“Like a lot of teens my age, you gotta make a hustle for yourself. Just do it, nobody’s against you!” – Diego Ramirez (Be Your Own Boss Fall 2020 Intern)
Diego Ramirez is a junior at Back of the Yards College Preparatory High School in Chicago, IL. This past fall, Diego participated in the Future Founders Be Your Own Boss (BYOB) program, a paid virtual internship that teaches students how to create and pitch your own business idea while connecting them with established entrepreneurs from Chicago and beyond.
As an avid fan of Shark Tank, Diego’s interest in entrepreneurship was apparent during his time in the internship. “I’ve never seen an intern rise to the leadership role before the pitch like Diego,” said Jane Castro, the BYOB Program Manager. Now with the experience behind him, Diego is excited to use his new toolbox of skills and work on his own entrepreneurial projects.
After hearing about the BYOB program through his school, Diego felt like it would be a good fit for him to help further himself as an entrepreneur and build his character. When he was younger, Diego said that he found inspiration in famous celebrities, however, as of late his mindset on inspiration has changed. Instead of concentrating on becoming someone else, Diego is now focused on writing his own story and doing what he wants to do. Inspired by an uncle who owns a clothing store that sells apparel celebrating the culture of his local neighborhood, Diego was ready to pursue his own innovative ideas. And BYOB was the perfect opportunity to mobilize his desire to create.
During the two week program, interns from high schools throughout Chicago met (online) and collaborated on self-driven businesses. “The environment in the program is super cool, you automatically get to meet fun people and you just feel comfortable,” said Diego, reflecting on working with students from outside his own school. During his session, Diego felt that not a single student shied away from engaging with the content.
The two week program culminated with a pitch competition, where teams of interns presented business ideas to a wide array of founders, investors, and partners in the Future Founders network. Ideating with the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, Diego and his team pitched a local marketplace app that they called GoVentur.
In just the two week span of the program, Diego and his team actually went through a couple major pivots before ending up on their final business idea. Their original idea was an app that would alert you when people in your neighborhood tested positive for COVID-19. But after brainstorming more and thinking further ahead, Diego’s team decided to choose something more long-term. They realized that the potential of a COVID-19 tracking app is subject to how long the pandemic lasts, meaning their business could be left behind when the pandemic is over. Still keeping COVID in mind, they came up with something a bit more sustainable and exciting.
A screenshot from GoVentur’s pitch video
GoVentur would allow local businesses to safely connect with customers in their neighborhoods through an online Amazon-like marketplace. With categorized industries, direct messages, reviews, and analytics, the app would provide businesses with a better understanding of their local customer base, and customers with a directory of products available nearby. And while the app addressed social distancing precautions, it could be utilized as a virtual marketplace post-pandemic as well.
It’s no surprise that Diego pushed for a community-based business, pulling inspiration from his uncle’s neighborhood clothing shop. Looking back on the competition, Diego stated that the ideation stage was his favorite. He enjoyed collaborating with his team and trying to come up with as many ideas as possible, knowing that the more open-minded they were, the better their ideas would be. Even after the program, Diego keeps in touch with his teammates via Snapchat to check-in on any projects they are working on individually.
“The more you engage, the more fun it’s going to be,” said Diego, reflecting on his time in the BYOB program. His biggest takeaway from the internship was that the communication skills you gain can be applied to any facet of everyday life. He recommends the program to any students interested in learning more about the entrepreneurial mindset, because you never know when those skills will come in handy.
For Diego, the BYOB program only furthered his interest in entrepreneurship. One of the guest mentors during Diego’s session, Danielle Tubbs, left a last impression on the high school junior. Danielle was a member of the 2019 Future Founders Fellowship, and is the founder of Tubby’s Taste, a vegan cookie company inspired by her Jamaican-American roots. With many prizes being awarded to students throughout the program, Diego was lucky enough to win a batch of Tubby’s Taste’s delicious cookies. Calling her brand ‘outstanding’, Diego was impressed by Danielle’s ability to create delectable vegan cookies while staying true to her brand.
Tubby’s Taste: Taste of Paradise Cookies
Now, after completing the BYOB program and getting to eat some cookies, Diego is excited to continue working on his own business, which also happens to be a tasty treat local to his community.
Sticky chamoy is a Mexican fruit sauce that can be used as a sweet rim dip for canned beverages. After having a conversation with his brother about the lack of homemade chamoy in Chicago, Diego decided to research what he would need to make his own homemade version of the sticky treat. Originally, he started making batches of the product just for fun, but soon realized that the lack of competition in Chicago left him with an opportunity. “After the [BYOB] program, I started thinking about how to turn my project into an actual business,” said Diego. “I started thinking about how I can get it into an actual store, and getting everything I need ready before I do.”
An advertisement for one of Diego’s newest flavors of Stockyard Sticky
Feeling more confident in his product, Diego decided to create an actual brand image for his chamoy, naming it “Stockyard Sticky” after his neighborhood. Since BYOB, Diego has sold his product at local street festivals, collaborated with other businesses, and hosted giveaways on his Instagram and Facebook pages. And now, the high school junior (!) is researching state-to-state shipping to get his product sold outside Illinois!
Future Founders is ecstatic to see young students like Diego pursue their passion and realize their potential as entrepreneurs. While Diego continues to work on his business, he also plans on keeping his grades up and attending college for a business related degree. We’re so excited to see all the great ideas that Diego comes up with throughout his career as a Future Founders alum.
To learn more about the Be Your Own Boss program, check out the program’s page here and join the waitlist to be the first to know when future internships open up!
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