From Inside Business By Sandra J. Pennecke

Students on Team World Play making their winning pitch at last year’s INCubatoredu Pitch Night. (Courtesy / HANDOUT)

Virginia Beach — Five teams of young entrepreneurs will pitch their business ideas to a host of experts including Gov. Glenn Youngkin and music producer Chad Hugo during the upcoming INCubatoredu Pitch Night.

The students, all enrolled in the Entrepreneurship and Business Academy at Kempsville High School, were selected to participate in the “Shark Tank”-style event on May 10. Hosted by hotelier and developer Bruce Thompson, CEO of Gold Key/PHR in Virginia Beach, the event is in its fourth year.

Ashley Houchins Smith, entrepreneurship and business academy teacher, said the sophomore students entered the class in September and formed 14 teams within weeks before spending the remainder of the school year developing their businesses under the guidance of mentors.

The teams were narrowed down to the strongest five: Orcasunn, an environmentally-friendly organic sunscreen; Wavlength, a community-based crowdfunding music platform; Refill, an eco-friendly refillable candle business; Beauty Perfection, a multipurpose company that specializes in hair products and hair tools; and Port Power, a multipurpose portable wall charging port.

“I like to tell people it’s like watching an episode of ‘Shark Tank’ live,” Smith said. “The teams will pitch and make a funding ask at the end … for a specific amount of money that they feel they need to in order to actually launch the business.”

The judges’ panel, in addition to Youngkin and Kempsville High alum Hugo, includes CEO Jerry Miller of The Miller Group; Gilbert Bland, president, and CEO of the Urban League of Hampton Roads; Monique Adams, executive director of 757 Angels; George Clarke IV, president of MEB; and Dennis Ellmer, president and CEO of Priority Automotive.

Smith said a total of $25,000, donated by Thompson, is given away at each Pitch Night in varying amounts.

“We haven’t limited it to any number of winners; we really want the judges to select the teams they think have a real viable business,” Smith said.

Smith said it’s been incredible to see the students solve a problem, come up with ideas, and work hard on their businesses all year long.

“This is the culmination of months and months of work,” Smith said.

Two of last year’s winning teams, World Play, a published children’s book that teaches sustainability, and Swag Stick, a surf wax in a reusable container, will be at the event to share the ongoing growth of their businesses.

Held in the school’s auditorium at 5194 Chief Trail, Virginia Beach, doors will open at 4 p.m. and the event starts at 5 p.m. Tickets are free, but spaces must be reserved in an advance at

Students on Team Swag Stick are shown following their winning pitch at last year’s INCubatoredu Pitch Night. The students created a surf wax in a reusable container that is now for sale at Coastal Edge and 17th Street Surf Shop in Virginia Beach. (Courtesy / HANDOUT)

Sandra J. Pennecke, 757-652-5836,