MILE students take idea to nationals

Mallet Head group represents MISD in first year of district’s new career program

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
Young entrepreneurs from Midlothian ISD competed last week in the INCubatoredu national finals. The Mallet Head team pitched the concept of a revolutionary mallet that can be used for a multitude of percussion instruments. Members of Mallet Head are (from left) Emma Splawn, Zander Hubbard, Tyce Anderson, Peter Olusanya, Caed Mitchell and Noah Hobin.

Midlothian ISD’s new career campus has already formed the foundation for national excellence in its first full year of existence.

One of the benefits of the Midlothian Innovative Learning Experience, or MILE, has been the creation of an entrepreneurship program called INCubatoredu. Last week, an MISD student team called Mallet Head made its presentation in the program’s national competition.

Under the direction of MILE entrepreneurship teacher Demi Pratt and outside business mentors tapped by the district, Mallet Head was one of five finalists that made their presentations virtually via Zoom at the INCubatoredu national pitch finals. The students pitched their product in a “Shark Tank”-style presentation asking for seed money to help launch their Mallet Head product.

The teams recorded a pitch video plus a promotional video, then took part in a virtual Q&A with real entrepreneurs and investors, live. A watch party was held at the MILE.

Although Mallet Head didn’t win the grand prize, the team is poised in the future to capitalize on its experience and grow its business.

Mallet Head team members include CEO Zander Hubbard, CFO Emma Splawn, marketing manager Tyce Anderson, supply chain manager Peter Olusanya, lead engineer Caed Mitchell, and quality control manager Noah Hobin. All are recent graduates or returning seniors. The team was honored at last week’s MISD board meeting by leading the opening Pledge of Allegiance.

The team of students was involved in the first-year INCubatoredu course at the MILE, whose campus opened last August.

The students worked with mentors John Knight of First Financial Bank, Jonathan Douglass of Meta Real Estate, and Whitney Krupala of Right at Home Midlothian to design a revolutionary interchangeable mallet head that could be used for drums, xylophones, marimbas and other percussion instruments used by bands and orchestras.

Knight has plenty of experience with business pitches, as he is involved with the Midlothian Chamber of Commerce’s annual Business Plan Competition, which largely follows the same format.

Mallet Head won a $7,500 award at the MILE’s Final Pitch Night in May and advanced through several levels of competition in June to reach the national event.

The MILE hosts students from both Midlothian and Heritage High Schools. It is a state-of-the-art educational facility that provides flexible learning environments that reflect current industry and workplace environments in five career and technical education pathways: culinary arts, cybersecurity, aerospace engineering, civil engineering and entrepreneurship.

INCubatoredu is a full-year course and offers an authentic entrepreneurship experience as students build a business, according to information on the program’s website. Students make mistakes, take risks and learn to pivot. They develop their own product or service startup to gain investment funds in a final pitch event.

Real entrepreneurs and industry experts serve as volunteer coaches and mentors guiding student teams through the processes of developing hypotheses about a business concept, testing those hypotheses, adapting, and continually learning and improving.

Students leave the course having completed a Business Model Canvas, competitive analysis, financial model, minimum viable product, pitch deck, future communications plan, and future funding plan.