By Steve Schering Pioneer Press Newspapers, Suburban Chicago
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Shark Tank winner, Anna Stork, one of the founders of "LuminAID" captivated students with her story of entrepreneurial success. Stork and her co-founder Andrea Sreshta developed a solar-powered LED light attached to an inflatable bag which can be charged in direct sunlight to provide nearly 30 hours of light per charge.
Pioneer Press Newspapers, Suburban Chicago
Though she was studying architecture at Columbia University in New York, Anna Stork spent her time in the school's design studio working on something much different.
Stork and her classmate-turned-business partner Andrea Sreshta were more focused on solar lighting and just how it could be used to help people in a time of crisis.
While speaking to students enrolled in the Oak Park Education Foundation's BASE Camp summer courses June 29, Stork told her own story about working on design software similar to what the students were using that day.
"Our studio [work] started two weeks after the Haiti earthquake in 2010," Stork said.
"We were thinking about what we could design that would make a difference after an earthquake. We decide to focus on a lighting product."
After noticing a huge need for dependable lighting following a crisis, Stork and Sreshta began working on various prototypes of products designed to meet those needs.
"They were shipping things like shelters and medical supplies, but there really wasn't a lighting product," Stork said.
"There was a real lack of safety after dark. Imagine losing absolutely everything; not having a home and having to live right next to everyone in these informal tents and shelters. Having a light, we thought, could really add a little bit of comfort to these people's lives."
The duo ordered parts from websites such as Amazon, and began designing and building their solar light prototypes, a product now called LuminAID.
What they settled on was a solar-powered LED light attached to an inflatable bag. The waterproof device can be charged in direct sunlight and provide nearly 30 hours of light per charge.
While visiting Oak Park, Stork spoke to VEX Robotics, LEGO Engineering, Build a Business and Grrl Squad courses at Julian and Brooks middle schools, and Holmes Elementary School.
Summer BASE Camps provide students from kindergarten through eighth grade hands-on opportunities in courses studying the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, while also bringing professionals from the fields into the classrooms.
"It helps connect what they learn in these courses to the real world of engineering," BASE Camp Director Lindsay Bruce said.
In addition to building her own device, Stork spoke of marketing and building the LuminAID business she founded with Sreshta, including their recent appearance on the TV show Shark Tank.
"Andrea and I never took on an investor," Stork said. "We had scaled organically by selling the product online and also doing competitions. Then we decided Shark Tank was going to be a really good opportunity for us. It was a good way to tell our story to so many people and take on an investor."
That investor proved to be Mark Cuban, who agreed to pay $200,000 for a 15 percent share of LuminAID during their February 2015 appearance on the show.
"We've been working with him for a little over a year now," Stork said. "We have a team of five people, but we are growing really quickly and accomplishing a lot with just a small team."
BASE Camp staff said the chance to bring an entrepreneur like Stork into their classrooms to share her story was an opportunity they could not pass up.
"She was super responsive and willing to assist the kids," education foundation Executive Director Deb Abrahamson said. "It fits so well with everything we do. The kids were very excited to learn about what she does."