2020 National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge

2020 National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge.

The National Challenge is one of NFTE’s signature events and the most high-stakes business plan and pitch competition of the year. Students begin their journey on the #RoadtoNationals in a local NFTE classroom or camp competition. The best young entrepreneurs from across the country advance through a series of elimination rounds, first at the local and then at the regional and national levels in order to qualify for Nationals. The National Challenge usually culminates with the top three national finalists taking the stage in front of a live audience and a panel of VIP judges for the final round of competition. This year, however, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the National Challenge will be a virtual event, with the final round livecast. Expect the same festive atmosphere and the same level of suspense as the three finalists vie for the grand prize.

If you haven’t been able to join us in NYC for the National Challenge finals before, now’s your chance! We’ll be webcasting the final round of competition. Stay tuned for more information.

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Jennifer La Sala.

Gourmet talent to a Gluten-free flourishing business: how NFTE inspired one student to persist through extraordinary hardships to become an inspirational entrepreneur.

Your future does not always go as planned but you can always own it, especially with the tools, the inspiration and the confidence that NFTE provides. Jennifer’s story is proof of that. Not only did NFTE’s class ignite her entrepreneurial spirit, but it also accentuated her initiative and her self-reliance.

Her interests had always been centered around cooking and baking and her business idea involved cookies dipped in chocolate. Despite “hating school and being ready to drop out”, she remained in school, attributing the reason she stayed to NFTE alone: “NFTE was the only thing that stopped me from quitting school at that time.” Launching a business named Sugar-coated Heaven , she took third place in the NFTE regional competition. Although she was disappointed not to win, her evocative brand name and the delicious idea turned into a concrete business while she was still in school and inspired her to reach higher. She then looked to college and really wanted to go to Johnson & Wales for culinary arts, but found the price tag to be out of her reach. Undaunted, and with the encouragement of her NFTE teacher and program manager, she increased her cookie sales, through pop up shops, until she was able to cover the cost of college and put herself through school.

After college, with the pro bono help of NFTE board members and volunteers, she was about to open her first store when disaster struck, in the form of an accident, which broke her neck. She was placed on medication that caused serious food sensitivities and meant that she couldn’t have any major allergen foods such as gluten, lactose, et cetera. The irony of a gourmet cook – with a cookie business, no less – was not lost on her! As she recovered from her injury, the natural expectation was that she would be too devastated to return to her business. However, the entrepreneurial spirit within her kicked into high gear, and she began conceiving of the plans that have led her to reinvent herself and her business.

As a result, in 2011, Jennifer Lee’s Gourmet Bakery was born. Her delicious baked goods and prepared foods are free of all allergens and she has built such a reputation that people flock to Boston from all over the United States to get her sumptuous baked goods. Her business is thriving. Her storefront, at the front of the famed Boston Public market, is described by Customers as “the one place that we feel normal. We can order all these delicious things without worrying” . She has been the subject of numerous articles and has received and celebrity endorsements, as well as serious attracting interest from investors. She has now launched her second store in Worcester, MA with two more planned in New England. Jennifer has just been named Massachusetts and New England Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year . She is only 26 years old.

Mathew Galvez.

How NFTE re-ignited a students’ love of learning.

When Mathew found the NFTE class offered at his school, he was intrigued, particularly when the NFTE organization was endorsed by one of his heroes: Sean Combs aka P. Diddy. Inspired by what he learned, Mathew developed a “personal brand” – Lottaworldwide – gaining with a sizable following that earned him over $25,000 a year in his first year alone.

Mathew describes NFTE was a life-changing moment for him in a number of ways. He saw it as a dramatic confidence builder, engendering in him a fearlessness and a sense that anything is possible for anyone willing to do the work. One aspect that stood out about his experience was the way that “everyone I met through NFTE believed in me. I had started running my business but NFTE gave me a different trajectory to be so much bigger.” Understanding the fundamentals of pitching a business was a vital skill for him to learn, and it was with NFTE that he did so. It has made all the difference. In addition, Alfredo Matthew, a former NFTE Director in the Bay Area, became Mathew’s mentor. Having met Mathew at the semi-finals in San Francisco, he took him under his wing and introduced him to many well-connected individuals who have helped take Mathew to new levels and introduced to him many wonderful internship opportunities.

Moreover, Mathew says that NFTE gave him a deep love of learning. He felt as if school system was broken for him and his peers, as much of what they were being taught in school did not seem relevant. NFTE brought to him that relevance and, in doing so, ignited his curiosity and inspired in him a love of learning.

