Business incubation class helps students get gift card business off the ground


Livy Dobrzycki

Hundreds of students each semester take a business class – for some, it may just be a CTE credit, but some students take the course beyond a classroom level. A team made up of seniors Cody Krieg, Nathan Limanowski, and sophomores Max Carsello and Carson ‘Kai’ Goodrick are emerging as a group of such students. 


Through Naperville North’s Business Incubator class, the team has designed an app called GiftVault, which allows users to buy and store gift cards digitally. 


The GiftVault team started development in October, starting with validation of their idea and planning. Along the way they mapped out their path to success, and this semester has led up to the creation of their website and social media outlets. An app is currently in development, and, as a final for Business Incubator, the group will make a minimum viable product presentation, in which they display a prototype of their product.


“I think we have a great thing going here, our team works really well together and we’ve been pushing hard to get stuff done,” Limanowski said.


Business Incubation is an entrepreneurship class inspired by the show ‘Shark Tank,’a show where potential investors listen to a business pitch,  according to NNHS teacher Gene Nolan.Students take a concept and make all of the necessary steps to form it into a prototype business. Alongside receiving education about business, other assistance is provided, such as mentoring from an outside business expert and funding from the Naperville Education Foundation. 


“There is a curriculum process the students follow, the very same process entrepreneurs follow in starting up a business.For instance, the students will learn the entrepreneurial business concepts of ideation, marketing for startups, and financials, to name a fe. But, each team goes at their own pace in these areas and, eventually, direction. I often say to the students ‘don’t wait for me!’ as they progress through their business. It’s a class that really gives the students’ mind free reign and direction,” Nolan said. 


Though the GiftVault group feels that they are doing extremely well, the project has come with some roadblocks. In what is called a “business-to-business negotiation,” issues in regards to finding the right product pricing and coming to an agreement with a manufacturer to purchase gift cards are a couple of examples of roadblocks the company needs to maneuver.. 


“One of the difficulties we came across is researching the general market for digital gift cards, as not many statistics have been published about them in general,” Limanowksi said.


Nolan also mentions that some students do, in fact, manage to get their business off the ground, while others do not – as expected when handling the real-life business world. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20% of new businesses fail within the first two years, and only a quarter live past 15. To prepare for the reality of business, students practice skills to be equipped with for the future. Cody Kraig lists a specific set of characteristics that will help an entrepreneur be successful:


“#1: Be brutally honest with yourself. Wishful thinking will make you go bankrupt and waste time. 

#2: Resilience. You win a few and you lose a few but you keep on kicking. 

#3: Adaptability. You don’t get to tell the consumer what they want. It is an absolute necessity to tailor the product to the market even if that may not be the direction you want to go.”