Wasatch High School Invest Nest Interview with J.W. Davies
Today’s interview, we sit down with Davies Allen’s own J.W. Davies to talk to him about the idea that sparked the Invest Nest Program idea, giving back to the community, and entrepreneurship.
D+A: How did the [Wasatch CAPS] idea come about? Was that your idea?
Davies: Pretty much, yeah. I had this idea that I wanted to challenge these kids to be entrepreneurs. I think there’s plenty of bookwork and traditional education, but I didn’t think we were doing enough to try to encourage entrepreneurship with the kids.
If you look at people and what they do to earn a living, there’s a lot of traditional employees, but there’s also a lot of entrepreneurs… business owners, and I thought we’re not giving enough emphasis in our education system for the opportunity to be a business owner.
So you’re a fan of Shark Tank then, is that right?
Love Shark Tank. I don’t have a lot of time to watch it, honestly, but I’ve watched a few episodes, and I just love the concept of giving everyday people the opportunity to grow some new idea. Ideas that succeed come from everybody. It’s not like they come from the Germans, or you know, from 50 year-olds and above, they come from everybody. We saw that in our competition. Lots of fantastic ideas.
D+A: What did [the competition] look like? How did it come together?
Davies: When Brad [Allen] and I first brainstormed, I said “Hey Brad, this is what I want to do.” Brad supported the idea, and said “Yeah, pursue it.” So, I happen to know the principal of Wasatch High School, Tod Johnson, he’s my neighbor. I went to him and he said it was a great idea. He told me about the CAPS program and introduced me to Jason Watt and a few of the others at the CAPS program. They took me to the facility and kind of explained what the program was like, and it was the perfect environment for this kind of project, so I told them about it. They introduced me to Weston Broadbent, who’s over the business department at CAPS, and they said “Yeah, let’s make it a project of CAPS.” They assigned me, three students, to work with, and since last September, I’ve been meeting with the students, brainstorming and putting it together, plus some other investors.
We decided we need to add other mentors to this initiative to help the students get ready for their projects, and I thought about who else we could involve in Wasatch County, Midway, Heber, and surrounding areas. I thought of clients and other leaders in the community, and I reached out to them and asked them to participate. We got a really good response. James Ballstaedt was fantastic, Danny Labrum, Rick Krebs, Rocky Fischer, Paul Ritchie, Jeff Danley, and Troy Peterson came on. They loved the idea and they actually started telling their friends about it, and we had multiple people wanting to participate who reached out without us even asking for their help.
D+A: How many students were involved?
Davies: We started advertising for the project, kind of making announcements at school. This guy volunteered, and we flew a helicopter over the school and we dropped all these leaflets to the students as they were having a fire drill outside at the time. So we did a bunch of different promoting of the idea. We created a website, InvestNest.org, and we just had students sign up. We had 38-40 kids sign up. We advertised a $10,000 prize, which was probably a big motivator. So all of the kids came, and they did a phase 1. They did an initial presentation to the investors that I mentioned. They did a little 30-minute elevator pitch and then at that point in time, we assigned them a mentor. We got probably another 10 people in the community besides those 8 investors involved and they mentored the students. So with the investors, there was probably 18-20 people mentoring. Some of the students saw that it was going to take some work to start a business, so they dropped out, but a lot of them kept mentoring and then continued on to phase 2. In phase 2, the students basically came to ask for an investment. This was the Shark Tank-like event. We met and the students presented their business idea to the investors. I think there were 25 students that presented. There were actually some deals made in that meeting, meaning some kids were looking for loan dollars or investment dollars, and some of these investors actually passed on contact information, so some of those business ideas will be funded.
D+A: What was the judging process like?
Davies: We were just looking for viability of an idea, or likeliness to succeed and the student’s knowledge and preparation on the topic. Some of the students already had businesses that they were doing, so that helped them because they didn’t just have an idea. Faith, who ended up winning in the end, her business was already going. So we looked for that, we looked for competition in the market, who their competitors were, the potential to employ other employees, the profitability of the potential business, the market space, all those kind of things.
Do you have any tips or advice for other people who are looking to do something similar?
I think you can start earlier and you can prepare earlier. There were two groups of students. There were the people who were taking it seriously, and another group that was like “Hey, maybe I can win $10,000.” I would start researching a business now. I would start learning about it, pursuing it, getting mentors, because we’re going to do this again a year from now. So I would start by doing your homework and research and try to develop your idea as much as possible before then.
D+A: What stood out to you about Faith’s idea?
Davies: Let me tell you how Faith won. In Phase 3, we picked ten of the best students in Phase 2, and then they moved forward to Phase 3 in front of a live audience. It wasn’t just one person that voted, or even a handful of people. We had four different sets of groups of people that voted. So we had an audience vote that listened to Phase 3. The live audience voted, they were the first group. The second group that voted was the education panel that sat on the stage with the presenters, the students. You had the principal, some people from the district, the assistant principal that was asking questions back and forth with the presenter. So that education panel voted. The $10,000 for the winner was raised from local businesses. Those local businesses were invited to attend, and they also got to vote. So even though they were in the audience, they got to vote, and then all of the investors voted. So the people who had been with it from the very beginning, they also got to vote. There’s a wide variety. It was a very close contest. There were three contestants that were within three or four points of each other. Faith won, but there were a couple of other people who were neck-in-neck. I think Faith won because her business was an existing somewhat proven business, so people thought “If she wins the $10,000, Faith is going to hire more people,” because she has a large backlog of halters that need to be braided. She makes halters for horses. So they thought “Man, if we give her the money, she’s going to put it to use right now, and she can grow her business immediately.” I think people also wanted to reward Faith for the hard work that she had already done in the past, so to kind of recognize her on that. This was an idea that was clearly Faith’s, she came up with this, this wasn’t her parent’s idea that she was trying to promote or do. This was her own idea, and she had taken the bull by the horns, so to speak. And she makes money, she’s profitable, so this could be a business idea that grows and that Heber could be known for.
Thank you so much to the Wasatch CAPS program, Invest Nest and the students of Wasatch for sharing their time and talent. To learn more about Wasatch CAPS, visit http://www.wasatchcaps.org/. To learn more about the Invest Nest program, go to https://investnest.org/.