Mathew would go on to attend San Francisco State University. He also works as a Data Analyst at Docusign while simultaneously completing his degree as well as working as a small business consultant. He continues to run Lotta-world-wide. “I am passionate about owning my future” he says, “to be a millionaire you need seven revenue streams and I am well on my way!”

Kiera Wesby.

From teen mom to teen titan: how NFTE took a young girl from homeless to Harvard.

Kiera was a homeless teen mom with a two-year old toddler who found NFTE through an alternative school program for teen moms, paid for by AT&T.

Inspired by what she learned, she went on to enter NFTE’s business plan competition. Her product was developed from her own needs as a young mother. She developed an ultrasonic scanner and an accompanying downloadable application for use during the forty weeks of pregnancy. She essentially created this as a solution for herself and for those teen moms around her and became the founder of Feto, Inc. Kiera boasts that Feto, Inc. is significantly more advanced that its competitors, as nobody else offers a corresponding app. The device syncs with your phone through a USB slot and notifies expectant mothers of their baby’s heartbeat, movement, activity/inactivity and sleeping patterns. Abnormalities can be detected, and emergency contacts and hospitals notified.

Although her heart rate monitor business remained at the conceptual phase, she learned a lot and grew a lot. So much so, that it entirely changed her life. She became focused and serious in in studies and took credits at a mainstream school. Her outstanding work, together with the personal skills and confidence that NFTE ignited in her, ultimately resulted in Kiera being accepted to Harvard! Unfortunately, the realities of having a child made it impossible for her to leave her support network in Florida and accept her offer to attend Harvard but, nevertheless, it was clear from that point that Kiera would be set on the path of a successful academic and professional career.

Acknowledging the profound impact that NFTE has had on her life, she continues to volunteer for the organization as Chair of the Los Angeles Alumni Corps Leadership Team. She has spoken publicly about how NFTE so positively altered her life and – while still at college – also works for City Year in an effort to pay it forward to children growing up amid challenging circumstance in Miami.

Angela Ivana.

How NFTE’s competitive incentives coupled with key skills re-engages students in high school and beyond.

Before Angela started in the NFTE program, she felt that she was on a trajectory “to sit behind a desk for the rest of my life.” She explains that thoughts such as these scared her so much that she became disengaged and started skipping school. She then went from being a straight-A student to having a 1.9 GPA. Eventually, she switched to a new high school and, in doing so, drastically altered her life.

“I found this one school where I met the NFTE teacher who changed my life.” she says. She clearly recalls, and was motivated, by the first words spoken by that teacher who explained: “In this class, we’re going to teach your business skills, and, with them, you can compete in a series of competitions. If you win, we’ll award you some money to start your business.” A competitive person by nature, she immediately signed up, and immersed herself in learning everything she could. Her efforts paid off as she made it to the NFTE National competition that year. Her business idea was for a Hispanic/ethnic catering company which she went on to run successfully through to the end of her second year in college. Her client base was comprised of some well-known names, including Bank of America and the American Heart Association.

With new direction and motivation, she turned her high school 1.9 GPA into a 3.5 GPA and got into the National Honor Society. She then successfully graduated from high school and went onto to college Northeastern University, in Boston, where she flourished.

Dylan Martin.

The Accidental Beekeeper: how a NFTE class turned into college funding…and has had an important environmental impact.

You have heard how the bee species are endangered and how this fact also endangers our planet as a whole? That is what Dylan’s father and he learned one night on the Discovery Channel. Concerned and motivated, Dylan’s father bought a beehive and some bees. Like a number of people around the country, this family hobby may have remained just that.

However, Dylan’s story ends differently. Why? For the simple reason that Dylan took a NFTE course which changed his entire way of thinking. “I only took the class because I thought that it would be easy. I had no idea of the impact that it would have on me.” However, as he learned about business and the empowerment that it brought, he started to think about how he could use it in his own life. Remembering the beehive sitting in his garden, he decided that he would be his plan around it. NFTE prepared him well! Not only did Dylan go on to win his class and Regional competitions but he was also a runner up in the National Competition.

