Three Chicago Students Split $3000 in Business Pitch Competition

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NFTE Chicago Metro Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge winners advance to national championship in September

In the current uncertain climate, young people are realizing more than ever that entrepreneurship offers an opportunity for personal empowerment. – Dr. J.D. LaRock, President and CEO, NFTE

Schools may be closed, but that didn’t stop these highly motivated young entrepreneurs from refining their business plans and preparing their pitches for the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) Chicago Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge. Despite logistical obstacles stemming from the pandemic, this annual competition, the culmination of NFTE’s yearlong entrepreneurship curriculum, took place on time—and online. Participating students presented their original business ideas by video to a panel of esteemed judges, who named three winners. The first and second place winners, who will receive $1500 and $1000, respectively, advance to NFTE’s National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge in September, where they will compete for a grand prize of $12,000. The third-place winner will receive $500.

  • 1st Place: Jennifer Wilson, 18, from Thornwood High School, won with a business pitch for SoberBuddy, an app that aids former addicts in the rehabilitation process by connecting them to other recovering addicts in the area for support.
  • 2nd Place: Unique Hawkins-Morgan, 17, from Thornwood High School, won for Walking With Faith, customized socks printed with Bible quotes.
  • 3rd Place: India Hubbard, 18, from Thornton Township High School, won with a pitch for Royalty’s Natural Skin Care, which offers natural body butter, soap, acne spot cream and moisturizer.

Jennifer Wilson and Unique Hawkins-Morgan will be joined at NFTE’s National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge by Thomas Brown from Shaw High School in Cleveland, Ohio, who won $500 in a satellite competition for Photo-Genesis, a photography directory website that helps aspiring creators reach a broader audience at a faster pace.

Separately, Jefferson Adjetey, Maya Henry, Shakarah Roberson, and Markida Edwards from were awarded $1500 in NFTE Chicago’s Entrepreneurship 2 (E2) competition for JeffCo Brushes, a 2-in-1 brush and hair oil. The winner of this competition has the opportunity to apply for NFTE’s Alumni Investor Forum, which is scheduled for spring 2021. Six winning E2 businesses from across the country will be selected to participate in that event and will compete for further investment funds. Second place was DeMarcko Statam, Mathew Fernandez, Daeveon Wilson, and Makaiya Barker won $1000 for PiNG, an app-linked emergency alert transmitter with a GPS tracker disguised as jewelry or other accessories. Anna Medina placed third, winning $500 for fr3nd M3, an app that helps young teens find friends, cope with depression, and connect with a specialist if necessary.

“In the current uncertain climate, young people are realizing more than ever that entrepreneurship offers an opportunity for personal empowerment,” said NFTE president and CEO, Dr. J.D. LaRock. “Employers look for candidates with an entrepreneurial mindset, which the NFTE curriculum fosters. Whether or not they ultimately run their own companies, our students are being set up to succeed, and we are eager to support their endeavors.”

Student business pitches were judged by a panel of experts that included:

  • Tom Abraham, SBC, Byline Bancorp
  • Zhora Damani, EY
  • Ali Minnick, Slalom
  • Anu Opanuga, Ingredion Incorporated

The NFTE Chicago Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge was presented by Slalom, with signature support from Citi and Microsoft, and additional support from Byline Bank. EY is the national sponsor NFTE’s Entrepreneurship Challenges.

About NFTE
Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) is a global nonprofit that activates the entrepreneurial mindset and builds startup skills in young people from under-resourced communities. Reaching more than 100,000 middle and high school students annually, NFTE works with schools and community partners in 25 U.S. states and 10 countries around the world. Leveraging classroom teachers and volunteers from top-tier companies, NFTE’s research-based model teaches students how to identify a business opportunity and launch a business; helps them learn about the range of jobs and occupations available to them; and develops their “entrepreneurial mindset” — a set of skills including creativity, adaptability, communication, and collaboration that leads to success in any career. Since 1987, NFTE has educated 1.2 million young people worldwide, helping thousands launch businesses and companies of all sizes. Learn more at nfte.com.

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