Adams High School student takes on state entrepreneurship competition

SOUTH BEND, Ind.—A student at John Adams High School is heading to the state Innovate WithIN pitch competition after winning regionals with her startup, Empathy Easel.

Kristina Rea’s startup designs and packages custom art kits allowing customers to express their emotions through artwork.

“Empathy Easel is essentially easily accessible, self-guided,  art therapy. It’s the idea of working with emotions through art and the importance of that,” Rea said.

The kits will contain art supplies, organized activities and items that Rea says will allow people to "focus on the experience more than the final product."

Listen to her elevator pitch below (story continues below video)

Rea’s business is one of 11 teams competing in the state pitch competition in Indianapolis on April 4 for a chance to win up to $10,000 in cash prizes, money towards in-state college tuition, internship opportunities and mentoring services.

If Rea wins, she plans to use the money to grow her business.

“I feel in my heart that my idea is good and that it can help the world, so that gives me a lot of security going in there and pitching in front of a lot of people,” Rea said.

She came up with the idea less than three months ago and since, has spent time building her business plan and getting customer validation.

Rea participates in Startup Moxie, an organization that provides entrepreneurship programs throughout South Bend and Elkhart. But those aren’t the only people helping Rea.

“In addition to my team of people at Startup Moxie, I’ve come under the advisement of the art therapist at St. Margaret’s House. It helped me learn that I have a great perspective as an artist, but the therapy side is also something that is really important to have,” Rea said.

In a step outside of her comfort zone, Rea has spent time learning about business development and finance, two things she struggles with.

“I’m young and I don’t know a lot but I’m being educated and I’m working with something that I really care about so it’s an amazing experience to feel that motivation and be in that environment where people care about what they’re doing and they want to push you to do the best that you can,” Rea said.

Rea hopes that more students will take their own ideas and transform them into businesses.

"Just follow what you are passionate about. It doesn’t matter if other people care about it, it matters in yourself how much you care about it," Rea said. 

After graduating from Adams this spring, Rea will attend the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. She also hopes to continue building her award-winning business idea.

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