After college, with the pro bono help of NFTE board members and volunteers, she was about to open her first store when disaster struck, in the form of an accident, which broke her neck. She was placed on medication that caused serious food sensitivities and meant that she couldn’t have any major allergen foods such as gluten, lactose, et cetera. The irony of a gourmet cook – with a cookie business, no less – was not lost on her! As she recovered from her injury, the natural expectation was that she would be too devastated to return to her business. However, the entrepreneurial spirit within her kicked into high gear, and she began conceiving of the plans that have led her to reinvent herself and her business.

However, Dylan’s plans did not end with competition. He went full throttle on his business, not only producing the honey but also developing honey-based products. With the skills that NFTE has given him, Dylan has gone on to college and continues to maintain his business on the side. He is currently the third largest beekeeper in the state of Connecticut.

Andres Cordona.

“It’s not talent or genius that leads to success” – how NFTE taught perseverance and passion.

Andres Cardona grew up with a single mother who struggled to provide enough just to keep her family afloat. At 14 years old, Andres had a lot of ambition to provide for his mother and sister but didn’t know how. The success stories he’d heard – of someone creating an app and making a billion dollars, or of parents providing college funding or business seed money – weren’t relatable to him. Enter NFTE.

Andres took a NFTE course that changed his life. Not only did he learn the tools to start and maintain a successful and profitable business, he also learned professionalism, public speaking, and networking skills that could apply to all areas of his life. In his words, “NFTE made me feel important.” He was suddenly surrounded by a community of people – teachers, staff, volunteers, mentors, and peers – who wanted to hear his story and wanted to see him succeed. One such person was his incredible NFTE mentor. Andres can pinpoint a specific moment where his mentor asked a question that completely reframed his way of thinking, “if you didn’t have to make money to pay the bills, what would you love to do every day?”

According to Andres, “there’s no such thing as a small idea;” his love for basketball inspired his business but his perseverance of starting small and working hard led to his success. Today, Andres’ business, Elite Basketball Academy, reaches almost 500 students. What started as one-on-coaching and personal training for youth in the Miami region – has now led to a thriving business with 20 employees, generating over 7 figures in revenue. .

Andres was named the 2017 Young Entrepreneur of Florida by Governor Rick Scott. In 2013 he was selected to represent NFTE at the EY World Entrepreneur of the Year event in Monte Carlo. In 2012 he was honored as a NFTE Global Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Despite all his success, he hasn’t forgotten about his original goal – Andres recently bought his mother a new home a nd is happy to fulfill his promise to provide for his family.

Angela Ivana.

How NFTE’s competitive incentives coupled with key skills re-engages students in high school and beyond.

Before Angela started in the NFTE program, she felt that she was on a trajectory “to sit behind a desk for the rest of my life.” She explains that thoughts such as these scared her so much that she became disengaged and started skipping school. She then went from being a straight-A student to having a 1.9 GPA. Eventually, she switched to a new high school and, in doing so, drastically altered her life.

“I found this one school where I met the NFTE teacher who changed my life.” she says. She clearly recalls, and was motivated, by the first words spoken by that teacher who explained: “In this class, we’re going to teach your business skills, and, with them, you can compete in a series of competitions. If you win, we’ll award you some money to start your business.” A competitive person by nature, she immediately signed up, and immersed herself in learning everything she could. Her efforts paid off as she made it to the NFTE National competition that year. Her business idea was for a Hispanic/ethnic catering company which she went on to run successfully through to the end of her second year in college. Her client base was comprised of some well-known names, including Bank of America and the American Heart Association.

With new direction and motivation, she turned her high school 1.9 GPA into a 3.5 GPA and got into the National Honor Society. She then successfully graduated from high school and went onto to college Northeastern University, in Boston, where she flourished.

Arti Shala.

Teaching adaptability in the fast-moving tech world.

Arti first took NFTE’s class as a sophomore in the 2016/17 school year. He created his business Shalatech which designed and manufactured a case for wirelessly charging the IPhone 7…a year before Apple brought out this capability itself!

Perhaps not surprisingly, that same year Arti won NFTE’s Washington D.C. Regional competition and went to the National competition. Although he did not win at the National level, he was instead spotted by an EY judge at the competition and went on to be named EY’s Young Global Entrepreneur of the Year. He also had the highest product sales at the follow up event that took place after the competition.

After the Iphone 8 came out with its wireless charging capability, Arti was not daunted. Adopting the skills of adaptability that NFTE’s entrepreneurship course had taught him, he simply developed a new product. This was a Wireless Power Base which he had manufactured in China. Although this product process worked well at first, his Chinese manufacturers copied his product after seeing how successful he was becoming through his Shopify outlet.

