After cross country practice in June, senior Marshall Green developed a business concept while running. He came home to his dad and brothers and pitched them his “million dollar idea:” a vending machine that dispensed ready-made smoothies.
“At my house, my dad and I and my brothers have these inspirational moments all the time,” Marshall said. “We have these ‘million dollar ideas’ way more than anybody ever has [them]. My dad will say: ‘Marshall, this would be a great app’ and we talk about it for two hours then go eat dinner.”
But unlike their other ideas, Marshall is following through on this one — the idea is becoming a reality. And with the attention from local news outlets, he is starting to get the publicity to attract investors and make his smoothie vending machine, “Fresh & Blended,” happen.
The machine, which would be sold to individual vending companies, would join the trend of providing healthier options to consumers, much like the “H.U.M.A.N” vending machines at East. Marshall’s will function by mixing fruits with juices, blending it in a cup and dispensing it to the customer in a matter of minutes.
This Wednesday, Marshall’s crowdfunding campaign, an internet fundraiser on the site Indiegogo will end. So far he has raised 1,200 of the 60,000 dollars he initially asked public donors for. The campaign would cover the cost of the prototype design, the price of developing recipes, bills and fees and initial inventory.
Even though he didn’t meet his quota, Marshall says the information and promotional video he made to go on the site featuring principal John McKinney, gym goers and East students helped to get the word out about his product.
“Marshall asked me to be a part of his video and of course I jumped at the opportunity,” McKinney said. “I’m very proud of Marshall and proud to be associated with such a great idea and project. I am always so impressed when students think ‘How can this be done better?’ The fact that he is a senior in high school makes it that much more impressive.”
The campaign and the publicity it generated from local publication PV Post and Fox 4 News caught the eye of local vending companies. If interested, they could potentially invest in his product, supplying some of the funding and making up for the lack of crowdfunding revenue.
Before launching his campaign, Marshall researched the idea he saw a market for, and after preliminary research he found that there were few options out there like his. He liked the idea being in charge of his own project. He wanted to be an entrepreneur.
After contacting potential candidates to design the prototype, Marshall enrolled in the Fast Track New Venture course. New Venture is an entrepreneurial class sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation, for people wanting to take an idea and make it into a product or business.
It was exactly what Marshall needed.
Entering the room for the first time, he noticed that not only did the class have just seven people, but he was by far the youngest one there.
“It was relatively intimate and nobody really wanted to ask how old I was, but they were trying to hint at it,” Marshall said. “I never told them.”
The class focused on bringing speakers in to talk about small business management, networking the interested entrepreneurs and helping them develop a 27-paged business plan — a daunting task.
But after taking the class, he formed business relationships that could become investments once his prototype is functioning, hopefully within the next couple of months.
Along with being an entrepreneur, being a cross country runner and a Varsity wrestler, combined with senior year schoolwork, was not an easy task. Most nights Marshall found himself going straight from cross country to the entrepreneurial class in Olathe, and maybe eating dinner on the way, getting home around 10 p.m.
As far as the business goes, this past week involved contacting the prototype designer, who he will soon meet with in Vancouver, Canada, and working with a recipe developer, all after practice each night. Marshall says that the pressure has shifted, going from just a fun idea he was pursuing, to a very real process.
On any given day, he goes from joking around and hanging out with friends to making phone calls and having professional meetings with investors. And at 17-years-old, he says the hardest part of the process has been dealing with people that don’t believe he can do it.
“That’s why I haven’t liked all this [recent] publicity,” Marshall said. “No one says it, but I can tell when [people] don’t think I’m for real or that I’m slacking, but it all takes time.”
But being young has its advantages for Marshall too. He met with a potential investor and a friend of his dad’s at Indian Hills Country Club one afternoon during the school day. After talking for a while, he asked Marshall where he went to college — in the past tense. Laughing, Marshall explained that he was only a senior in high school, actually heading back to class after their lunch.
The investor was overwhelmingly supportive, commending Marshall’s drive and dedication to his business plan, as only a teenager.
Marshall’s dad and small business owner Jeff Green says that he is not surprised by Marshall’s drive in taking on this project.
“I wouldn’t say I’m surprised in general,” Jeff said. “Marshall has always been one to stick something out and make himself an expert in something he is interested in… [He] has witnessed up close the types of conversations involved in running a business…There are a lot of decisions to be made and problems to be solved behind the scenes so that a product or service comes together seamlessly to the customer.”