NHS alum competes in business contest
When Jack Crowley was interested in purchasing a painting, he had something specific in mind and was disappointed when he couldn’t find it in stores anywhere. So he came up with an idea for an app that connects artists with customers interested in commissioning a specific work of art.
Crowley, 18, started work on the Artistry app as a senior at Newark High School last year.
He and his business plan rose through the competition and became one of two semi-finalists in the Philadelphia region out of nearly 130 contenders. Earlier this month, he competed in New York City in the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge to pitch his idea in front of judges from financial companies like Citi and EY.
The National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge brings together 40 of the top qualifying Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship students from all over the country. The top three students competed in front of a live audience and a panel of judges for prizes totaling $35,000.
Crowley ended up making it through the first day of competition and, on the second day, competed against the two people who ended up winning the competition.
“They had great ideas,” he said. “Ultimately, I’m happy for them, and they did a great job. It was great seeing all the presenters and ideas. It inspired me to work harder and do more with my applications.”
Though Crowley is a freshman at the University of Delaware, this isn’t his first time developing a business plan. As a sophomore at NHS, Crowley enrolled in a business class and developed another idea. His teacher, Lucinda Oates-Wiley, suggested he compete within the school as part of the national Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship program at Newark High.
“I didn’t get past the third round that time,” he said.
But, as a senior, he decided to craft a business around the problem he had in finding art.
“People seemed to really like my idea, and I ultimately got to this point,” he said.
For this project, there’s a twopronged approach – he’s targeting both the artists and the consumers.
“I’m really trying to change the game for those artists, really trying to end unemployment by providing a stable platform,” he said. “Applications like Etsy or Redbubble kind of aren’t offering enough to them in many ways. I think they need somewhere they can really network with other artists.”
For the consumers, this provides them a customizability they can’t get anywhere else and, through reviews and samples of previous work available on the application, there will be certainty “that quality art is being created for the customers as well,” he noted.
Crowley said that he’s working with a student enrolled in UD’s Horn Entrepreneurship Program to develop the app. In about four months, users will be able to download it, he said.
He also was quick to thank OatesWiley for her guidance.
“She’s been awesome and has provided all the necessary tools,” he said.
Oates-Wiley said that it’s fulfilling to see her students utilize the skills they learn in class and then apply it to business ideas that have real-life applications.
“I want them to be self-sufficient, and I push them,” she said. “[NYEC] aligns with the purpose for me being a teacher here to see students reach their goals, they reach their potential, they kind of get outside their comfort-zone. They see things outside.”
For Oates-Wiley, who has been at Newark High for 12 years and worked with the NFTE program for six years, Crowley isn’t her first student to make it to the final round. She noted that two seniors at Newark, Alexis Schiaffino and Joseph Taylor, both came in third place in Philadelphia this year for their project “Seek to Find,” a service that helps locate lost jewelry through a tracking system.
Even though they didn’t make it as far as Crowley, both learned a lot from the experience.
“It helped me get a learning experience through that and get more knowledge in the topic,” Schiaffino said. “I also want to pursue a career as a business major in the future, so that helps a lot.”
“We really just want to keep going with the business and strive to do better in the long-term,” added Taylor.
Oates-Wiley also went to to New York City with Crowley and, before the competition, helped him prepare for the big day.
“As a teacher, you want your students to go out there and achieve, but achieve more than what they can ever dream of,” she said.
Although Crowley didn’t win, his positive attitude didn’t waver.
“Because I didn’t win, it’s not the end of the idea,” he said. “There was an underlying quote through the competition itself – something like, ‘My defeat is what powers me.’ I won by being there, and people like the idea. I can get it done regardless of the competition.”
And he has some advice to aspiring entrepreneurs: if it’s an idea you’re passionate about, keep going, no matter what people say.
Jack Crowley, 18, presents his topic in front of judges. Crowley, an alumnus of Newark High School, presented his business idea in New York as a finalist in a competition that awards up to $35,000 to young entrepreneurs.