Just as NFTE teaches its student, Arti then went on to regroup, learn from his lessons and to further differentiate himself from the competition.

He has since rebranded his company which is now called Amp. His products reputedly charge faster than most of his competition and are thin and lightweight. Rebranding has also emphasized his new core mission and value which, at the same time, provides a significant differentiator to his products: “To create new portable chargers that enhance individual and business productivity while ensuring sustainable packaging (zero plastic) and are all manufactured from recycled materials.” He also no longer manufactures his products in China!

Still only 18 years old, Arti is at George Mason University studying Computer Engineering. He maintains his Amp business and, additionally, he has launched an IT consulting business to help fund the R&D on 2 exciting new products, due to be out by the end of the year. His IT and Amp businesses also help to fund his college endeavors.

He says that NFTE has undeniably changed the trajectory of his life and prepared him for the fast-changing pace of work, particularly in the tech field where his interests lie. “Before taking NFTE I had no idea about having my own business. After taking it, I doubled down and was inspired. I gained the crucial skills and confidence and now know how to make my ideas viable”.

Carlos Feitosa.

How one’s students NFTE experience helped him to overcome his tenuous immigration issues and to find his path forward by owning his own future.

Carlos Feitosa came to the U.S. from Brazil. He attended the Bronx Aerospace High School and chose to take a NFTE class as an elective, as a Junior, in 2016. In coming up with his business plan, he wanted to create a product that was chemical-free, similar to the products that he used in his native Brazil. He realized that he, and many of his friends, were developing acne because of the chemicals in the products they were using. Thus, he began to create a line of all-natural soap bars.

Carlos named his company Shinesoaps and entered the Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge. Although he did not qualify for the National round, Carlos went on to participate in NFTE New York Metro Start-up Summer Program. He amped up his plan and ended up winning the highest investment funding from the competition’s investors and judges.

It was then that Carlos’ NFTE experience became even more important and pivotal in his life. Unable to go to college because his green card had expired, he went to work for a tech start-up, Amino Apps, while continuing to develop his all-natural soap business. Carlos acknowledges that the profound impact NFTE has had in helping him to not to be discouraged by the problems of his circumstance, but instead to go out and decide his own future.

NFTE undoubtedly changed his life. After just two years he was able to resign from his job at Amino Apps to work full-time on his business. He now has U.S. residency status and a thriving start-up of his own that includes multiple additional product lines, including body butter, creams and liquid soap. Carlos now sells online and in-person through sales representatives, and he sees more growth ahead as he plans to begin distributing his product through stores.

Clifton Jackson.

How a NFTE student created a business to increase the safety of his fellow electrical workers, and how NFTE helped to drive two generations to own their futures!

Working as an electrician’s apprentice while in high school, Clifton discovered it can be hazardous to change tools while on a ladder. This led him to invent CWC Pliers, a lightweight 3-in-1 tool developed especially for professional electricians. This innovative multi-tool reduces the number of times an electrician must remove a point of balance by reaching for a tool in a tool belt, thus decreasing job-completion time and increasing workplace safety.

Clifton’s creative problem-solving took him to NFTE’s National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge in 2017, where he was a runner-up. Now, with a patent pending, he intends to commence production by the end of the year.

Clifton understands that entrepreneurship could help him become “something more than what everyone thought he would turn out to be.” In addition to running CWC Pliers and pursuing his career as an electrician, Clifton helped his father to branch out and to start a business of his own. As such, the skills that he learned at NFTE have now helped two generations of Jacksons to own their futures.

Dagim Girma.

Living the American Dream: ignited by, guided by, facilitated by NFTE.

Dagim was a quiet student at the outset of his journey with NFTE. However, the class he took would come to help him lift himself out of his shell and allow him to see himself in a new light: as a leader. Inspired by the NFTE class in which he enrolled as a junior at his D.C. high school in 2013, Dagim created an online platform to connect young sports fans, allowing them to post comments in real time. His app, TheAudible.net, attracted thousands of users. In order to successfully launch his business, he raised money through ad revenue.

With NFTE’s guidance, he learned networking skills; skills he would put to good use to attract peers and high-level contacts to drive his app to be used in professional sports. Dagim credits his confidence, leadership and communication skills to the NFTE class that he took, as well as to the teachers and the mentors that surrounded him on his journey to success.

