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.
The Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) is continuing our work to help at-risk youth stay in school and pursue a brighter future, through higher education or starting their own business. Our programs promote entrepreneurial activities as our students work to connect the classroom experience to the real world. With your support, to date in school year 2012-2013, NFTE has served close to 15,000 students in 675 classrooms across the country. We are pleased to report on two major programs advancing our mission that took place recently: our 2012 National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge and our 2012 World Series of Innovation.
The winners from NFTE Regional Business Plan Competitions around the country gathered in New York City on October 11 for the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge where they presented their business plans to three rounds of judges in an exciting day-long event. These students had been honing not just their unique business ideas, but also the marketing, financial, and operating processes during their time studying NFTE’s curriculum. After three intense rounds, Vincent Quigg of Downey, California took first place for his electronic repair service, TechWorld. His winnings totaled $25,000, including venture capital from MasterCard Worldwide and a Coleman Entrepreneurial Scholarship from GlobalHue. The runners-up each won $5,000: Jesse and Joziah Council of Pennsylvania for their herbal remedy J&J Soothing Cream, and Ohioan Edwin Romo for his ducktape accessories ONYX Wallets. First place in the Elevator Pitch Competition was won by Cale Morrow of Dodge City, Kansas for the presentation for his public speaking camp business, Believable, Inc. All told, NFTE awarded $70,000 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.
In November, NFTE held its annual World Series of Innovation. Using NFTE’s curriculum and a specific toolkit for each project, students from around the country developed a business idea and marketing video for Innovation Challenges. Over $25,000 was awarded to the top two winning groups to help them further their business and education goals. Among the winners was a group from the Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland, California for their development of a “Virtual Closet” smartphone application for Sean John. Coca-Cola’s competition was to concoct a dairy-based beverage for kids and adults, and was won by the coconut, milk, and fruit blend of Pathways Academy of Technology & Design in Hartford, Connecticut. This competition gave students from across the country a chance to add their ideas to NFTE’s legacy, and to seize their entrepreneurial opportunity.
As we celebrate our successes of the first half of 2012-2013, we also look forward to the spring semester when we’ll provide even more young people with NFTE’s life-changing entrepreneurship programming and be inspired by the youth we meet at NFTE’s April Dare to Dream Gala and spring Regional Business Plan Competitions around the country.
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