“After the BYOB program, I was able to talk about myself and tell my story,” – Kennedi Hood (Be Your Own Boss Summer 2020 Intern)
Kennedi Hood is finishing up her freshman year at Northern Illinois University, working towards a degree in sociology. Originally from the Maywood neighborhood in Chicago, Kennedi participated in the Future Founders Be Your Own Boss (BYOB) program during the summer of 2020, a paid virtual internship that teaches students how to create and pitch their own business idea while connecting them with established entrepreneurs from Chicago and beyond.
After her time in the program, Kennedi found that with her new skills, she felt more confident than ever pitching herself and her ideas. “She’s been really engaged with helping us recruit other students and keeping in touch with us as well,” said Future Founders Program Manager, Jane Castro. Inspired by a cousin that owns a vegan lip gloss and lipstick company, Kennedi decided to apply to BYOB to dip her feet into entrepreneurship. Now in college, her newfound growth mindset and innovation skills have led her to running toy drives, securing (and nailing) job interviews, and collaborating with friends she met during the program.
Looking back at her experience, Kennedi recalls having fun as being the main driver for her participation in the program.
Kennedi’s introduction to the BYOB program came from her then high school counselor recommending her for the internship. The BYOB program brings together students from schools across the Chicagoland area and puts them in teams, pushing students to collaborate with teens they’ve never met before. With the COVID-19 pandemic, teams had to meet virtually to ensure proper social distancing. For Kennedi, she felt the virtual setting actually helped her be more open with the students, providing a unique platform for collaboration.
The two week internship culminated with a pitch competition, where the teams of interns presented their business ideas to founders, investors, and partners in the Future Founders network. The problem that Kennedi’s team recognized was that, for some students, summer schooling is an essential part of keeping their education on track, but can be inaccessible and costly. This problem was worsened by the pandemic, limiting the ability to hold school in a physical classroom setting. This is why her team sought to find a solution.
Kennedi and her team created a mobile summer school platform that is sponsored and funded by large businesses through a nonprofit status. “We wanted to create a learning experience to help kids not lose their access to education over the summer,” said the young innovator.
For Kennedi, the most fun part of the experience was sharing ideas and collaborating with her teammates. “Once we got to prototyping, we took the competition more seriously, but still had a lot of fun doing it,” she said. The biggest takeaway for the young entrepreneur was learning how to pitch. Her and her teammates were all new to pitching, so the competition pushed them outside their comfort zone. Learning how to pitch a company they created in just 2 weeks built her confidence to pitch anything in any situation.
Since finishing the BYOB program, Kennedi’s been using this confidence to pitch herself and her ideas for a variety of projects and causes.
Before the program ended, Kennedi and her teammates followed each other on social media to stay in touch. “If I post something on Snapchat saying I’m working on a new project, my teammates will respond and congratulate me,” said Kennedi. She often recalls memories from the BYOB competition when she sees her teammates working on projects as well.
One friendship that Kennedi built during the program was with Kendra Collay, a student from her same high school in the grade below her. We wrote about Kendra’s company, Pretty and Plus, and how she too used lessons from the BYOB program to further her business. Kennedi has since become a huge supporter of Kendra and her mission to empower young women.
“She’s become a role model for me because she’s working with such little resources.”
– Kennedi Hood talking about Pretty and Plus founder, Kendra Collay.
Kennedi has also taken on projects of her own since the program. In reaction to the pandemic, her and her sister ran a socially distanced toy drive to bring gifts to kids in her neighborhood. “We made sure to deliver toys socially distanced and to properly disinfect them before,” claimed Kennedi. Between her toy drive and the business she worked on in the BYOB program, it’s clear that Kennedi has a knack for problem solving specifically related to current issues like the pandemic.
This same motivation and energy is why Kennedi was brought back to the Future Founders network as a Startup Sprint coach. There, she led a team through an 2 hour accelerated version of the 2 week BYOB internship. Elevated to a status of authority and working in partnership with a mentor, Kennedi felt challenged but confident in her ability to lead the students through the accelerated program.
And as new problems arise, Kennedi claims that “there’s always something you can do in the field to bring about a different perspective.” Future Founders is excited to see Kennedi continue to be a problem solver, leader, and collaborator as a student at Northern Illinois University!
Learn more about the BYOB program here!
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