos. EntrovationCLE, however, will one-up the concept and then some with the addition of raffles, food trucks, student entrepreneurs and a host of family friendly activities.
"It's much more exciting than just a business show," says Gregory Perry, teacher of the Beachwood Excel TECC Marketing Education and Junior Achievement course at Beachwood High School, students of which come from eight area high schools: Beachwood, Brush, Mayfield, Solon, Chagrin Falls, Aurora, West Geauga, and Orange.

"It's the culmination of a full year of in-depth entrepreneurship education," notes Perry of EntrovationCLE, adding that the class tackles hands-on tasks for the event such as marketing, sales pitches and convincing big and small companies to support the show. To that end, the group has enticed nearly 200 vendor participants.

Some of the big name sponsors and exhibitors include Americhem, which is headquartered in Cuyahoga Falls; the Dublin, Ohio, based IGS Energy; and Parker Hannifin, which is headquartered in Cleveland, Deacon's Chrysler Dodge of Mayfield Village and Hudson based Burton D. Morgan Foundation, which is the title sponsor.
Smaller local businesses include the Lakewood-based STEM Handmade Soaps and Three Kings Bakery of Beachwood, which is known for it's sweet offerings such as crusted cinnamon and pumpkin glazed breads and Blaze Gourmet, which will have a booth wherein Cowboy George will be offering up the likes of "Mild Thing" Chipotle Sauce and Hot Blueberry Love Sauce.
"When you come to this event," says Perry, "one of the things everybody says is that it looks and feels like a profession tradeshow." One thing EntrovationCLE has, however, that its older brethren do not is a host of student entrepreneurs - from middle-schoolers to the college set - that will be part of the Young Entrepreneur Market.
"There are 50 young entrepreneurs that are part of the Young Entrepreneur Marketplace," says Perry. "Those people will be in amongst all our exhibitors."
Jackson Webster"There's not a ton of opportunity out there for someone who's like 12, 14 or 18 to get a business off the ground," adds Chagrin Falls senior Jackson Webster, who is the CEO of the afternoon JA marketing class. "We've got a lot of really young motivated entrepreneurs that are going to be at the event. I'm excited to see them get their first opportunity to put their business out there in front of the general public."
Webster, who plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the fall, should know. He previously ran a lawn mowing service that garnered about $300 per week at its peak and currently operates an auto detailing service.
"I've always been an entrepreneur," he says. "This is an opportunity I wish I'd had. It's cool to finally give it to someone else."
Some of the student-owned small businesses will include handmade Cheric Dolls; Hug-a- Beds, which are dog beds made from recycled sweaters; Hola Granola; Studio Stick LLC, which is a portable full-production recording studio; KC's Cupcakes; the organic egg delivery start-up Anna's Eggs and Klean Body, which is a purveyor of body scrub.
Michael Carovac"When you look at those kids," adds Michael Carovac, CEO of the morning class and a senior at West Geauga High School, "they're going to be the future business leaders of America." Carovac will be attending University of Kentucky in the fall, but he marvels over what's become of his marketing class over the course of the year, which started with a group of kids, a white board and a bunch of ideas. EntrovationCLE took off from there.
"Everyday we come into class and we run this business," he says. "The fact that we are going to put on a world class exposition that's all run by students – I don't think you'll see that anywhere else."
Billed as a "one-day expo showcasing innovative entrepreneurs and out-of-the-box ideas," this will be the third Entrovation event. The initiative started in 2012 on the heels of five years of the Green Dream business trade show. (For those doing the math, Beachwood's Junior Achievement Marketing students forewent the Entrovation expo in 2015 in order to create the 100 Leaves Company, a public art project that celebrated the City of Beachwood’s centennial. The effort earned the class the designation of Greater Cleveland Junior Achievement Company of the Year.)
This year's April 30 event, which runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Beachwood High School, 25100 Fairmount Blvd., is free and open to the public. The charitable cause for EntrovationCLE 2016 is Youth Outdoors, which is a partnership between Cleveland Metroparks, Ohio State University Extension, 4-H and the City of Cleveland that aims to augment the developmental needs of Cleveland's urban youth with outdoor adventures and nature exploration.
Also on hand will be a selection of popular food trucks. Try DonutLabCleveland, Floured Apron, Little Cheeser's, Manna Food Truck, off the GRIDdle, Fire Truck Pizza Company and East Coast Custard.
The $7,500 in raffle prizes include oodles of swag such as a basketball signed by Cav's center Timofey Mozgov, a year of car washes from WaterWay Car Wash, a rain barrel valued at $60 from Cuyahoga Soil and Water Conservation District, a $350 gift certificate from American Limousine and a  $50 Mitchell's Ice Cream gift certificate, which will buy a round of Coffee Chocolate Chunk and then some.
CC's Landscaping 
All the quirky merch and fun eats aside, the event delivers something particularly special to Perry, who's been teaching kids long enough to see them transform. One company in particular comes to mind: CC's Landscaping.
"CC was a student in my class the first year of the Green Dream. He had his own student-run business at that point," says Perry of CC proprietor Chris Smith. "Here he is 10 years later with 50 employees and an exhibitor at our trade show," he adds.
"He's come full circle," says Perry. "That's so gratifying to me."

This story was made possible by a partnership between Fresh Water Cleveland and Beachwood City Schools.

Read more articles by Erin O'Brien.

Erin O'Brien's eclectic features and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and others. The sixth generation northeast Ohioan is also author of The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts. Visit for complete profile information.
Signup for Email Alerts