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Youth Entrepreneurs Join Denver Startup Week

Janet Redwine Events, YouthBiz Leave a Comment

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Denver Startup Week went virtual this year, and young entrepreneurs were thrilled to take part!  This year’s YouthPass events included a Pitch Challenge on Monday, September 14 and a Maker Track panel discussion on Tuesday, September 15.

When two teen entrepreneurs competed in Denver Startup Week’s Pitch Competition last year, few expected that they would take home the Grand Prize, an award worth $100,000.  Their win surprised and delighted the crowd and has inspired a new group of young entrepreneurs who competed this year:

  • Jack Bonneau, 14, Founder of Teen Hustl
  • Vikas Muralidharan, 17, Founder of Intake
  • Gabriel Nagel, 15, Founder of Light CO2
  • Leonard Shearer, 17, Founder of Cardbound

The four competed at the YouthPass Pitch Challenge, a collaboration among Young Americans Center’s YouthBiz Program, Junior Achievement, and Denver Startup Week, for a coveted spot at the Denver Startup Week Semi-finals.  After watching each pitch, the judges had high praise for all participants. “All of you are proving that teens today have really great ideas,” said judge Daniel Schmidt, currently the Principal of Technology Strategy at Slalom.  Judge Barbara Brooks, CEO and Founder of SecondAct Women added, “Keep going!  Your spirit, your purpose, and your why is so inspiring.”

Even though Jack ended up winning, the experience was valuable for all participants.  “I learned a lot about structuring pitches and how to compel people to invest/vote for my company,” said Leonard in a post-event interview.  Gabriel noted, “Denver Startup Week has inspired me even more that youth business are real businesses, too and can accomplish just as much and sometimes more than their adult counterparts.”

Young entrepreneurs participated in two different aspects of Denver Startup Week this year, including the YouthPass Pitch Challenge and a Maker Track panel discussion shown in this screenshot.  Denver Startup Week was held virtually September 14-18, 2020.

The next evening, YouthBiz entrepreneurs gathered virtually to share knowledge with the Denver Startup Week audience at a What We Can Learn From Young Makers panel discussion. Panelists included Maile McManis (age 13) of Sewing with Smiles, Andrew Kurtz of A Designs, Hannah Doolittle (age 12) of Simply Denver Soap Co, and Julia Doolittle (age 9) of Olaf’s Dog Cookies.  The entrepreneurs detailed the evolution of their businesses, explaining how they sustainably grew from youth-based hobbies to serious, full-time revenue generators, and provided advice.  “My motivation is thinking about the future,” said Hannah.  “Don’t be afraid to try something new!”

Watching these entrepreneurs in action, one couldn’t help be impressed with their professionalism, their talent, and their business savvy.  Vice President of YouthBiz Anna Leer, who works with thousands of young entrepreneurs every year, whole heartedly agreed, commenting,  “Denver Startup Week was such a great opportunity for young entrepreneurs this year.  Even with a virtual format, these youth demonstrated a professionalism and wisdom that delighted session participants and proved young entrepreneurs are valuable members of the startup ecosystem.  Congratulations to all the youth involved!”

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