They never met before this year’s inaugural “Empowered Teen Entrepreneurship Camp,” but the partnership that two Knox County high school students formed is continuing as they pursue the business idea that won them first place in the week-long event.
Jake Grayson is a Bearden High School sophomore, while Brandon Harris is a senior at Austin East High School. They applied for the Camp for different reasons, but soon started working together to improve an idea that Harris brought to the event.
Grayson said that his mother thought the camp would be a good opportunity for her son whom she described as “pretty creative.” In Harris’ case, he has been involved in the “100 Black Men of Knoxville” organization and had won first place in a competition for his concept of an athletic shoe with interchangeable soles. He explained that he thought the Camp “could help make it (his idea) more realistic.”
They joined forces on the first day when, as Grayson said, “We went around the room telling our ideas.” He heard Harris’ concept, thought it was really good and believed he could help make it better.
Harris said that his initial idea was a single shoe, but Grayson helped him broaden it to three different types of shoes – one each for track, gymnasium floors and events requiring cleats.
“He made a huge amount of improvement,” Harris said of Grayson’s ideas with the locking mechanism for the interchangeable soles being one of the most important.
Donna Walker of the co-sponsoring Ultimate Life Institute (ULI) described the budding entrepreneurial duo as “bouncing off one another . . . building on each other’s ideas.” She also described Harris as the “dreamer” and Grayson as the “igniter.”
In addition to ULI, the Camp was also sponsored by the University of Tennessee’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Entrepreneurs of Knoxville.
Grayson and Harris changed their company’s name several times before settling on Predator Athletic. The shoe they designed is named “Adaptation.”
Walker said that all of the 13 students in the competition will be paired with a mentor within the next few weeks, and the mentors will work with the students over the next year to help refine their ideas and business plans.
Grayson and Harris are planning to apply for a provisional patent for their invention, something that Knoxville entrepreneur Lee Martin urged them to do.
For the duo, it is clear that the Camp has made a difference in their thinking and collegiate plans. Harris said that he initially thought he would be a sports agent but he now might change that thinking to include business. Grayson has an interest in engineering, but he now might pursue a double major – engineering and business.
Both clearly have time to decide and time to pursue, but there passion for their idea and the enthusiasm for what they experienced is still resonating several weeks after the Camp.