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Teens want to help new businesses - for free

Westview High School friends start Oregon Incubator, a fledgling nonprofit

TIMES PHOTO: ERIC APALATEGUI - Westview High School students Aman Sharma (left) and Bhavin Gupta have created a nonprofit to help startup businesses with free services. The two are friends at school but Oregon Incubator is an independent project.Aman Sharma and Bhavin Gupta, a couple of Westview High School students, have long had the entrepreneurial itch, but didn’t yet have a product of their ownto sell.

So, as an independent summer project, the 16-year-olds from Bethany started Oregon Incubator — a project they hope will help other startups get off the ground.

And they are doing it for free.

“Our goal is to help the people around us,” said Gupta, a senior.

They already have started working with a few small businesses, including a friend’s clothing design company called Blue Market.

They plan to help companies connect with talented interns, including fellow high school students, as well as perform a variety of smaller tasks. They might create marketing strategies, identify potential investors, conduct market research, handle social media and launch websites, among others.

“And this is at no cost, so (business owners) really have nothing to lose other than a few minutes sending emails,” Sharma said.

It’s a decidedly small-scale enterprise the teens plan to juggle with homework and other demands on their time.

So far, their biggest hurdle is their youth and relative inexperience, which is why they are sticking to offering smaller-scale tasks that fit their skills.

“We will always try to offer that service for free,” Gupta said. But if a potential client’s needs are too great, the teens said they will suggest larger startup organizations or for-profit services to meet their needs of the business owner.

“They’re kind of skeptical because we’re two high school students,” said Sharma, a junior. “That’s why the few (clients) we do get, we put a lot of energy into it.”

The two, friends involved in speech and debate class and Model United Nations at Westview, started toying with the idea between classes and at Starbucks last spring and jumped into research and refining the concept over the summer. Oregon Incubator is not affiliated with Westview.

“From this project, we’ve really gleaned what it takes to start a business,” Gupta said.

The two have applied for 501(3)c nonprofit status for Oregon Incubator. While they don’t charge for their time, they will pass along hard costs, such as domain registration fees for a company’s website.