In addition to the traditional pressures that come with being a high school student, some area teenagers are juggling business meetings and Oprah-level aspirations.
Click here to read about last year's winners.
Six area high school students emerged from the second annual High School Entrepreneurship Competition a little closer to their dreams of creating successful products and businesses.
Leaders with LAUNCH—a local organization that aims to empower community members through entrepreneurship, job training and mentorship—put on the competition.
Tyner students Colby McCurty and Deosha King, both juniors; and Howard students senior Antonio Woodall, junior Winston Clay, sophomore Deshun Wilson, and junior Deshel Hambrick; recently beat out about 25 other teenagers and won help from area professionals in developing their business ideas.
All the students are either 16 or 17 years old.
McCurty and King took away the top prize, valued at $10,000, that consists of cash and business services to help fund their venture.
Hambrick received $1,000 to fund her idea with the potential for $4,000 of investment.
Woodall, Clay and Wilson got an invite to The Company Lab’s next 48-Hour Launch, so they can further develop their product and have another opportunity to woo investors.
All the students had messages of perseverance and hope about pursuing their dreams.
“Never give up on what you believe,” McCurty said.
Grab N Go
McCurty and King are working to provide area high schools (and eventually college dorms, they hope) with vending machines that provide school supplies and toiletries to students.
With the help of LAUNCH leaders, the girls created business plans and worked to perfect their pitch.
The teens said it was a nerve-racking process, and it took a moment to sink in when they heard their names called as winners.
They knew their competitors' ideas were good, and they were grateful to win, they said.
Soon, they hope to have the machines in three area high schools and eventually every high school and college in the country.
And meeting Oprah wouldn’t be so bad, either.
“I believe we can do that,” King said.
4Ever Young Thrift Store
It wasn’t part of the original plan, but Hambrick impressed judges, who were members of the Chattanooga Renaissance Fund, and earned $1,000 for her idea of a donations-driven thrift store for her school.
She can get $1,000 for every extra location she adds in another school, for a maximum of $5,000.
Hambrick will put the store’s proceeds back into the school, and she has already gotten donations and a space for her first store in Howard.
“The big thing was to give back to my school,” she said. “To leave my mark was important.”
The Comfort Box
Clay, Woodall and Wilson are developing their idea of The Comfort Box—a device that warms your clothes, towels and blankets—to pitch at the April 48-Hour Launch.
The trio hopes to market the child-safe box to places such as ski resorts and nursing homes.
The product will be energy-efficient and portable, so it can also be used in vehicles.
Woodall, who is a wrestler and has already been accepted into several colleges, said it feels good to see the team’s hard work paying off.
And Wilson said the team is working hard toward success. The three said they keep each other motivated.
“Success can’t be bought; it has to be earned,” Wilson said.
And Clay said he wants to be a part of something good, something big.
“It takes one to make a movement but many to make a change,” he said.