He went on to study Entrepreneurship and Computer Science at Babson College, the premier college in Entrepreneurship in the United States. While at Babson, he built and maintained yet another platform, VenturHub: an online medium which connects entrepreneurs and helps them to jumpstart small businesses of their own. Indeed, Dagim was so well equipped in his own entrepreneurial mindset, that he was able to use his skill to create not only his own future but facilitate for others the ability to create their own, as well.

Dagim adamantly asserts that his attitude, defined by self-confidence and by self-reliance, was the result of his NFTE experience. This, coupled with his NFTE-learned skills in communication and in networking, have proven enormously useful to him in his role at Goldman, and, to this day, he continues to be a most vigorous advocate of NFTE.

Keegan Bonds Harmon.

How NFTE taught a young artist and designer his value and worth, spurring him to new levels and increased income.

Keegan was already an artist and designer at the tender age of 14. He wanted to turn his passion and his unique style into a thriving business. He enrolled in a NFTE class in 2016, where he recalls learning to value his time, and the worth of his business, and above all, himself. Keegan won the Regionals competition with his business, Keegancreatures, creating and selling screen-printed t-shirts. He then went on to compete at the National competition.

Keegan says that NFTE gave him several foundational skills that have been instrumental to his progress, including an increased ability to organize himself and his work as well as teaching him invaluable public speaking skills. He also developed some excellent negotiation skills. He was featured in The Providence Journal and in People Magazine .

In exemplifying NFTE’s effect in increasing his sense of self-worth and regotiation abilities, NFTE’s program team recalled one incident in particular. Around the time that he was being written about, like many other teenagers, Keegan also developed acne. As he was already becoming somewhat famous, the Clearasil company reached out to him to ask him to take part in the filming of one of the company’s television commercials. Armed with NFTE’s skills on presenting oneself and his business, Keegan made sure both he and his studio looked their best when the camera’s came in to film him. In fact, the Clearasil team were so impressed that they wanted to film additional “behind the scenes working shots” of Keegan. At that point, many starstruck teenagers would have probably rushed to give their time for free. However, Keegan had learned through building his business plan that his time had a dollar amount attached to it and that the investment in his studio also had a cost that required reimbursement. Fearlessly, he negotiated with Clearasil that filming in his store and taking more of his time would require a commensurate fee. Sure enough, he got a bigger paycheck!

keeganbh.com.

Laura Martinelli.

Providing an entrepreneurial lens: How NFTE helped a young filmmaker obtain a prime spot at college and create her dream future.

Laura attended the Met School in Providence, and it was here where she identified and nurtured her passion for filmmaking. However, it was not until she took the NFTE components offered at the school in 2013 that she learned how to market those talents effectively and properly build a business around them. In describing her experience, she explains “I really understood how to pitch and how to market myself. I also learned how to ground my dream with a concrete business plan.” Laura says that it was NFTE that gave her the confidence to create her small business, which she has centered around her talents in film.

She credits her public speaking abilities as byproduct of having taken the NFTE course elements and has found these skills to be of immense benefit. Fully enthused, she entered her school’s business plan competition and won. Once again, fate and NFTE would join hands, for in the audience was Paul LeBlanc, the president of Southern New Hampshire University. He was so impressed with Laura’s combined talents of filmmaking and business that he promptly offered her a place – and a full-ride scholarship – to SNHU to study Communication and Media. In 2015, President LeBlanc brought Laura on a three-week international excursion to Istanbul, where she documented on film a summit on human ecology, after which they travelled to Kigali in Rwanda to film the first graduating class of the survivors Rwandan genocide.

Since 2013, Laura has been earning living making promotional videos (among other genres) and, in doing so, has been tireless in honing her craft. Her business, EHFAR Films (Everything Happens for A Reason) continues to thrive after 7 years. She uses her skills to market her talents, she enjoys ever-growing recognition in her field, and she continues to work on various exciting film projects, such as “In Colors”, a short narrative-film currently in development, and which she is directing.

Olivia Be’Nguyen.

Entrepreneurship meets art…allowing one student’s passion to pave the way to financial freedom and creative fulfillment..

Described as the epitome of the NFTE story, Olivia was born in the U.S. to Vietnamese parents who upheld very traditional values. It was in Hartford that Olivia experienced the NFTE program, where she enrolled as part of her high school graduation requirements. Her teacher was passionate and was the sort of educator that NFTE celebrates and cherishes. Taking the class served to unleash Olivia’s entrepreneurial spirit.

