Two teenage entrepreneurs split nearly $3,000 in prize money from the finals of the George W. Tippins Business Plan Competition here June 6 – and one of them is headed to New York City in October to compete for a $25,000 prize.
The winner of the Up-Start division for younger high-school students, Derica Sanchez of Urban Pathways Charter School downtown, pitched a business designing custom dog collars, beating out more than a dozen other students earlier in May's semi-finals
"Derica is a quiet, responsible young lady who in the end revealed a greater depth of ability and talent for marketing than I would have expected for someone so young in her career," says Jerry Cozewith, head of the local nonprofit Entrepreneuring Youth
, which sponsored the contest and preparatory programs educating kids about business success in Allegheny and several other local counties. "The judges were impressed by the prototypes of her products. She had a firm grasp on the competitive edge she needed to go forward."
Besides winning $1,200, she'll be attending the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year competition this month as a guest of Entrepreneuring Youth, and Cozewith expects her to be back next year to compete in the Start-Up division for older high schoolers.
There, the $1,500 top winner was Meghan Boboige, founder of Meg’s Photo Booth, which
sells her own and custom-commissioned photographs printed in high resolution on canvas. She was in the eleventh grade in Moon Area High School this year.
Meghan will be competing in the Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship business plan competition this fall, where last year's Tippins Start-Up winners
, teens Jesse and Joziah Council of Beaver Area High School, took their line of all-natural skin-care products to New York and were runners up, winning $5,000.
Says Cozewith: "Meghan clearly had a quality product and understood the limitation of her business, so she had a very strong grasp of what her product was, what her business is, and the opportunity to grow it. She was very, very confident in her presentation."
In general, he adds, most kids only know the world of business from a consumer angle. Entrepreneuring Youth will be working over the summer to teach Meghan more about inventory, taking orders and other skills needed to make her idea work in the real world.
"Her fundamentals are strong, but we really need to get her thinking about the future, where the opportunities are, and what the costs and resources are," he says. "She'll be up against kids with more experience. We'll find someone in the photography business who can really speak to the world and really steel her to do a great job in New York."
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Jerry Cozewith, president, Entrepreneuring Youth