Spring at the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) means it is time for the students who have completed our youth entrepreneurship course to present the business plans they have been planning for months. The different NFTE offices have each held their Regional Youth Business Plan Challenges, choosing two winning teams to compete in the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge this October. Each participant in the Regional Challenges took the NFTE program to learn lessons on entrepreneurship including opportunity recognition, marketing, finance, and product development. Along the way, working with their NFTE certified teachers and real-world entrepreneurs and leaders as mentors, they formulated an idea for a business based on what they had learned in the NFTE curriculum. The Regional Challenges start in the classrooms rounds move into semi-finals and beyond. Each round gives the students a chance to hone their presentation skills and hear the advice of the local entrepreneurs and businesspeople who serve as competition judges.2014 will mark the first time the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge is taking place in the Bay Area. On October 9th at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, the regional winners will compete for the $25,000 grand prize in seed capital for their business and scholarships for the young entrepreneurs. The companies they have started show off their incredible business acumen. Bobbie R. will be competing near home soil, having advanced out of the NFTE Bay Area competition. The founder of Apparel of Champions, Bobbie seeks to make customized cheer outfits for school sports teams. Incorporating unique designs onto t-shirts and hoodies, Apparel seeks to capitalize on a sports crazy world (last year’s winner, T&J Soccer, produced customized soccer shin guards). Another California team, this one representing NFTE Los Angeles, will also be aiming to take home the grand prize. Joshua F. and Eddy G. are the co-founders of Time’s Up, a dental health company. They have created a special brand of color changing toothpaste. Incorporating an element of social responsibility into their business plan, Joshua and Eddy have made it a goal to make dental hygiene fun for young children. They hope the playful aspect of Time’s Up can help do just that.Just outside of New York City, the Westchester County Regional Champions hail from Yonkers, New York. Fatelinda K. and Naryis R. have turned their passion for cosmetics into a business idea that has seen them through to the National Challenge. Their product, the Lindnar Hair Mask, is completely organic, and made with an avocado base. A dynamic team, they hope that their pitch to the judges can help them get that much closer to the venture capital and scholarships available this October. These three teams, and the others from NFTE’s Program Offices and regional partners, will have their presentations ready in the Bay Area on October 9th for the final rounds of the competition. The final three will present their business plans to a distinguished panel of judges, who will have the privilege of crowning the winner. In the meantime they will be sharpening their presentations, working on their 60 second elevator pitches, and, of course, continuing to grow their businesses. In a few months all the students will have had the experience of a lifetime, and one individual or team will go home with $25,000!
This spring, the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) will honor many of the students who have received the life-changing entrepreneurship training our program provides. NFTE is active in 18 states, as well as the District of Columbia, through our 11 program offices and numerous licensed partners. Outside of the U.S. NFTE’s international partner programs operate in an additional 10 countries, serving thousands of students each year. This reach allows NFTE’s programs to instill an entrepreneurial mindset in youth around the world. Our 2014 Global Gala exemplifies this diversity, as each program office and partner sends one student to Washington, D.C. to be honored as a Global Young Entrepreneur of 2014.
Each of the Global Young Entrepreneurs of 2014 has created a business during the NFTE course. Their stories are as fascinating and unique as their new ventures. For example, Arvind N. of San Jose, California created the smart phone app WalkIn. The service provides an easy to use interface for restaurants to organize customers by their arrival time and party number. The app sends text messages at the restaurant’s behest when a customer’s table is ready, cutting down on the need for vibrating buzzers or inefficient check-ins. Arvind has said he hopes to include new features for the app soon, including giving the restaurants logistical data on those waiting. After completing his course in NFTE Bay Area, Arvind plans to give back to the community by using the capabilities of WalkIn to organize a yearly food drive for the homeless in his community.
Another Global Young Entrepreneur of 2014 is Lang D. of North Miami, Florida. Propelled by a NFTE mentor to consider a project he felt so passionate about “that you’d be willing to do it for free”, Lang focused on clothing design and fashion. After graduating from NFTE South Florida’s program in 2009, Lang started The Newsies Clothing Co. LLC, a clothing line that is focused on the urban movement. Particular inspiration is drawn from the 1890s era of newspaper boys. The styles of The Newsies Clothing Co. are sometimes drawn from local artists Lang collaborates with. Demonstrating the drive of a true entrepreneur, Lang continues to run his company while holding a full-time job and attending the Miami Ad School.
