A natural hair and skin care line, incredibly convenient smoothies, tech-enabled basketball trading cards, eco-friendly athletic wear, and consumer-designed outdoor clothing—these were new business concepts from the very first Leadership Lab participants.
Kate Parker-Burgard, Director of St. Luke’s Center for Leadership (CFL) describes Leadership Lab as a natural extension of the CFL: “We work with students to develop effective leadership skills—communicating with confidence, collaborating effectively, getting creative to solve problems, and doing something positive that benefits others. Leadership Lab takes emerging skills to the next level by putting theory into practice and connecting students with expert mentors.”
The Power of Brand
The first Leadership Lab, The Power of Brand, was a mini-course that brought students together with six Leadership Mentors. After learning current branding fundamentals, students worked in teams to articulate their business concepts and develop a brand pitch. Mike Gaumer, the President of Vineyard Vines, David Pakman, Partner at Venrock and co-founder of Apple’s Music Group, Rich Riley, the CEO of Shazam, and Chris Wearing, Vice-Chairman of Teneo Holdings worked with students during this developmental phase, asking clarifying questions, pointing out strengths and flagging potential problems. All four are St. Luke’s parents and Pakman, Riley, and Wearing are also trustees.
“They helped us make sure our brand was authentic and relevant,” said Phoebe Kurth ‘20 who worked with partner Emma Scanlan ‘20 on Blend it, an inventive smoothie delivery business that features a disposable blender cup. Scanlan added, “I’ve done other classes where you create a company, but this was like the real world. We actually met with business people who are doing this and are incredibly successful at it.”
Once students refined their pitches, they were ready for their “Shark Tank” moment, where they presented to guest Mentors Gail Tifford, Chief Brand Officer of WW, formerly Weight Watchers and Charlie Denson, former Brand President of Nike. The two branding legends listened to each team present and offered straightforward feedback. “These kids got it,” said Denson. “They understand that a brand needs to stand for something. Their ideas were great and they created products that were meaningful. That critical authenticity came across.”
Junior Connor Rosow’s team pitched Open Air, a design-it-yourself outdoor clothing line. “It was fascinating getting advice from these massive figures in the business world. They have tons and tons of experience. Being able to learn from them was absolutely incredible.”
St. Luke’s School is a secular (non-religious), private school in New Canaan, CT for grades 5 through 12 serving 25 towns in Connecticut and New York. Our exceptional academics and diverse co-educational community foster students’ intellectual and ethical development and prepare them for top colleges. St. Luke’s Center for Leadership builds the commitment to serve and the confidence to lead.