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.
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