By Sara Knuth, Regis University
A biodegradable tote bag intended to combat the environmental hazards of plastic bags. An app that encourages users to tell authentic stories based on their locations. A reversible suit that doubles clothing options for young professionals. And a health care app that gives low-income patients easy access to health resources.
Those were the business ideas pitched by 18 Arrupe Jesuit High School seniors recently as part of the inaugural Entrepreneurial Innovation pitch event, hosted by the Regis Innovation Center with support from the Anderson College of Business and Computing.
The event, which brought a crowd of families and supporters to the Mountain View Room of St. Peter Claver S.J. Hall, was the culmination of many hours of classwork by Arrupe students in the new Entrepreneurial Innovation class, formed in partnership with Regis. As part of the class, each student is enrolled in Regis, earning college credit transferable to any university in the United States.
A panel of judges selected a winning product pitched by the seniors that will go on to compete against other startups during the Regis Innovation Challenge, scheduled for 5:30-8 p.m. April 28 in the Mountain View Room of Claver Hall.
The winner was the Enviobag, a tote made from hemp that is 100% biodegradable. Business founders and Arrupe seniors Malia Ahmad, Vanessa Trevizo, Briana Renteria Lopez, Samara Renteria Lopez and Alexa Lucero said the bag will last 20 to 30 years when properly cared for but begins decomposing after only two weeks when left outside. Colorado recently implemented a new law that requires stores to charge 10 cents per plastic bag.
In 2024, stores may only offer recycled paper bags for 10 cents, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.
“We were brainstorming what are ways that we could, like, just benefit society, and think about not only ourselves, but other people,” Samara Renteria Lopez said. “Not only is it not going to impact the environment, but it’s also biodegradable, but it’s also going to be really … useful for any consumer.”
Ruben Martinez, a Regis alumnus, affiliate faculty member and Arrupe director of marketing, taught the Entrepreneurial Innovation course, which was adapted from a Regis Master of Business Administration course. Martinez said the course showed the tenacity of each student.
“They’re very dedicated, and you had to show up early for the classes. This is on top of all the other stuff, right? This is for college credit,” Martinez said. “So, they’ve got a million other things, and they showed up early to school so they can do the class … so, it really kind of shows the dedication and the hard work that they have.”
Judges also heard pitches from other innovative Arrupe businesses: health care app La Amistad, reversible suit company Suitable and storytelling app Where You App. The project started when Martinez and Innovation Center director and Regis professor Ken Sagendorf discussed the possibility of bringing the course to Arrupe.
“We started dreaming big dreams. And we do have a big giant expansive dream, but this was the pilot to get everything off the ground,” Sagendorf said. “And so, we wanted to make sure that the students get credit for it. That’s going to transfer to any college in America. We wanted to make sure that ultimately the students and their families feel like they have a home here.”
For Arrupe leaders, the family connection is key.
“This is a celebration, for sure, of the kids’ accomplishments,” said Arrupe Principal Rev. John Nugent, S.J. “They’ve spent a lot of time on it and put this stuff together. But I’m exceedingly grateful for parents’ trust in our school, for parents really encouraging their kids to go for something that’s entrepreneurial.”