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December marked the completion of the fall YouthBiz StartUp session at two Beacon Network schools: Grant Beacon Middle School and Kepner Beacon Middle School. As the program wrapped up for the fall semester, 33 youth entrepreneurs found new possibilities in entrepreneurship.
At Grant Beacon Middle School, a Denver Public School located in southwest Denver, creative ideas impressed staff and judges alike at the YouthBiz StartUp Pitch on December 17. Elijah and Josh teamed up to create a smart watch with an ingenious funding platform. Users earn money for activity levels and weight loss, and the funding comes from both the initial purchase price and from corporate sponsors looking to directly impact their target demographic. Other ideas included a portable, water-proof, fire-proof, GPS-enabled safe to keep track of your valuables while away from home, and a Rube Goldburg-syle laundry machine that transports clothing between floors. Judges Justin Hawksley, Stephanie Cooper, and Colleen Maldonado, all from Creative Planning Inc., had a difficult time choosing the winner, but settled on Elijah and Josh’s watch.
The next day, students pitched their business ideas at Kepner Beacon Middle School, also a Denver Public School in west Denver. Of the 14 student entrepreneurs, only two spoke English as their first language; so Young Americans Bank Financial Services Representative Paola Fonseca-Soto helped throughout the session and translated the final presentations which were just as impressive as the day before. 12-year-old Mariely created a store that sells authentic souvenirs and food from around the world. Javier* and Dominic*, both 7th-graders, devised a climate-controlled, self-cleaning dog house. Abraham, age 13, created a furniture store that provided a musical entertainment area for kids while their parents shop. When Judge Tom Green, a retired small business owner, announced the top three businesses, the room burst into applause. “Your energy and passion during your presentations was so impressive,” said Tom. “It was obvious that you all put a lot of time and thought into your businesses.” He went on to recognize Javier* and Dominic* as the winners, after a tough debate. Judges Jeremiah Broz, from Energy Advantage Roof and Solar, Tom Viola from Blackrock, Dustin Marine from Amica, and Stephanie Fox from the Colorado Enterprise Fund helped weigh in on the decision.
Thanks to a generous donation from SM Energy, the top three businesses at each school earned a prize. The winners took home a $100 gift card, and the runners-up received insulated lunch boxes. “The expanded winner pool at these two schools really kept the students more excited and engaged,” said Anna Leer, Vice President of YouthBiz who facilitated the session at Grant. “As a result, they can see that owning a business really is possible.”
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of minor students