TL;DR: The Innovate Business Challenge


Anna at her stand in 2014. - SUBMITTED
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  • Anna at her stand in 2014.

Happy Sunday! Too busy to read all of this week’s story about Humboldt County Office of Education’s Innovate Business Challenge? We get it. Here’s the elevator pitch: Since 2010, local high school students have been competing to win up to $8,000 in cash and prizes for their small business plans. They are mentored along the way by successful local entrepreneurs, who help craft their ideas around costs and marketing before the final five competitors go before a Shark Tank-style panel of judges. Past winning ideas include a pencil eraser that doubles as a stylus, a 3D printing program, cruelty-free veal and a clothing company. Check out the full article here, or just enjoy this bonus interview with one past winner, Ferndale High School graduate Anna Gomes.

North Coast Journal: So, Anna, what are you doing these days?

Anna Gomes: I’m getting adjusted to my new classes, I’m in my third year at U.C. Davis, majoring in agricultural and environmental education.

NCJ: What year did you compete in the Innovate Business Challenge?

AG: I competed my junior year of high school, 2013. Karen [Brooks] and another gentleman came to our classroom at Ferndale High. I had already started my business, through the Future Farmers of America Program, called supervised agricultural experience. You own your own business, work for a farmer and raise your own animals.

NCJ: What was your inspiration for your business, Anna’s Herbs?

AG: I had a substitute teacher that taught us how to grow the basic types of vegetables and herbs and I slowly built up my knowledge base. I would go to the Farmers' Market and the plant sale, and would lug a folding table out to the front of the school. I just kind of loved the whole experience. The Ag teacher gave me space in greenhouse to grow plants. We’d sell (Community Supported Agriculture) baskets to subscribers. That’s how I learned everything I knew.

NCJ: So you hit the ground running when you decided to do the Challenge. Was there anything about the process that surprised you?

AG: During the process the judges asked a lot of questions, I had to be ready for that. They made me really brainstorm and think about what I was going to do with my business. They made me explore all my options. I had to get all the answers, explore all the different reasons why I do things, purchase things, evaluate my profits.

NCJ: And you won $2,500. What did you do with the money and what did you get out of the experience besides the monetary award?

AG: The connections I built really helped me; people gave me tips and tricks. The dehydrator I was using before to dry my herbs was really slow. I purchased a more efficient dehydrator and an umbrella stand and market table for Farmer’s Market.

NCJ: Now that you’re a college student and getting ready to go out in the world with a new career, how do you feel like the Innovate Business Challenge has helped you?

AG: This has given me great perspective in going forward. It’s given me a really good foundation to actually have experience into what farmers do. I work with them and talk about sustainability, and I can say I’ve had some experience. There’s all these sustainable practices for famers to adopt, but it has to be economically feasible. My best friend and I just applied for another business challenge, to design an ugly food market. I was like, “Oh, I know how to do this.” Being able to design a business and go forward with something I’m really passionate about, I feel really lucky to have had this experience.

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