ABC's hit show Shark Tank can get brutal: tears shed, dreams crushed, inventors laid low.
Shark Tank, however, can also be a joyous, smirking Mark Cuban doling out gifts and good news like a billion-dollar Santa.
Now imagine the highs and lows of Shark Tank with kids doing the proposing and pitching, wee entrepreneurs with a lot to win--or lose.
That high-wattage scenario will play out at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at a free event at Southeastern University in Lakeland.
Fifteen middle and high-schoolers from Polk County -- complete with a smart, savvy business idea -- will compete for more than $10,000 from such potential investors as Publix, SunTrust Bank and the Bank of Central Florida.
It's all part of a national program called the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!), an arm of which is offered at the Lakeland Chamber of Commerce.
Seventh-grader Ethan Fedkiw sees himself as a CEO of sweets. He wants to launch a candy subscription service, called GeoCandy, that highlights a new country each month; Germany and Japan would be his first two.
"My target market is 6-year-olds," he says...wisely.
Niriham Shah's Bus Wiz stems from personal frustration: "In the morning, I would have to wait for hours for the busy to come to my stop." So he's proposing a mobile app that would track school buses -- and bus drivers.
Madison Allen, a 6th-grader from Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, has very nice hair -- and she wants YOU to have very nice hair, too. So she's pitching Madi's 4-in-1 Hairbrush which de-tangles, has a mirror and a secret compartment, and lifts and releases excess hair.
All of the kids we talked to were pretty nervous.
Well, except for Pierce Meyer, who wants to develop an online math tutorial for home-schoolers.
"I read Einstein for fun," he says.
That sort of confidence will serve him well Wednesday.