Juggling the difficult task of managing a new company while enrolled in school is not confined to NFTE’s American students however. The three Global Young Entrepreneurs of 2014 from NFTE’s London-affiliate, the Network for Teaching Young Entrepreneurs, each attend different universities while still finding time for the business they co-founded. Adeola D., Kofi D., and Tyrell W. met during a five day summer business course where they were placed in the same group project. The result was Antiks Ltd., a company which solves the problem of misplaced household objects. Their main product is a chip called The Bleep Finder that attaches to easily misplaced items. When a remote is pushed, The Bleep Finder makes a noise to indicate where a lost object is. The three students have gone on to separate schools, but continue to advance their business opportunity all the same.
The Global Gala on April 24th in Washington, D.C. will honor these young entrepreneurs, whose businesses are possible thanks in part to supporters like you. The donations NFTE receives from GlobalGiving have gone towards our classroom programs, helping new students dare to dream of a brighter future. Arvind, Lang, Adeola, Kofi, Tyrell, and the other Global Young Entrepreneurs of 2014 have a big night ahead of them, as NFTE celebrates another successful year of support for entrepreneurship training for at-risk youth worldwide.
The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) is continuing our work to help at-risk youth stay in school and pursue a brighter future. With your support through the GlobalGiving platform, NFTE will serve close to 15,000 students in over 650 classrooms across the country during this school year. Our programs promote entrepreneurial activities as our students learn the real world skills necessary to enable career or high education pathways. As the new school calendar has begun, NFTE closed out the old year by bringing the winners of our Regional Business Plan Competitions to New York City on October 3rd for the 2013 National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge.
Each of the participants came ready to pitch their entrepreneurial ventures, having honed their business plans through NFTE mentoring sessions and earlier competitions. In total there were 38 students representing 34 businesses at the Challenge. During an exciting, day-long event they were able to make their pitches to panels of judges. These students had been developing not just their unique business ideas, but also the marketing, financial, and operating processes during their time studying NFTE’s curriculum. After two competitive morning rounds, three businesses advanced to the finals; Jesus F. and Toheeb O. of Illinois for their innovative soccer shin guard business T&J Soccer, Juny N. of California for his necktie venture NeckCessories, and Dagim G. from Virginia for his sports blog The Audible.
Before the finals in the evening, the other 34 young entrepreneurs had a chance to present their wares during an exposition before the final round. Melissa R. from New York City sold several containers of her herbal skin cream, Vera Natural, while Vanessa G. of Ohio, the founder of Piñata Time, showed off the colorful piñatas she crafts for children’s parties. During this time, the four finalists were receiving words of advice on their presentations from celebrity entrepreneur and NFTE supporter Sean “Diddy” Combs. Jesus and Toheeb mentioned to the judges during their question and answer session that they had taken Combs’ advice to heart in regards to their marketing strategy. NFTE is grateful that he was able to mentor our students and participate in the National Challenge.
After the final presentations, and some intense deliberation by the judges, Jesus and Toheeb took home first place and $25,000 to further their education or grow their business. Juny and Dagim both received $5,000 for making it to the finals. First place (and $5,000) in the E*TRADE Elevator Pitch Competition was won by Aliyah W. of Missouri for the presentation of her stylized crutches and casts, Cool-Aid Crutch Wear. All told, NFTE awarded $35,000 in venture capital, scholarships, and other prizes at the Competition, and the students got to promote their companies, hear feedback from successful business executives, and network with top entrepreneurs. This spring a new group of NFTE students will take their first steps towards the 2014 National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge when they compete in classroom competitions across the country. We’re looking forward to a great crop of new business next year!
Spring at the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) brings the annual student business plan competition at each of the eleven program offices across the country. Each of the 26 winning students went through the NFTE program to learn lessons on entrepreneurship including opportunity recognition, marketing, finance, and product development. Along the way, working with their NFTE certified teachers and real-world entrepreneurs and leaders as mentors, they formulated an idea for a business based on what they had learned in the NFTE curriculum. Starting by competing in their classroom against those they took the NFTE course with, students are able to advance to their area’s Regional Finals by presenting (and defending) their business plan to a panel of judges. Each round gives them a chance to hone their presentation skills and have the real world experience of presenting an idea as if they were requesting venture capital funding.
