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Local News

Students aim to help seniors learn tech

BARRINGTON – FantasTech CEO Scott Arnett knows that newer technology, which has become second-nature to teens, is sure to mind-boggle an untrained crowd.

Therefore, given the opportunity to create a business through the brand-new Barrington High School Business Incubator Start Up (BISU) class, Arnett and his peers chose to launch a service that gives back to the community.

FantasFech, a local three-man business of BHS juniors, offers fixed-price tutoring sessions for cell phone, computer, tablet, and social media communications users.

Arnett said the BISU class advisors have required students to choose a focus audience, which is why FantasTech is geared toward older generations.

“We would never turn anyone down, though,” Arnett said. “It’s for everyone. I helped my grandma learn how to use her iPad over summer break and she’s been adding Facebook friends ever since. Her entire face lights up.”

After gaining a Microsoft-employed community mentor and $600 start-up funding from BISU class investors, FantasTech’s second order of business has been establishing relationships with local retirement-age hotspots, such as the Barrington Area Library, Barrington Area Council on Aging (BACOA) and the Garlands assisted living facility.

Arnett said the library has already agreed to let FantasTech visit for a day talk to patrons about the tutoring service. Relationships with the Garlands and BACOA are pending, given more conversations and contracts, Arnett said.

Arnett said he is excited about the upcoming local opportunities.

“We’ve been the first group in our class to establish a partnership between a BISU business and the library,” Arnett said. “It’s been all about learning and applying ever since the first day of class. We know that the beginning of BISU class was more focused on testing, but we’ve been treating FantasTech as a full-on business all along.”

FantasTech has already serviced two clients and the tutoring team has more appointments scheduled for coming weeks.

The students helped a Barrington Hills attorney back up his financial documents to his computer. Another service required connecting a Playstation 3 to the internet and uploading family photos from a digital camera to a computer, Arnett said.

Jake Coon, chief strategy officer for FantasTech, said he and his partners have given thought to expanding nationwide in the future.

“I know a lot of other schools want to promote the BISU class program outside of Illinois,” Coon said. “It would be nice to join forces across states and look into hiring more employees in retirement regions like Arizona and Florida.”

Currently, FantasTech staff will drive within seven miles of BHS to service customers. Services cost $40 and last about an hour; with a reduced rate for each additional hour, Arnett said.

Once FantasTech repays its $600 start-up cost, Arnett said FantasTech employees will make about $9 per hour.

Arnett and Coon said they have compared their pricing to other local businesses like Best Buy’s Geek Squad and have found FantasTech to be a good deal.

“I think people underestimate our business capabilities,” Arnett said. “We know this stuff.”

FantasTech with make a final pitch to a BISU class development board and Chicago area angel investors in May. BISU class instructor Hagop Soulakian said the amount of money to be invested in the winning business(es) will be determiend by the type of business that is selected. A public presentation of the students’ business ideas will be held May 28, Soulakian said.

According to the original BISU class curriculum, only one business will be chosen to continue on into next school year by the BISU class development board; possibly more non-profits. Angel investors, unassociated with the class, are free to fund as many of the student businesses as they choose.

Arnett said that even if FantasTech is not chosen to continue, he is grateful for the learning experience.

“It’s a huge opportunity and it was just handed to us,” Arnett said. “My public speaking has improved and that’s a huge sense of accomplishment in itself. Plus, it’s been fun. I love talking about business now.”

Coon said he never even dreamed about creating a business until the BISU class.

“I was afraid of taking that big of a risk,” Coon said. “That’s the thing about starting a business – you can always fall through.”

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