When students from DSST: Cole Middle School presented their business ideas at a YouthBiz StartUp pitch competition this week, they gained more than just business know-how. These sixth and seventh graders gained confidence that can help them succeed in school and in life.
Friends Laura, Estrella, and Alexa presented first, a business called LEA Earbuds. “The earbuds are so small that teachers don’t know you’re wearing them,” explained Laura. Alexa added that listening to music helps some students concentrate so they can learn more at school, even though some teachers don’t like them. The girls created a realistic prototype, and judge Read Williamson Vice President, Senior Portfolio Manager First Western Trust thought the earbuds’ small size would help working adults, too. “It was pretty cool to show off something we invented,” said Estrella with a big smile on her face. “We might want to do a business together in the future.”
13-year-old Josiah presented second. He had participated in YouthBiz before, but he teamed up with his friend Malachi to create a new business called Super Scratch Brothers. A game that you can play on Mac or PC, Malachi actually coded the game himself. Malachi was unable to make the final pitch so Josiah demonstrated the game during the presentation. He also answered tough questions from the judges, including how the business would make a profit if the game was free. “We have in-app purchases,” said Josiah, “that kids will really want to be able to do better in the game.” Judge Alex Hammerstein, Senior Vice President at CBRE, Inc. commended Josiah and Malachi for their passion and for their impressive product demonstration.
The Baking Goddess was the creation of entrepreneur Princilia, the next presenter at the event. Princilia’s business solved the problem of creating such a big mess in the kitchen. When you want to bake, you can put all of the ingredients into The Baking Goddess, which does the mixing, the rolling, and even the baking in one machine. “It can make whatever you like,” explained Princilia as she handed the judges a picture of the machine. Princilia worked on her own, something that Judge Steve Ziegler, Founder and Chief Talent Partner of Z3Talent, said “takes a lot of guts.” Judges were also impressed with Princilia’s delivery and explanation of her idea.
Last to present, a fan called Violet, was the invention of Ka-mera and Jasmine. This voice-activated fan cools and heats, can work inside or outside, and operates using a battery or traditional plug. All three judges loved the product idea, particularly the clever name that’s on-par with current product trends. Read commented, “I wish I could buy that today!” Although Ka-mera runs her own business at home, Jasmine never thought about being entrepreneur until she participated in YouthBiz. “Now, I think we could be business partners!”
Located in Denver’s Cole neighborhood, many students at DSST: Cole face challenges that other 12 and 13-year-olds don’t face. “These students shoulder a lot of responsibility, said Anna Leer, Vice President of YouthBiz and the program’s facilitator. “One student told me she had to pick up her cousin from school so she couldn’t come to class. How can you argue about that?”
Despite these challenges, each of these students found success, whether they won the competition or not. Although Josiah ended up taking home a $100 cash prize, which he promised to share with Malachi, each student solved a problem, each created a brand-new idea, and each presented this idea to the group. As she left the classroom for the last time this spring, Anna remarked, “I hope these students know just how inspiring they are!”