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Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Student to Appear on ABC's 'Shark Tank'

September 25, 2009

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Sawyer Sparks, a senior in the Purdue University College of Agriculture and creator of a soy-based modeling dough, will appear on the ABC show "Shark Tank" in an attempt to convince a panel of judges to financially back his invention.

The episode of the show featuring Sparks will air at 8 p.m. EST on Tuesday (Sept. 29).

Soy-Yer Dough, the first and only patented wheat-free modeling dough, was inspired by one of Sparks' favorite Purdue professors and her daughter, who both suffer from Celiac disease, a wheat allergy.

Sparks participated in the Certificate in Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program at Purdue’s Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship.

"This professor had been an inspiration for me," said Sparks, an agricultural economics student from Bloomfield, Ind. "I set out to help her child, who could not play with the famous modeling dough that we all grew up with. The leading modeling clay, which contains wheat, causes children with an aversion to wheat to feel completely left out."

The dough created by Sparks is colorful, gluten-free, non-toxic and scented. And for those who have soy allergies, Soy-Yer Dough also is available in a soy-free version.

A few months back, Sparks, who creates Soy-Yer Dough in his mother's kitchen, received an e-mail informing him of a casting call for a new reality TV show called "Shark Tank." The premise of the show is for entrepreneurs to pitch their business ideas to five well-known, self-made millionaires.

"I received the information about the show on a Thursday, and the casting call was that Saturday, so I didn't have much time to prepare," Sparks said. "I had no idea what the casting call would be like. I just guessed it would be like 'American Idol' or something. It turned out to be a ton of fun. I met several business owners from all over the place who came because this was the last chance for their businesses. For me, however, this was just the beginning."

After a few agonizing days of anticipation, Sparks got a phone call asking him to appear on the show.

"I couldn't wish for anything better," Sparks said. "I've had the mindset that no matter what happens on 'Shark Tank,' I will always be an entrepreneur and I will always continue striving for my goals. I still have that mindset today."

Soy-Yer Dough is already available to the public. It is being used in many schools and also is available for organizations to use as a fundraiser. The product can be purchased for $2 at

"This just inspires me more to have my own commercials advertising my business so that every household, daycare and school can experience the benefits of choosing Soy-Yer Dough, allowing every child to finally create their own imaginary worlds," he said.

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