In March, the LA Tank program wrapped its eighth year by awarding students an opportunity to collaborate and present their ideas to a panel of Loyola alumni entrepreneurs. The program is structured such that students are grouped into teams and tasked with solving an existing problem with a new product or idea.
At regular check points throughout the product development phase, alumni and volunteers served as guest speakers, like Elena Gatti ’15
, CEO and founder of Fiorenza Art, who shared her experience in creating logos and other marketing materials. Loyola Academy faculty Mr. Carl Caceres, nSJ
(Campus Ministry), Mr. Brandon Ceplecha
(Social Studies), Mr. Alex DeWitt, SJ
(Social Studies and Language), and Mr. Nicholas Herroro
(Theology) served as judges throughout the semester.
"It's a program modeled on Jesuit ingenuity," said Principal Charlie Heintz at the program’s inception in 2015. “While exposing our students to real-world business concepts, we’re also encouraging them to use the gifts and talents that God has given them to create new business models, solve problems and improve lives.” Principal Heintz, who will depart Loyola in June 2023 to serve as principal at Regis Jesuit in New York, was honored at this year’s finale for his role in launching the program eight years ago and being an avid supporter of its growth and expansion.
What started as a simple idea to give students a jumpstart on their career paths has evolved into a type of thought-laboratory where students can navigate complex life and work environments under the guidance of alumni experts in their fields.
The eighth season of LA Tank began in January, and 65 students arrived at the first meeting with business ideas in mind. Students met in small groups to share and improve their ideas together. The night ended with the formation of fourteen teams, each having a unique idea to work with. Accompanying each team is a Loyola Academy alumnus or alumna who advises the group along the way.
A finale event occurred at the McGrath Family Performing Arts Center on March 28. The finale featured the top seven teams: Wear Am I?, advised by Melody Ogoke ’16; IngrediAPP, advised by Peri Ehlman ’17; Fast Flash, advised by Mary Kate Vanecko ’13; CC Lens, advised by Patrick Tata ’16; Fly Line, advised by Lane Ehlman ’15; Bright Bite, advised by Lissy de la Chapelle ’13; and Elite Travel, which did not have an alum advisor.
The teams presented their business proposals in a format inspired by the reality show Shark Tank, which gives contestants an opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of business leaders and field a series of questions.
"Each group had three minutes to explain how their business model is unique and viable, who their target audience is and how they plan to make money," explains Executive Assistant to the President Ashley K. Sanks ’10
, who helps manage Loyola’s Tank Program. "Following the pitches, our judges had the opportunity to ask questions."
Judges included Stephen Conway '09, associate partner, customer experience and commerce at IBM iX; Mr. Tim Devine ‘88, social studies teacher and incoming principal at Loyola Academy; Rev. Gregory J. Ostdiek, SJ, president at Loyola Academy; and Saly Sebastian ’06, current trustee and vice president of strategic initiatives at Covercraft.
Acting as potential investors, the judges evaluated each business proposal on the following five criteria: innovation, differentiation, business plan, viability, and presentation.
First place went to Elite Travel, a company that enables consumers to purchase frequent flier status upgrades for a discounted price. The team includes juniors Xavier Klatt ’24
and Benjamin Trapp ’24
. For their efforts, these Ramblers will embark on a summer power internship in New York City, where they will have the chance to meet with various LA alumni and explore a number of career paths over a whirlwind two-day trip.
Coming in second place was CC Lens, a pair of glasses that displays closed captions in real time to aid those who are deaf or hearing impaired. The team consisted of Maddy Byrd ’24
, Morgan Mackie ’24
, Jasmine Rivera ’24
, James Sohigian ’24
, and Abby Walsh ’24
and was advised by Patrick Tata ’16
Fly Line, an app that tracks airport traffic to allow for better time management when traveling, took third place. The team consisted of Anna Hammeral ’25, Ellie Kirkland ’23, Lucinda Kirkland ’25, and Markus Latterman ’23 and was advised by Lane Ehlman ’15.
Notably, Luke Hughes ’23
from team Gimme Credit was awarded the Willer Family Accelerator Award, which recognizes the commitment of a student to the program. Hughes was chosen for his superior demonstration of the entrepreneurial spirit.
“The product design itself is just one small aspect of LA Tank,” explains Hughes, reflecting on his experience in the LA Tank program. “Guidance of alumni mentors, emphasis on teamwork, ability to receive constructive feedback and grow from there, and the opportunity to network with the Rambler community are really what make this program great. LA Tank gives students the skills to find success in whatever career path they choose.”
We want to recognize our dedicated student leaders: Matthew Berti ’23
, Abby Daniel ’23
, Sarah Daniel ’23
, Michaela Heintz ’23
, Luke Hughes ’23
, Helena Kavanagh ’23
, Emmy Panagaskis ’23
, Emma Rempe ’23
, Felix Ricketts ’24
, and Mia Swanson ’24
Special thanks to Kevin Willer ’92
and our alumni advisers: Katina Burke ’14
, Lissy de la Chapelle ’13
, Greg Corey ’02
, Lane Ehlman ’15
, Peri Ehlman ’17
, Evan Fay ’10
, Greg McDonnell ’14
, Melody Ogoke ’16
, Patrick Tata ’16
, and Mary Kate Vanecko ’13
To view each team's video, click here
About LA Tank
During his senior year at Loyola, Sam J. Serio ’16
hatched Loyola Academy’s LA Tank program to inspire students to explore entrepreneurship while building relationships between Loyola students and alumni. His vision was to bring students and alumni together in a dynamic career program that encouraged Ramblers to embrace innovation and think differently about their future career paths. For more information about Loyola’s LA Tank program or to get involved, contact Executive Assistant to the President Ashley K. Sanks ’10