Chattanooga Christian School student wins 'Shark Tank' sweepstakes, visit from cast

Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / "Shark Tank" members venture capitalist Kevin O'Leary, left, fashion and branding expert Daymond John, inventor Lori Greiner, technology innovator Robert Herjavec and AXS TV Owner and Chairman and Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban speak at Chattanooga Christian School on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Senior Connelly Grant won a sweepstakes by the the show "Shark Tank" to have the Sharks appear at her school.

Risk taker. Dreamer. Driven. Faith in themselves, their vision, their families, their school.

"Just someone who starts a business."

These are the characteristics that five of the six hosts of the television show "Shark Tank" listed when asked what traits an entrepreneur should have during a visit Friday to Chattanooga Christian School.

The cast - including Mark Cuban, Daymond John, Kevin O'Leary, Lori Greiner and Robert Herjavec - was at the school for a taping of the hit ABC show after high school senior Connelly Grant won the second annual Shark Tank High School Sweepstakes. Barbara Corocan did not make the trip.

With just a tweet in response to a prompt by the show one night, budding entrepreneur Grant won a trip to a taping of the show in Los Angeles. She also scored a visit with the hosts, or "sharks," for her and nearly 500 of her classmates.

photo Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Senior Connelly Grant, front, hugs inventor Lori Greiner at Chattanooga Christian School on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Grant won a sweepstakes by the the show "Shark Tank" to have the Sharks appear at her school.

"It's really crazy. After one of the episodes of 'Shark Tank,' they always have a little banner come up about the high school sweepstakes, and it says to tweet something about your favorite entrepreneur on the show, so I just wrote about why the story inspired me," Grant said. "I tweeted at the beginning of October and I found out at the end of October that I was the winner and the sharks were coming here.

The sharks spent an hour with upper school students in the school's auditorium, answering their questions and giving advice on starting businesses, failure, giving back and their legacies.

Cuban, owner of AXS TV and the Dallas Mavericks and one of the show's top investors, said he hoped the visit inspired students to take risks and believe in themselves.

"We all have that one idea or two ideas or five ideas that we think we can turn into something, but we usually talk about it with family and friends and then do nothing. Hopefully we can inspire somebody to think 'Why not, why can't it be me, why can't I go out and do this?'" Cuban said. "Of the 500 kids who were here, one, five, 15, 20, whatever it may be, are going to do something special and if we could have just a little bit of impact on that, that's great."

Host O'Leary, known as "Mr. Wonderful" on the show, said the sharks love to meet kids who are interested in business and encourage them.

photo Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / AXS TV Owner and Chairman and Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban high fives students at Chattanooga Christian School on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Senior Connelly Grant won a sweepstakes by the the show "Shark Tank" to have the Sharks appear at her school.

"The whole idea of 'Shark Tank' is to simulate that desire to be an entrepreneur," O'Leary said. "These are the kids who will create the businesses and who will create the jobs for the next generation. Statistically, about a third of [these students] are going to get involved in entrepreneurship and we are trying to identify the ones who are right on the edge and try to encourage them."

The sharks also visited Chattanooga Christian's senior-level entrepreneurship class, where students like Grant have come up with ideas for small businesses, new technologies and other potential products.

Cuban said it was exciting that the school offers such a class.

"It shows how important [entrepreneurship] is. Educators are now realizing that entrepreneurship isn't just about starting companies and making money, but entrepreneurship is about thinking about problems and taking on challenges and having an impact," Cuban said. "Not everybody has this big business they want to do, but all of them wanted to create change in some way."

Grant will attend the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina, after she graduates in May and said the visit from the cast was motivating and inspiring.

"I'm an equestrian and I ride horses; in the future I really hope to start my own barn, which is boarding, training and sales" she said. "Hearing the sharks speak about success and failure and just everything that goes into a business was just really influential and inspired me. I know that I may fail and that's OK and I just have to persevere."

The episode of "Shark Tank" featuring Grant and Chattanooga Christian will air later this year. The date has not yet been set.

Contact Meghan Mangrum at [email protected] or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.

photo Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / "Shark Tank" members venture capitalist Kevin O'Leary, left, fashion and branding expert Daymond John, inventor Lori Greiner, technology innovator Robert Herjavec and AXS TV Owner and Chairman and Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban speak at Chattanooga Christian School on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Senior Connelly Grant won a sweepstakes by the the show "Shark Tank" to have the Sharks appear at her school.