Student finalists from Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep and ACE (Architecture, Construction & Engineering) Technical Charter High School competed Friday, May 4 in an interactive business plan competition as part of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center’s (CEC) Future Founders program. Semi-finalists, out of an original seventy-five students from the program, presented their business plans in an American Idol-type format, including a panel of judges and audience voting, at ESPN Zone.
Slavko Bekovic and Jose Leon, seniors at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep, were crowned as the winners of this year’s youth entrepreneurship program competition for their business, The Online Scout. Having recently gone through the process of working with college scouts for baseball scholarships, they realized there is a need in the market for a website that allows student athletes to send their information to scouts and other organizations for added publicity and greater opportunities to play sports in college and professionally. With this concept, The Online Scout was born.
“The Future Founders program and all of the mentors helped provide ideas we never even thought of to add to our business plan,” commented Bekovic. Leon adds, “We never thought we would be able to turn something we like, such as sports, into a business that is actually profitable, but we already have eight customers!”
Joshua Taylor and Alexis Isaacs, founders of One Fragrance and seniors at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep, were the first runner-ups for their company that creates one-of-a-kind fragrances to fit people’s personalities. Ryan Braswell and Darrell Jackson, founders of D & R Gaming Tournaments and sophomores at ACE Tech, were the second runner-ups for their video game tournament company that organizes tournaments for young adults who like to compete, play in a safe environment and have a chance to win cash prizes. All six of the winners took home Toshiba Laptop computers as prizes.
“We want to inspire students with creative ideas to funnel them in a positive outlet in the business world and also introduce the students to new things, such as their first taste of sushi, that may not traditionally be exposed to them,” said David Weinstein, president of the CEC. “The mentors we have involved in this program are extremely dedicated and in the case of Karan Goel [a 23 year-old from University of Chicago and founder of PrepMe that recently made BusinessWeek’s list of Top 25 entrepreneurs under 25] may only be a few years older than the students!”
Sponsored by the Motorola Foundation and partnered with the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), the second annual Future Founders program teams up 50 young, passionate and successful entrepreneurs and Motorola staff members with primarily African American and Hispanic students in a mentoring, educational program. The mentors come from diverse backgrounds and similar demographics as the students, making it easy to relate to the students’ experiences.
“Motorola supports programs that are innovative in design and function, such as Future Founders,’ said Eileen Sweeney, director of The Motorola Foundation. “Future Founders not only drives the concepts of discovery and innovation that are at the heart of Motorola’s culture, but is also an opportunity for our employees to contribute to the Chicago community through a truly rewarding mentorship experience.”
Through the CEC and their partnership with Motorola, ten students involved in the program will be offered paid internship opportunities at some of Chicago’s top entrepreneurial firms to provide them with the opportunity to apply their skills acquired through the program to the real world.
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