Into the Shark Tank
Butler QUEST students pitch their own products, business models

BY ASHLEY HAYNES - Special to The Freeman

January 20, 3018


Butler Middle School QUEST student Rachel O’Malley pitches her business, “Doggie Bowtique”, to the shark tank of “investors” Friday morning. O’Malley’s business feature customizable bow ties and bandanas for furry friends.

Ashley Haynes/Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA — On television, the show “Shark Tank” portrays the nervewracking journeys entrepreneurs go through as they seek an investment in their businesses from one of the well known “sharks,” who are experts in various business industries. The moment they pitch their business is tense, and the sharks don’t waste any time throwing them hardball questions as they feel out whether or not an investment in a particular business is worth their time and money. On Friday morning, a group of Butler Middle School students in the QUEST program sought to accomplish a similar task.

QUEST is an organization that provides a learning environment where students can capitalize on their own strengths and learn at their own pace. All QUEST students presented their quarter-long “Expedition” projects, with a portion choosing to create their own products and business plans. Part of the project included having to field questions from Butler’s version of the sharks — parent volunteers.

First, presenters had to explain how they chose their product/brand.

“Being the creative students we are, we’d often times draw on our hands in the classroom,” explained Kaitlyn Ulalisa, who was part of a duo that created a henna kit, complete with stencils, a brush and a homemade henna paste. “We would be drawing on ourselves with permanent marker and it wouldn’t be good for our skin.”

So far, Ulalisa and her partner Lucy Kukla have sold nine of their kits in a week for $6.99 each. They were seeking a $50,000 for a 30 percent portion of their company, Helpful Henna. The girls cut out each stencil in the kits by hand and mixed their own non-toxic henna paste. They were theoretically looking for money to invest in a laser pointer to make the creation of stencils easier. The sharks, while impressed with the concept, thought the girls needed a stronger business plan to get word out about their product.

“We’re hoping to branch out and make different kits and designs,” said Kukla. “So far, it’s just been through word of mouth and our friends.”


Kaitlyn Ulalisa (left) and Lucy Kukla (right) show the sharks firsthand how their homemade henna kit works. The two girls, who describe themselves as very creative, wanted a safer alternative than drawing on their hands with a Sharpie or marker.

Ashley Haynes/Freeman Staff

Student presenters were also asked about product distribution, production costs, price points, advertising and more. Each Expedition project is meant to push students past their comfort zone while still allowing them to personalize their own education. Outside the shark tank, some other projects students could choose from included spoken word, a film and photo festival, and the Future Cities regional competition.

After each student pitched his or her idea to the sharks, the sharks then rated each presentation. Even though not every student could win best presentation, each one left with a very real business, and some even designed their own websites.

“I got my product idea from watching a dog food commercial,” said Rachel O’Malley, who created the company “Doggie Bowtique.” “My very first time through, I made adjustable bow ties.”

O’Malley explained that the bow ties and bandanas she makes by hand are customizable to different dogs. The price range is from $3$5, and she has made nine sales in a week.

“I have my own website that I’ve made, that’s a business type website,” said O’Malley. “I’m still thinking of ways to help my business grow.”