The winners and runners-up who will compete for the $25,000 grand prize in seed capital for their business have started enterprises with an incredibly amount of diversity. Some of the NFTE student winners make traditional goods and sell them to other students and members of their communities. Melissa R., a young entrepreneur who made it through the gauntlet of competitions in NFTE New York Metro, is the founder of Vera Natural, a homemade body cream company which aims to supply affordable, all natural body creams for both men and women. The winner of the Philadelphia Regional Finals came from Newark, Delaware, as Drew M.’s presentation and passion won over the judges at the University City Science Center. He is the founder of M.’s Custom Glass Design, which creates customized stained glass pieces on commission. Another young entrepreneur who harnessed their passion for their business plan was Asia M. of Baltimore. Her food business, Fortunate!, sells fortune cookies to local restaurants in fun shapes, sizes, and flavors. Destiny C. and Angel G. of NFTE Chicago impressed the judges by including and acting with several of their puppet creations in their presentation. They are the co-founders of DNA Puppets, making puppets, writing shows, and booking performances at schools and children’s parties. These students each won scholarship money, a trip to New York City for the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge (NYEC), and initial seed capital to grow their business.
Among the other businesses are some truly creative digital startups which will also compete in October for the grand prize. Dagim G. of NFTE DC Region is one such student leveraging technology with his sports blog The Audible. Its focus on social integration helped him advance to the NYEC. The suburbs of New York City provided what might have been the most technologically savvy idea of all the finalists. Tyler B. won the NFTE Fairchester (encompassing Westchester County, New York and Fairfield County, Connecticut) with his GPS app Trovare. It allows the user to place a GPS pin on items that are easily misplaced, such as keys, glasses, or a TV remote, and then will direct the user to that item on their smartphone. By solving such a common problem through the creative use of technology, Tyler proved he understand the market’s need for his innovation.
These students, and the others from NFTE’s Program Offices and regional partners, will descend on New York City on October 3rd for the final rounds of the competition. The final three will present at The Times Center to a distinguished panel of five judges, who will have the privilege of crowning the winner. In the meantime they will be honing their presentations, working on growing their businesses even further, and creating their minute long elevator pitch videos. In a few months all the students will have had the experience of a lifetime, and one individual or team will go home with $25,000 for their business.
Technology has emerged as a key theme for The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship as we move into 2013. Many of our new programs involve digital learning or coursework focused on combining the practical lessons of computer coding, social media outreach, emerging technologies such as Skype and cloud computing, and app development with entrepreneurship lessons. These skills can help capture students’ creative energy, and give them a chance to succeed with useful skills in the modern economy.
Our New York office recently held their Next Generation Tech Challenge that was created to maximize the impact of NFTE’s GenTech program. Designed for students who have a passion for technology to create a business out of this interest, they learned how to develop mobile applications. Each group had to create a business plan to showcase their app, which helped the students focus on molding the technological side of their inventions into an entrepreneurial vehicle. NFTE New York Metro Program Director Jordan Runge summarized the goal as showing students “"the fundamentals of what they need to know in terms of entrepreneurship and starting a business, through the lens of start-up companies in the tech sector."
We are grateful for Microsoft’s lead support of our GenTech initiative. Ryan H, a Junior from Brooklyn, could easily see the impact that these tech-centric lessons were having. “…Learning these coding languages will [really] help me in the future.” Ashley, a Junior from Queens, was more focused on the entrepreneurial aspect of the competition, saying “I can’t even look at advertisements the same way anymore because I keep thinking about who’s the customer.” This idea is central to NFTE’s mission; turning street smarts into business smarts and applying classroom ideas to real life through entrepreneurship education.
Ornella, a Junior from Queens, learned perhaps the most important lesson of the program. “I have learned to never give up on your ideas. Be focus and determined.”
Outside the world of technology, NFTE New England hosted a successful 7th Annual Young Entrepreneurs Conference (YEC) in March. 300 students came to experience a myriad of business development and career seminars. There was a workshop on perfecting presentations skills, a great session about college admissions and financial aid, and a dedicated room for coaches to help students with their business plans. One of the keynote speakers was Abby Fichtner, of the Harvard Innovation Lab and Hacker Chick Labs, who led NFTE students through how to get their business up online, from a landing page, survey tools and a website, to using an online marketplace platform. The event was a great success and further instilled NFTE’s mission in those in attendance: that all young people will find a pathway to success.
Some of the winners from the competitions held at the YEC, including the one-minute Rocket Pitch Challenge, will advance to Regional Finals for New England and the chance to compete at the National Finals in October.
Looking ahead in spring 2013, NFTE programs around the country will be focused on coaching students as they prepare for regional business plan competitions. At these Challenge events, students who have honed their business plans and pitches in the classroom will get the chance to present their ideas before panels of judges, competing for seed capital funding.
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