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Young Entrepreneurs Pitch Businesses in 'Shark Tank' Style Event

Apr 03, 2021 01:46PM ● By Jeanne Fratello
Marking the culmination of six month's worth of development, the student entrepreneurs from the Manhattan Beach Chamber of Commerce's Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) pitched their business plans - "Shark Tank"-style - to prominent local business leaders this week.

Sixteen students presented a total of 12 business ideas to a group of investors for real money to start their business. Each student had four minutes to outline their business idea, the competition, marketing plans, and their financing strategy.

The pitches included a variety of business ideas, from products to services. Some students designed their businesses to be local while others plan to take the business online and make it available well beyond the beach cities.

"Overall, the last six months of brainstorming and researching an idea, writing the business plan with a mentor, learning about various aspects of business, and hearing from other successful entrepreneurs paid off. They did an amazing job," said Nellie Ambrose, the YEA program manager.

This year's winning business was "Brushed," an online marketplace for the "wave" hairstyle, created by Hunter Williams of Bishop Montgomery High School. Williams will go on to compete against students from all over the country in June at the Saunders Scholars National Competition (presented by Rochester Institute of Technology). The first runner-up was Katherine Jester of Kat's Cookie Kit.

Second Year on Zoom

YEA! is a 501(c)3 offering classes and workshops that teach middle and high school students how to start and run their own businesses. Throughout the program, students develop business ideas, write business plans, conduct market research, pitch their plans to a panel of investors for startup funds, and launch and run their own fully formed companies and social movements. After students pitch their businesses, one student is chosen to go on to compete in the national competition for scholarships and business support.

The students from the 2020/2021 YEA class came from a variety of schools, including Mira Costa High School, Manhattan Beach Middle School, Chadwick, Adams Middle School, Torrance West High, Bishop Montgomery, and PV Intermediate School.

Additionally, this year's class was the first to have a 100% Zoom-based season. (Last year's YEA class had to finish out on Zoom.)

"Despite the lack of human connection, these students rallied and made the best of an unfortunate situation," said Ambrose. "A few students applied to the class with the intention of starting a business with a friend, but for the most part the students did not know each other when the class started in October of 2020 and have never met face-to-face."

This year's investor panel included Jill Dunn of Chevron, Danila Koverman of Fusion Academy, Latrice McGlothin of Kinecta, Captain Tim Hageman of the Manhattan Beach Rotary Club, and Susan Bales and Andy Goldstein of the Bales Foundation.


The winning business, "Brushed," centers around a demographic of those who have a wave hairstyle.

"It is essentially an "everything store" for the niche and will feature products from brands of any size," said Williams.  "It is technically a multi-vendor marketplace and products will include brushes, pomades, oils, and nightwear such as du-rags."

Williams continued, "As for winning this huge honor I was quite surprised to be chosen for the Saunders. All my peers had well formulated ideas for their companies and I couldn't have chosen a better group of entrepreneurs to work alongside."

"This program has been remarkable," he added. "The acquired skills surpass anything I would have expected to learn before college. The amazing teachers aided me in making a logistically sound business plan and contributed templates which the company will use for the foreseeable future.

Last year's winner, Taylor Ryan, took her "Unstoppable" womens' protective sports gear business to the national competition, where she placed in the top eight. She is now continuing to move forward with production on her prototypes.

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