Three Oak Park and River Forest High School students were recently awarded $4,000 to help invest in and expand their business, which they launched while in school as part of a class project.
Grayson Adelstein, Joey DiMaso and Ivan Gillman – all of whom will be seniors next fall – were named the winning team in a business incubator class for the creation of Ripple, a digital service that offers people custom video montages, interviews or other recordings to preserve the memories of departed loved ones. From sophomores to seniors, the elective course lets students learn about entrepreneurship, receive mentorship from local business owners and develop their own products or service startups, said Matthew Prebble, an OPRF teacher and chairman of the business education department.
“It’s more experiential,” Prebble said of the business incubator course, adding students like Adelstein, DiMaso and Gillman get to explore different business concepts beyond the textbook.
Prebble said teams pitch a business plan to a panel of area entrepreneurs at the end of the first semester. The teams meet with the panel once more at the end of the second semester to provide an update on their business plans, which oftentimes include testimonials from clients. The panel then selects and awards a winning team with $4,000, and members can put the money toward their college tuition or grow their business.
This year, the competition was tight: It was between Ripple and The Box, a gift box service launched by a four-member team, Prebble said.
“The judges had a very hard time actually determining the winner this year between Ripple and The Box, but Ripple clinched it just because what they’re doing has a wider reach perhaps than the Box’s subscription service,” Prebble continued. “And the testimonials from [Ripple] customers just showed how valuable and needed their service was and will likely continue to be even past the pandemic.”
Adelstein previously told Wednesday Journal the idea for Ripple came from a personal place. During the pandemic, the 17-year-old lost a relative and the experience of attending a virtual funeral stuck with him.
“The [online] experience was just really poor,” Adelstein said in a prior interview with the Journal. “There were a lot of technical difficulties. The Zoom ended short. People were talking over each other. Overall, it was just a really bad way to remember someone who we really love.”
Adelstein said he and his teammates are proud of getting the grand prize and have already come up with ways to take their business to the next level. The teens told the Journal they are in the process of turning Ripple into an LLC (limited liability company), the first of many steps that will make their business and brand more professional. They are also looking to connect with area hospitals and senior living communities, said DiMaso, also 17. DiMaso said they just joined the Oak Park River Forest Chamber of Commerce and were informed they are the youngest members.
“It’s been really great,” DiMaso said, reflecting on his group’s accomplishments.
For Prebble, he’s excited to see what else is in store for Adelstein, DiMaso and Gillman.
“I think that they really found a meaningful problem that was looking for a meaningful, high-quality solution, and they ended up finding that,” Prebble said. “So more power to them.”
For more information about Ripple, visit rippleservicesinc.weebly.com or find the business on Instagram at the handle @oprf.ripple. For inquiries, contact the Ripple team at firstname.lastname@example.org.