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LA Tank Encourages Future Entrepreneurs

In April, the LA Tank program wrapped its ninth year by awarding students an opportunity to collaborate and present their ideas to a panel of Loyola community entrepreneurs. The program is structured to enable teams of students to solve an existing problem with a new product or idea. This year's theme, Anything But An App, challenged Ramblers to think beyond app development and ideate physical products.
At regular check points throughout the product development phase, alumni and volunteers served as guest speakers, like Rambler parent Brandon Cruz P '27, president at Real Tech Capital, and Chris Reynolds '02, brand manager at Conagra. Loyola Academy faculty Dr. Bill Lowe (Language), Mr. Dan Wawrzyniak (English), and Mr. Dan Peterson '79 (CFO) served as judges throughout the semester.

The program, which was launched in 2015, is modeled on Jesuit ingenuity and exposes students to real-world business concepts. 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. Program participants are encouraged to use their God-given gifts and talents to create new business models, solve problems, and improve lives.

The ninth 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 thirteen 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 April 16. The finale featured the top six teams: Safe Card, advised by Melody Ogoke '16; Helping Hand, advised by Gregory Corey '02; Smart Sole, advised by Mary Kate Vanecko '13; SmartSketch, advised by Peri Ehlman '17; Mold Monsters, advised by Kyle Alvares '16; and Lisse, advised by Tara Tarazi '11.

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 Director of Alumni Relations Ashley Sanks '10, who helps manage Loyola's Tank Program. "Following the pitches, our judges and the audience had the opportunity to ask questions."

Judges included Laura Flanagan P '26, '27, CEO of Ripple Foods; Fred O'Connor '80, financial advisor at Northwestern Mutual; Chris Mitchell '02, creative director at Blank Studio, and Tim Devine '88, principal of Loyola Academy.

Acting as potential investors, the judges evaluated each business proposal on the following five criteria: innovation, differentiation, business plan, viability, and presentation.

1st place
First place went to Safe Card, a company that ideated a locking wallet for the back of your cell phone.  The team includes juniors Alexandra Delgado '25, Annie Ditka '25, Anna Hammerl '25,  Molly Robson '25, and Claire Stevoff '25 and was advised by Melody Ogoke '16. For their efforts, these Ramblers will embark on a summer power internship in Boston 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.

2nd place
Coming in second place was Lisse, a third-party company that takes consumers' favorite hair care products and makes them into an eco-friendly alternative by dehydration. The team consisted of Coco Christopher '25, Abby Dimberio '24,  Ellie Edwards '25, Lael O'Shaughnessy '25, and Brendan Prassas '25. The team was advised by Tara Tarazi '11.

3rd place
Smart Sole, a shoe that can adapt and track performance to prevent injuries, took third place. The team consisted of Eva Bonanno '25, Erin Keating '24, Katie McBrearty '25, Anna O'Brien '24, and Ali Ryczek '24 and was advised by Mary Kate Vanecko '13. 

Notably, Mia Swanson '24 (Mold Monsters) and Felix Ricketts '24 (Pop-Up Wash) were awarded the Willer Family Accelerator Award, which recognizes the commitment of a student to the program. Both students were chosen for their long-term dedication to the program and their respective years of service on the leadership team; during which, they worked diligently to ensure the success of the LA Tank program.

 "The LA Tank program has been an essential key in my growth into the young adult I am today. I have not only grown in my problem-solving skills, but I have been able to expand my abilities as a collaborative leader, and it's made me realize the value of teamwork and diverse perspectives," states Mia. "Winning the Willer Award was an incredible honor that I feel commemorates the dedication and personal transformation I have experienced in the LA Tank program. I am honored and excited to carry every lesson and value I have gained from this program into my professional life and beyond."

The evening ended with a reception attended by members of our LA Business Network, parents, alumni, and students to celebrate their successes while providing networking opportunities for everyone who attended the program.

We want to recognize our dedicated student leaders: Deirdre Dettling '24, Erin Keating '24, Mayode Oluwole '25, Felix Ricketts '24, James Sohigian '24, and Mia Swanson '24.

Special thanks to Kevin Willer '92 and our alumni advisers: Kyle Alvarez '16, Greg Corey '02, Lane Ehlman '15, Peri Ehlman '17, Evan Fay '10, Bennett Gorman '16, Luke Hughes '23, Greg McDonnell '14, Cole Michalek '12, Melody Ogoke '16, Anna Rempe '19, Samantha Steinle Macklem '12, Tara Tarazi '11, and Mary Kate Vanecko '13.

And lastly, we would like to also thank our LA Business Network for providing judges and coming as audience members to support our students. More information on the LA Business Network and how to join can be found 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 Ashley Sanks '10 at

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