By Jack Molitor
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — As some of the prime targets of bullying, high schoolers are likely to be best able to identify solutions.
Brandon Boynton believes he found such a solution to the problem at his own school. Now he's being handsomely rewarded for it.
Boynton received $2,050 in start-up grants for his idea, the BullyBox, from a panel of investors Thursday night at the Young Entrepreneurs Academy Investor Event at the Flagship Center. Boynton, along with seven other teens, pitched six business ideas they developed through their months of training in the academy.
Boynton's grant, more than twice what he requested in his presentation, was the largest donation from the panel at the event, and earned Boynton a trip to South Florida in May to compete as a semifinalist for the Saunders Scholarship Competition.
The Young Entrepreneurs Academy is a nationwide nine-month program geared toward preparing high schoolers for the business world by helping them develop invention ideas and entrepreneurial skills. The program holds three-hour classes every week, in addition to other events like field trips.
This is the inaugural year for the Madison County YEA, which is the second YEA group to be formed in Indiana. Program Manager Angela Barbosa called Thursday night the key event of the year for teens in the academy.
"Our economy is based on small businesses, and we want to contribute to a resurgence of the economy, particularly in this area," Barbosa said. "Even if (the teens) don't go on to be business owners, they will see business differently and be able to contribute at a much higher level in the business world."
During his presentation, Boynton, a sophomore at Pendleton Heights, asked the panelists to imagine being in high school — a time that should be filled with fun and friendship — and dreading coming to class every day for fear of bullying. He went on to describe his mobile application, The BullyBox, which allows students and parents to anonymously report acts of bullying to their school. The app allows the sender to submit a picture of the act, which could be physical or over social media. After winning the semifinalist berth, Boynton said he felt overwhelmed.
"A few schools already have something similar to this in place, including ours, but they're too complicated," Boynton said. "I'm fluent in computer language, and I'm already creating apps all the time. I thought to myself, 'Why not make an app for this?'"
Dirk Webb, one of the investor panelists and Director of Operations at the Flagship Center, said he was impressed by the timeliness of Boynton's idea, with bullying in schools being a hot topic. The other ideas included a lawn care service, insect-repelling candles, a bread loaf protector, a poster-design service and an electoral college education app.
"I was impressed by all the ideas and presentations," Webb said. "I think these young men could teach a lot of seasoned business owners how to improve their product."
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Young Entrepreneur Academy Investor Panel Event Brandon Boynton -- The BullyBox, recevied $2,050 Jordan Wood -- The Election Game, received $1,250 The Bread Barn -- Nathan Smith, received $1,025 Pest Away Candles -- Derek Sikorski and Brenton Adcock, received $775 Yard Smart Lawn Care -- Nick Fights and Mark Hartman, received $350 Dakota Designs -- Dakota Welker, received $150