Although she did not go on to enter or win the competition – like so many other NFTE students who may not, or qualify, or win at competition – what she gained was far more life-altering than winning any competition. As she found her entrepreneurial spirit ignited, so too was her passion and her innate talent as an artist.

However, like many families, Olivia’s parents cautioned her that there was no money in art. Instead, they encouraged her to pursue only traditional careers paths such as becoming a doctor, a nurse or a lawyer. The other alternative was to go to work in the nail salon where her mother was working.

Upon graduating high school, she dutifully started working in the nail salon as her parents suggested. It was a safe and stable place, and but it was stifling to her extraordinary talent. Fear may have kept her there, as it does for so many artists who suppress talent for security. However, NFTE had already ignited the spark and confidence within her. Olivia realized her own self-worth and her value. NFTE gave her the tools to turn that value into a valuable business, which she created around her art.

That was 10 years ago. Today, though she is still only in her twenties, her art is featured in Hollywood movies. Her paintings sell for thousands of dollars plus. Her creative genius is sought by A-list celebrities. Her patrons include Big Sean, 50 Cent and Spike Lee. She has realized the dream of every artist, NFTE is delighted to have helped to ignite the entrepreneurial spirit that allowed such talent to grace the world.

Valery Perez.

How NFTE’s entrepreneurial mindset helped a student create a business that sustained her entire family through parental job loss and financial hardship.

Valery joined NFTE through a class in Dallas, as a freshman at her high school. There, she learned the basics of entrepreneurship, pitching, networking and created a unique balloon business. These balloons contained a natural rose inside them and were intended to be given as a romantic gift. She named the company Rosealloon and, over time, she has expanded her product line to include other gifts inside a balloon. When asked how these things get inside the balloon, she exclaims: “That’s the magic!”

Although she was pleased to place 2nd in NFTE’s regional competition she could not participate in the National Competition because her parents felt that she was too young to go to New York to attend the competition. However, the lessons she learned from her NFTE class and from her business ultimately became worth even more to her than the experience of going to New York: she was able to help lift her family out of some very difficult circumstances instead. When her father lost his job and could not make ends meet, he immersed himself into his young daughter’s business and took to selling the balloons himself. As a result, he was able to pay their rent and support the family through some very difficult times.

Valery says that she is forever grateful to NFTE for what it has done for her and for her family: “NFTE didn’t leave me alone. I got ongoing mentorship and guidance.” As she continued her business, she also won EY’s Youth Entrepreneur of Year award. She also used her NFTE experience to help with college applications and was accepted to The University of Texas with a $25,000 scholarship.

Today, she continues to give back to NFTE, saying that her goal is to inspire other students who come from low-income communities to think with an entrepreneurial mindset and to aim high. She believes everything is possible for those who are willing to work hard for their dreams. Reflecting on the essence of the change that NFTE has made in her life, she says: “My plans now are different from the ones before taking the NFTE course … now I understand how to make a simple idea a reality.”

Zoe Damacela.

How NFTE gave one student the critical skills, the exposure and the publicity to become successful as an entrepreneur and intrapreneur, to change her life and to get her dream job.

Zoe’s life has been far from easy. At one point, she and her family were homeless. However, NFTE has shown Zoe that she can do anything that she sets her mind to, and that where you were born does not need to determine where you stay.

Zoe discovered NFTE while in high school in 2008. Her business plan was formulated around her interests and talent, as she launched, Zoe Damacela Apparel. She qualified for NFTE’s National competition, where she finished second overall. This gave Zoe a great deal of exposure for herself and for her business. She was subsequently featured on both local and national news channels. She was also invited to White House by President Obama, after which publicity began surrounding her and her business spiked to even greater levels. She was featured on the cover of Seventeen Magazine and sales of her apparel and accessories boomed as a result.

After high school, Zoe attended Northwestern University, where she continued to run her business throughout her college years. Upon graduating, and keen to embark upon a new challenge, Zoe wanted to see what it would be like to apply her entrepreneurial grounding to be an intrapreneur within a larger organization. She undertook several internship positions, including one at Macy’s. It was there that she found a perfect place for her combination of creativity and intrapreneur capabilities to flourish. She rose quickly through the ranks and is now a Senior Design Manager.

