‘Innovate Inyo’ highlights top teens

By Deb Murphy

Capitalism is alive and well in Inyo County. The next, or even current, generation of entrepreneurs were in the spotlight Tuesday evening for Innovate Inyo, a program of the Inyo County Office of Education that introduces teens to the intricacies of developing ideas for new businesses and the planning that goes along with that idea.


‘Innovate Inyo’ top winner Nova Hardwick explains Nova’s Naturals.

The 11 finalists, honed down from 85 video presentations, went through a toned-down “Shark Tank” grilling by judges Superintendent Terry McAteer, Tawni Thomson, executive director of the Bishop Chamber of Commerce, realtor Leeann Rasmuson and businessman Kevin Mazzu at the Jill Kinmont Boothe School hall. The finalists were competing for a piece of the $10,000 pie.

The big winner of the evening was Nova Hardwick, a student at Palisades Glacier. Hardwick’s Nova’s Naturals, a line of natural candles, soaps and lotions, got a $5,000 boost. Superintendent Dr. Terry McAteer applauded Hardwick for the quality and detail in her plan as well as the viability of the business. Nova’s Naturals’ are produced literally from the ground up on the teen’s family farm, Glacier Botanicals, at a 7,500-foot elevation west of Big Pine. The line is all organic, from the goat’s milk used in her candles to the herbs incorporated into the soaps and lotions. Hardwick sells her naturals at the Owens Valley Growers Coop farmers markets.

Among the other 10 presenters, the products and projects ranged from Dylan Skare and Ian Bishop’s Chromallow, a battery-powered, rotating marshmallow roaster accompanied by an infuser to transform the pale little marshmallow into a flawless S’more to Jordan’s Frankson’s ambitious 11,000 sq. ft. roller rink, Let’s Roll. Judging considerations, according to Mazzu, focused on the concept and presentation, but passion played a big role in the judge’s decision.

The other prize winners included:

  • Catalina Castro’s Crib Scrub house cleaning service
  • Priscilla Munoz and Ashlyn Tingley’s Kommon Ground Arcade
  • Audrey Bear and Hannah Murray’s InMo Info, an app that provides events and highlights for both tourists and locals of Inyo and Mono counties
  • Elizabeth Bigham and Joseph Morgan’s Gut Truck, a mobile fish gutting service

If there were any well-financed, adult entrepreneurs in the audience, they should take note. Nearly a third of the presentations solved the obvious problem that there isn’t enough in the valley for teens to do. Hopefully someone will combine Frankson’s roller rink, Munoz and Tinglely’s arcade and Colin Sprague and Martin Tiernan’s Inyogurt frozen yogurt shop/gathering place.


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