Journalism & Entertainment From Farmington High School

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Journalism & Entertainment From Farmington High School

BKTV Studios

Journalism & Entertainment From Farmington High School

BKTV Studios

Babysitting? No Thanks, Give Me a Candle! Meet Illuminescents, an INCubatoredu Sensation

Illuminescents, Instagram
Here, Illuminescents gathers for a group photo after receiving their seed money. Far left, Erica Dement, next, Scott Plummer and Mallory Felker, left center, Ava Obenauer, center, Alex Cummings, next, Elizabeth Savage, next, Debbie Peterson, and right end, Lynn Wisdom.

Farmington High School offers a wide variety of programs for students to be involved in. One of these programs is INCubatoredu, an initiative cultivated for high school students that aims to give innovative ideas the potential to become successful businesses. INCubatoredu ends with a final pitch, similar to the popular television show, Shark Tank, where business owners hope to find an investor to propel their businesses forward.

Over the years, the INCubator program has changed exceptionally, incorporating new opportunities for students and welcoming new business ideas each year.

“FHS remains the only school in the state of Missouri that offers the program, which is unique,” explained Erica Dement, the INCubator instructor and business educator at FHS. “Of course, the business ideas that students have each year change, and that ultimately makes the instructor’s experience different as well; different obstacles to overcome, different industries to research, and more.”

The process of creating each business is extensive. Students must learn and apply many aspects of business to be successful.

“Creating a business is the most time-intensive aspect of the INCubator program,” Dement explained. “Students are put into teams after the instructor has the chance to get to know the students and their personalities (to determine who would work well together). Once students have been put into their teams, they begin the ideation phase of the program.”

This year, two groups are participating in the INCubatoredu program. One of them is Illuminescents. Illuminescents is a candle-manufacturing business that produces decorative soy wax candles and melts.

Soy wax is an ingredient made from the oil of soybeans, which is much healthier than many toxic chemicals included in other candles, such as lead.

Juniors Ava Obenauer, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mallory Felker, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), Alex Cummings, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), and senior Elizabeth Savage, Chief Operating Officer (COO), are the minds behind Illuminescents.

“When I first heard about INCubator, I thought it was a cool opportunity,” said Savage. “It allowed me to see what the business world is like.”

“One of my friends was in it last year, and I asked her if I should do it, and she said it’d be good for my college applications,” explained Cummings.

Although Illuminescents specializes in candles and wax melts, they were initially providing a service called Playtime Project.

“We were originally going to do a babysitting-type of thing,” explained Felker. “We then decided we hated that business and we wanted to do something else.”

During the beginning stages of the program, students learn about what it takes to start a business and the many different aspects of it.

“There is a lot of instruction provided over the foundations of starting a small business, including identifying problems, competitive analysis, customer segmentation, and determining what unique value their potential business would have,” said Dement.

After solidifying their business ideas, students will then transition into the next phase of the program: the Customer Delivery Phase. Here, students will have discussions with possible customers, determine their target markets, and conduct market research. Throughout the year, students will also explore marketing strategies and the legalities and financial aspects of owning a business.

The day-to-day for Illuminescents involves lots of preparation and production.

“There is lots of candle-making!” said Savage. “If we want to knock out a bunch of candles at once, it takes at least two hours.”

“There is a lot of patience involved with it, and there are a lot of design elements. We have to think about how we are going to make the candles, our posters, and our orders,” added Obenauer.

Since they began, Illuminescents has seen an increase in revenue, sales, and overall exposure, although sometimes business is stagnant.

“We had our biggest boom when we first started because we posted a lot of content and gathered anticipation,” explained Mallory. “It has slowed down since then, but we still get orders.”

Illuminescents offers many scents and is currently taking orders.

“We offer three scent options; we have Lavender Dreams, which is a lavender and linen-scented candle, we have Lemon Orchard which is sandalwood and lemongrass, and then we offer Sweet Clementine which is an orange, cupcake, and vanilla bean scented candle,” Ava said. “We offer two sizes, small and large. The large candles are $26.00 and the smaller candles are $12.00.

“We might have some summer scents come out soon!” Felker announced. “We were discussing coconut, Ocean Breeze, watermelon, or strawberry.”

Being a student in high school is demanding enough, but students in the INCubator program have to find a healthy balance between being a full-time student and a business owner. This is not always easy, as Illuminescents puts it.

“Most of us are in college classes, we have jobs outside of school, we have sports, and all of these different activities,” Obenauer said.

“Many of us are very involved with other aspects of school as well, so that can make managing a business hard, but we get by,” added Felker.

Throughout the program, Illuminescents has grown increasingly. They have learned to work together and create a product that many have come to love. The group prides itself on making quality products and ensuring that their ingredients are in the best interest of the consumer.

“Illuminescents have come a long way from the beginning, especially since candles were not their original idea,”

— Erica Dement

“There is a lot of growth that occurs throughout the school year for the INCubator teams. They start by identifying problems that they see in our community, potential solutions to address these problems, and determining if those potential solutions are worthy of a potential business. It is very challenging to come up with a business idea, so to see students not only accomplish this but also create that business in a 9-month time frame is very impressive.”

The students that make up this business would recommend the INCubator program, but encourage keeping an open mind.

“It is a great way to experience the business industry, but I would recommend it to people who can handle a large workload and can easily get along with others,” explained the team.

“I would recommend this program to students that are interested in pursuing business careers after high school or students that are interested in entrepreneurship, ” added Dement. “It is a great way to see if business is something that interests you (before spending time and money on a degree for it). INCubator is a rigorous and time-consuming course, so students benefit the most when they have an interest in business, when they are self-motivated, and if they know they will be able to commit to their team.”

For young and aspiring entrepreneurs, the Illuminescents team encourages them to keep their heads up even on difficult days and always communicate with the ones they are working with.

Illuminescents is officially in business as of March 8, 2024. On Friday, February 2, 2024, Illuminescents, through the Missouri Secretary of State, became an official Limited Liability Company (LLC). The following Saturday, February 3, 2024, Illuminescents was able to create their bank account.

The INCubator Final Pitch will take place on Thursday, April 25, 2024 at Truman Auditorium. It will be available to view on BKTV Studios via YouTube following the event.

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About the Contributor
Mady Washington
Mady Washington, Journalism & TV Staff
Bonjour, knights! My name is Mady Washington, and I am a Sophomore here at Farmington High School. I have been a member of the journalism and Black Knight Television staff for a year. What I love most about writing articles and reporting for BKTV is the smiles on the faces of students when they are featured in a story. It is important that all students have a voice on our online publication. My hope is that all students feel they have a place here at Farmington High School, and BKTV brings us closer together in various ways. I look forward to working with all BKTV staff members this year!

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