Zoe credits NFTE with building her strong foundation and her life skills, teaching her “how to take a really big idea and break it into manageable and practicable pieces.” She believes that NFTE helped her identify opportunities and, most of all, to speak confidently in public, in a way that resonates with her target audience: “I used to be terrified of public speaking. I wouldn’t even raise my hand. Then after several business competition rounds, it became a breeze.” Today, as she looks back at her journey to her dream job, she attributes much of her success to that ability to speak publicly within a large corporation: “Being able to explain the creative idea in a way that those more comfortable with finance can relate has been extremely valuable to me and to my success within a larger organization.”

Kaina Lisibach.

As the ambitious daughter of immigrant entrepreneurs, Kaina Lisibach has always known what it means to work hard. Beginning at age 12, she worked in her grandparent’s Venezuelan restaurant on the weekends. At age 13, Kaina used her passion for reading to start her own book review blog – teaching herself graphic design and coding as well as gaining a press pass to the biggest publishing conference in North America. Then, at age 16, Kaina enrolled in the NFTE Startup Summer program and, as she says, “with NFTE, everything finally started coming together and changed my entire trajectory.”

It was there that Kaina used her love for books to launch One Page Closer – a nonprofit organization that provided fully stocked bookcases to children and teens in low-income communities in the Miami region. What began as a community service project expanded into a full-blown business venture through NFTE’s curriculum and mentoring, as well as a 1st place Investment Panel award of $4,000 in seed capital.

Her success with NFTE led to her obtaining a four-year full-tuition Diversity Leadership Scholarship to Babson College. But Kaina soon realized that she didn’t have the same connections as many of her classmates. Rather than be discouraged, she utilized her entrepreneurial mindset to persist. “I cannot let lack of connections be a barrier to my success,” she told herself. Instead she took the initiative to work 3 jobs every semester of college to pad her resume. She created her own opportunities through Kaly Media – a freelance marketing consulting business where she also taught herself how to create websites in order to have a steady income source. This venture also enabled her to develop her portfolio, and network in the marketing and technology field.

All of the hard work, initiative, and creativity paid off. After years of networking and skill-building, Kaina recently accepted an Associate Product Marketing Manager internship at Google. The Building Opportunities for Leadership & Development Internship is a highly competitive program that exposes historically underrepresented students in the technology field to career opportunities in the industry.

According to Kaina, “When I was growing up it was always about the hustle, about finding ways to create something out of nothing. I was able to see firsthand how entrepreneurship helped elevate my family as they tried to rebuild their lives in a new country, which had a profound impact on me and my future goals. The early exposure to what I would later learn was an entrepreneurial mindset, allowed me to develop the ambitious work ethic that drives me today.” And Kaina credits much of her success to her NFTE experience, “I love NFTE. I’m so appreciative of all they’ve done that I’ve worked for NFTE twice! And I want to continue to give back to the NFTE community in the same way they’ve given to me.”

Rodney Walker.

It’s not just what you know, it’s who cares: how NFTE’s classes, competition, and relationships took one student from foster care and failure to Ivy League success.

Rodney lost his home and a sibling in a fire, entering the foster system at the age of 5. He had cycled through 15 foster care homes on Chicago’s violent south side, and, with a 1.3 GPA, he was struggling academically when he entered a NFTE class in high school. No one at school knew of Rodney’s troubled situation and inner turmoil. His parents had struggled with drug abuse and his family members had been in and out of prison multiple times. Rodney felt trapped, both by his circumstances and by the system. That is until he took his first NFTE class.

It was not just the robust and engaging curriculum, which equipped him with the tools to succeed and restore his confidence, but it was also his mentors – a most vital part of NFTE’s secret sauce – who helped him to really believe in himself and to see the possibilities that lay in front of him. With the wind now behind him for the first time, Rodney entered into the NFTE competition that year. He qualified and was a runner up at Nationals, earning himself a $6000 prize in the process. More importantly, Rodney’s belief in himself and in his abilities had been ignited. With renewed energy and confidence, he applied himself to his studies and graduated from high school, earning himself a provisional acceptance to Morehouse College and using his NFTE competition winnings to pay for his first year.

At the end of that first year, Rodney – who had been the voiceover for a NFTE documentary in which he was featured – was asked to speak about his NFTE experience at an Aspen Institute event. At dinner that night, when the guests at his table asked him what he was doing, he mentioned that he was trying to afford the next 3 years of college. By the time dinner had ended, one of the donors at the table had offered to cover those entire college expenses, provided he maintain a good GPA. Not only did Rodney maintain his GPA, but he excelled and went on to earn Master’sdegrees from Harvard and Yale, where – enhanced by his NFTE public speaking training – he would deliver an inspiring TED Talk. Rodney’s book, A New Day One , describes his incredible journey and is available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/New-Day-One-Trauma-Journey.

