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Thursday, January 6, 2022

Highlands Student Investment Club Going Strong; Tackles Cryptocurrency Next

Young entrepreneurs Anna Steffen, Isaac Hamlin and Carson Grill joined Charlie Gorman at the Highlands High Investment Club meeting in December. (photo provided)

by Robin Gee

In fall semester 2020, then junior Charlie Gorman launched a new club at Highlands High School known as the Investment Club focusing on topics of financial literacy. Since then the club has flourished. While Highlands does offer financial literacy courses, the club allowed students to explore in depth topics of investment and personal finance that go well beyond classroom material.

Gorman brought in guests from the business school at nearby Northern Kentucky University and investment experts from throughout the region. Although facing pandemic challenges this school year, the club is up and running. Just before Christmas break, the final meeting of 2021 focused on entrepreneurship and featured experts and young people who had become entrepreneurs, including Cincinnati area student Carson Grill, who successfully landed a deal on Shark Tank for a product he and his father invented. 

Highlands High School senior Charlie Gorman, founder of the Highlands Investment Club (FTM file)  
"I started the investment club because I felt like school does a great job of teaching you how to get a degree that will allow you to get a job to make money, yet they don't teach you what to do once you have made that money. So many people instead of growing their money make bad decisions and blow it because they are not properly education. I am passionate about finance and felt like the club could positively impact so many kids," said Gorman.


Some takeaways from the entrepreneur meeting

Club members and participants at the meeting heard first from Jeff Varone, assistant director for the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Northern Kentucky University who spoke with students about the value of a degree in entrepreneurship, including as a minor to augment degrees in other areas of business. Varone shared this tip, Gorman said, that companies are impressed by majors in other areas of business who also have added entrepreneurship training to their porfolios.

Three young people then discussed their own paths to business startup and ownership. 

Isaac Hamlin at the Highlands Investment Club presentation. Hamlin founded Better Blend Nutrition at age 25. 
Isaac Hamlin, a former UK rugby player from Independence said he realized his performance was enhanced when he improved his diet. At age 25, he developed Better Blend Nutrition, protein-packed nutritional smoothies sold through stores and online. He is in the process of franchising his operation.

"Isaac talked about the importance of creating the feeling that you want your customers to have when they come into the store and how important it is to hire amazing employees so that the customers have the most amazing experience possible...I found his story really inspiring, and I was impressed on how much he valued the customer service aspect," said Gorman.

Next was Anna Steffen, a 2015 Highlands High graduate who at age 17 started her own company Kandid Boutique and at age 20 opened another business, The Native One, with retail locations in Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine and in Covington. 
Highlands High School grad Anna Steffen started her own boutique that now has two locations in the region. (photo provided)

"My biggest takeaway from Anna is that she just followed her passion and started really small with pop up boutiques and slowly built a clientele and developed skills. As she organically grew, she started her first location and worked through all the challenges and now has a second location," Gorman said.

Grill’s story starts when he was only 13 years old. Now a sophomore at Bishop Fenwick High School in Cincinnati, the young inventor and entrepreneur appeared on Shark Tank with is father Jason Grill in 2020 to present his Touch Up Cup, a product he patented that helps store leftover paint for future use. The cup was only one of other storage products Grill had invented, and he so impressed the Shark judges with his knowledge of the business world and success that he landed a deal with Blake Mycoskie of TOMS Shoes. 

Young Cincinnati entrepreneur Carson Grill on Shark Tank.

For Gorman, it was Grill’s confidence to go up against the "sharks" and score a good deal that impressed him. He also pointed out that the key to the young entrepreneur’s success was his ability to identify problems and develop solutions to those problems.

A national trend

Money Magazine
noted the trend among young people to be interested in finance and investment with its December issue article, "The Hottest New Scene on Campus: Investing Clubs." Gorman’s club at Highlands was featured along with other clubs at high schools and colleges across the country.

The article’s author Malika Mitra said, while investment clubs geared toward financial education have been around at the college level for many years, the new clubs are focusing on supporting students who want to invest their own money, and high school age students like Gorman and his friends are exploring the topic at a young age.

Long a male-dominated field, the new clubs are well attended by both young men and women, whose family incomes and backgrounds are varied across the spectrum.

Bryan Shick
, senior vice president of wealth management at UBS, is a Fort Thomas resident whose daughter was attending Highlands when he was a guest speaker for the club last year. He noted at the time, "I was very pleased that the club appeared to have as many young women involved as young men. I’ve been in financial services for 20 years, and it is still a male-dominated field. Girls can thrive in this industry."

Concluding the article, Mitra noted "These clubs are also transforming investing from something that was seen as just for wealthy men up in skyscrapers on Wall Street. On campuses, students from communities that have traditionally been on the outskirts of the finance world are gaining exposure and skills."

What’s next for the Highlands Investment Club

The club meets from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the school’s Launch facility, 20 North Grand in Fort Thomas. Gorman said they have four meetings planned for spring semester 2022. The next meeting is Monday, January 10, starting at 3:30 p.m. at Launch and focusing on the topic of cryptocurrency
Gorman is a senior at Highlands this year and planning to study real estate and entrepreneurship at UC business school.

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