Nikolas Delis isn't hesitant to describe his entrepreneurial plan — a system for automatically transporting cars to the closest available spot in a parking garage — as a potential billion-dollar business.
But it may be awhile until Nikolas can pursue his grand idea.
He's a fourth grader at Orland Park's Meadow Ridge School, so his company, Plentiful Parking, and ambitious plan, both created for an enrichment class, are essentially hypothetical.
But a panel of entrepreneurs — brought in to hear Nikolas and his classmates pitch their products and business plans as if they were seeking funding from investors — said they were impressed nonetheless.
"They've written a business and market plan. When we quiz them, they're never stuck for an answer. It's just a terrific thing," said David Lebowitz, a mentor with The SCORE Association, a nonprofit that provides business mentoring.
That doesn't mean that all their products are market-ready, but Lebowitz and the students' teacher, Lauren Musielewicz, said the children are still learning to think like entrepreneurs.
The recent expo, where each student got to show off the business idea and prototype they developed, was part of an annual program for fourth graders in Meadow Ridge's "Regionomics" enrichment course, which introduces students to economic concepts while they learn about regions of the U.S. in other classes, Musielewicz said.
"Because economics can be such a scary word, one of the major things I try to make sure they understand is that economics is really about decision making," Musielewicz said. "I think it is surprising to people we start so young with economic concepts, but students rise to the challenge."
After learning about profit and loss and supply and demand, it's the kids' turn to use what they learned to create a product and business plan, she said.
Several students' products seemed to come from personal experience. Lily Faulds, 10, said she got the idea for the All-Season Snuggler, an adjustable-weight blanket, after wishing for covers that never left her too hot or too cold while she slept.