Jaguar Cage

Project Overview

Jaguar Cage is the TCEC adaptation of the popular show "Shark Tank," where participants pitch their entrepreneurial ideas to investors in the hopes of scaling their businesses to a larger audience.  During this project, students work in teams to launch a business or non-profit product or service.  They begin by identifying their own passions and creating product ideas that emerge from the process, then attempt to recruit a team of supporters by pitching their ideas.  Once the teams have coalesced around the best ideas, they build a business plan from scratch, find mentors from outside the school, construct a prototype, and a marketing campaign to launch their business.  The final days of the project will be spent pitching their fully developed business plans to their peers, then the best ideas a panel of business leaders from our community who will provide guidance and support.

Driving Question


How do you build a student-run business that addresses a community or global need, integrates your passion, and is financially sustainable?

Milestones & Timeline


The milestones below mimic the business planning process and each have products associated with them.  Students receive documents and templates for each phase as you move through the project.  However, KNTK Logs should be updated throughout the project.

Entry Event


For this Entry Event, students work in randomly assigned teams to use "money" to buy a bunch of "worthless" objects and turn them into a product that their classmates would want to invest in.  They then have to pitch their ideas convincingly and classmates use "money" to invest in their favorite products.  See the student-authored facilitator's guide here.

Ideation Phase


In this phase of the project, students spend time reflecting on their own passions and talents, then exploring what the world needs to try to generate an appropriate idea for a product or service that fit into the center of the Venn Diagram to the left.  They use the Jaguar Cage Briefcase #1 to organize their thoughts and research.

At the end of this phase, students pitch their ideas to their "interest groups" that are organized through polling the student body.  The students then self-organize around their favorite ideas to create teams of 2-4 to work on a project.

Market Analysis Phase


Once the students have their ideas developed sufficiently through filling out a project proposal template, they begin their market analysis.  We chose to do the market analysis first so that students could ensure that their product or service would be needed and could plausibly get a share of the market.  We kicked off this phase with an "Entrepreneurship Fair" where we brought in two business owners from our community (owners of Heartfelt Wellbeing and Friendsday), a UNC Professor of Alternative Energy, and a Recruiter from Google's Self-Driving Car division, so that students could ask questions about the challenges and realities of starting a business.  Students also attended a talk by nationally-known entrepreneur, Sylvester Chisom, to be inspired by his insights on entrepreneurship. 


Through a series of protocols and research, by the end of this two week phase, students author a market analysis using the Small Business Administration's business plan template and identify a mentor outside the school to assist them. Students use the Briefcase #2 to organize their research during this phase of the project.


Development Phase

This is the messy middle of the project where students develop the rough draft of their business plans, work closely with mentors, build and iterate prototypes, and create the beginnings of their marketing plans.  Their confidence is bolstered by the market analysis, which helped them refine their initial ideas to ensure a good product / market fit.

By the end of this phase, every student team has:

  • A working prototype of the product or highly detailed blueprints

  • If a service, a plan for the pilot program

  • A rough draft of a business plan including:

    • A description of the product or service

    • Organizational structure and job descriptions

    • Marketing plan

    • Budget projecting first year expenses and revenues

    • Strategic plan with goals and objectives for the first year

Polishing Phase


Once the students have further developed their ideas and have working prototypes, they enter the Polishing Phase, where they put final touches on their business plans by seeking mentor, peer, and teacher advice.  The goal of this phase is for students to have a final draft of a business plan that they could show to potential investors to launch their businesses legitimately.  Moreover, the polishing phase involves students creating marketing materials and branding their products.  They are required to create materials including:

  • A Logo

  • A website featuring thorough information about their product

  • Paper materials including brochures and flyers

  • Business Cards for group members

  • A refined pitch presentation to present their idea to a group of investors

Presentation & Celebration Phase


The grand finale of the project is a Shark Tank style pitch contest.  The students begin the process by pitching their fully developed products to a panel of peers and interested community members in a smaller group, then go on to a school-wide presentation of the best ideas from each of the smaller groups.  The final presentations contain the entire student body, but also a panel of business people who give feedback and commit to supporting the ideas they find to be most promising by assisting with the full implementation of them.