The Honorable Mayor Richard M. Daley kicks off the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center’s Future Founders program student business plan competition at ESPN Zone.
Students from four South Side high schools competed in a thrilling business plan competition on May 6 as a capstone to their experiential study of entrepreneurship, and showcased their inventive plans to launch new products and services as promising, young entrepreneurs. The ‘American Idol’ style competition, hosted by the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center (CEC) at ESPN Zone, culminated with students being recognized for their promising business plans by a panel of local entrepreneurs and business leaders.
Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy senior Ariell Buckingham received first place in the business plan competition for founding Smile Entertainment, a company that coordinates children’s birthday parties.
During the past eight months, 110 students from ACE Technical Charter High School, Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy, Global Visions Academy and Chicago Vocational Career Academy received insight on creating and running scalable businesses. Dozens of Chicagoland entrepreneurs and business leaders mentored students individually as they developed their business plans through the CEC’s Future Founders program. This year, the CEC also recognized its top volunteers during the business plan competition’s awards ceremony.
“I believe in the young talent in this city,” said Mayor Richard M. Daley, an attendee and opening speaker at the May 6 event. “I encourage the students today to take advantage of this great experience that has been provided to you through Future Founders. Programs like this are important because they inspire and encourage entrepreneurship in the city of Chicago.”
“It’s energizing to see young, aspiring entrepreneurs undeterred by the current economic climate. The business plans this year were as innovative as ever,” said CEC President David Weinstein. “By connecting these bright students with successful entrepreneurial mentors, we are ensuring that students develop the necessary business skills to make their inventive businesses competitive.”
This year’s competition showcased plans for recently opened or soon-to-open businesses. After presenting to their peers, teachers, mentors, and an esteemed panel of judges, the 2009 Future Founders honorees are:
Additional students presented business plans for products and services including an automatic bar code scanner for a shopping cart, a hip-hop dance/work out video, urban maternity wear, and a reusable plastic plate with a built-in cup.
“Future Founders has changed the way that I look at the world,” said Ariell Buckingham, founder of Smile Entertainment and 2009 first place winner. “Entrepreneurship forces you to understand your customer and then see how your company can be successful and socially responsible.”
The CEC also recognized outstanding business leaders and entrepreneurial volunteers at the event.
Future Founders Business Leader of the Year Award
Future Founders Champion Award Winners
Future Founders Rookie of the Year Award Winners
Sponsored by the Motorola Foundation, AT&T, Harris N.A. and Smart Bet Charity, the CEC’s Future Founders program consists of mentoring and specialized activities, which complement curriculum developed by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). Future Founders provides students with the opportunity to learn the public speaking, presentation, technology, and financial literacy skills needed to create and grow a business. A new component to this year’s competition is the green business practices the company will carry out to encourage sustainability.
In total, nearly $25,000 in prizes was awarded to students, including over $10,000 in scholarships to the Future Founders Academy, an experiential entrepreneurship camp that will take place in June.
“Future Founders fosters the next generation of entrepreneurs by encouraging students to look at innovation and technology in new and exciting ways,” said Eileen Sweeney, Director of the Motorola Foundation. “We are proud of our long standing partnership with the CEC and its Future Founders program.”
The CEC, Motorola Foundation and the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship launched the Future Founders program in 2005 to expose students to careers in entrepreneurship and foster entrepreneurial skills. In its first four years, nearly 350 motivated high school students in six underserved neighborhoods have had the opportunity to learn about and experience entrepreneurship from some of the city’s most successful entrepreneurs.
For more information about the Future Founders program or to become a mentor, visit the Future Founders website, or contact Scott Issen via email or at 312-494-6734.
Ready to get involved?
Join our newsletter for updates