Jasmine Lawrence.

NFTE shows success can happen no matter what: Swapping a Bizcamp competition win for a future multimillion dollar business at age of just 13!

When Jasmine completed a NFTE BizCamp and pitched her first business at the camp’s final competition, she didn’t place first, second or third. But what she won was even more valuable: confidence in her ability to start a new enterprise .

at the age of 13, Jasmine launched Eden Bodyworks, and she has grown her business into a multi-million dollar company with products on the shelves of Walmart, Walgreens and other leading retailers.

Jasmine also has a passion for technology. She studied engineering in college and graduate school. She’s since worked for tech giants like Facebook and Microsoft as well as Softbank, a robotics innovator—all while continuing to run Eden Bodyworks.

Shami Oshun.

Fashion talent meets the NFTE business experience to propel a young student to media fame and entrepreneurship awards.

Shami was inspired to pursue fashion in 2015 when her father brought her local fabrics as a gift from his recent trip to Uganda. The fashion line, Shami Oshun , was soon born. The beautiful fabric sparked a love of fashion and design that has brought us the savvy entrepreneur we know today.​

Real momentum came for Shami when she deployed a new marketing strategy on social media. She decided to make her own prom dress while posting the entire process on Twitter. The story went viral with thousands of views resulting in articles on Buzzfeed , Huffington Post , and Teen Vogue .

​Shami is capitalizing on her entrepreneurial successes and taking a gap year. She was recently named 2018 EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Scholar and put on her own high-end fashion show at the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Gala in San Francisco were she showcased the Shami Oshun Resort Colle.

Kelsey Johnson.

How NFTE re-ignited a passion for learning, built self-confidence and unleashed ambition in a young entrepreneur.

As Kelsey Johnson approached her senior year of high school, she had “no direction, no passion, no spark.” After dancing for 8 years, she gave up pursuing it as her passion. This left her with a lot of free time but no direction. It was then that Kelsey was introduced to the NFTE program that changed her life.

N FTE taught her how to think creatively and solve real problems for herself and her community. Kelsey always had an issue fitting her long braids into a traditional shower cap. One day, she decided to use a pair of leggings to protect her hair in the shower. It was then that she realized that she had stumbled upon an idea that might benefit a great many people, and Kinky Kaps, was born. A shower cap for people with long braids, Kinky Kaps “aims to empower and inspire African American women to embrace their natural hair in all its untamed beauty.

NFTE rekindled Kelsey’s confidence and passion. And through the guidance she received from the NFTE curriculum and countless mentors, Kelsey went on to win the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge with Kinky Kaps ! She won $15,000 and the 2018 title of #1 Youth Entrepreneur in the country.

Kelsey is moved by the community of support she has discovered through her NFTE journey. “The most important thing I learned from NFTE is there are people other than your friends and family that are willing to support you .” “When I started to notice the people around me be excited for my business and the things that I had going on it really helped me notice that I have a lot of potential. It made me hopeful for the future.”

Kelsey Johnson.

How NFTE Reignited Passion and Confidence – A National Competition Winner’s Journey.

As Kelsey Johnson approached her senior year of high school, she had “no direction, no passion, no spark.” After dancing for 8 years, she gave up pursuing it as her passion. This left her with a lot of free time but no direction. It was then that Kelsey was introduced to the NFTE program that changed her life.

N FTE taught her how to think creatively and solve real problems for herself and her community. Kelsey always had an issue fitting her long braids into a traditional shower cap. One day, she decided to use a pair of leggings to protect her hair in the shower. It was then that she realized that she had stumbled upon an idea that might benefit a great many people, and Kinky Kaps, was born. A shower cap for people with long braids, Kinky Kaps “aims to empower and inspire African American women to embrace their natural hair in all its untamed beauty.

NFTE rekindled Kelsey’s confidence and passion. And through the guidance she received from the NFTE curriculum and countless mentors, Kelsey went on to win the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge with Kinky Kaps ! She won $15,000 and the 2018 title of #1 Youth Entrepreneur in the country.

Kelsey is moved by the community of support she has discovered through her NFTE journey. “The most important thing I learned from NFTE is there are people other than your friends and family that are willing to support you .” “When I started to notice the people around me be excited for my business and the things that I had going on it really helped me notice that I have a lot of potential. It made me hopeful for the future.”

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