CEC’s Future Founders Program Engages Underserved Students in ‘American Idol’-like Contest at ESPN Zone
Students from three South Side high schools competed on May 6 in a thrilling business plan competition 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.
During the past eight months, 75 students from ACE Technical Charter High School, Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep, 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.
“By connecting young, aspiring entrepreneurs with successful entrepreneurial mentors, we are ensuring students develop the skill sets necessary to create competitive businesses,” said CEC President David Weinstein. “These students are the future entrepreneurs and business leaders of our region.”
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 2008 Future Founders honorees are:
“One of the most significant things I’ve learned in Future Founders was about developing a marketing strategy and I never knew how important it is to target a specific market to sell your product or service,” said Rodney Walker, founder of Forever Life Music & Video Production and the 2008 first place winner. “I’ve learned what it takes to become an entrepreneur and think it’s more possible than I ever imagined.”
Sponsored by the Motorola Foundation, 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 National Foundation 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.
In addition to the business plan competition, students also competed for the Salesperson of the Year award, which recognizes students who can develop and deliver the best “elevator pitch” about a particular product. In total, nearly $20,000 in prizes was awarded to students, including $10,000 in scholarships to the Future Founders Academy, an experiential entrepreneurship camp that will take place in June.
“Success in the global marketplace demands innovation,” said Eileen Sweeney, Director of the Motorola Foundation. “We’re proud to sponsor the Future Founders program because it inspires young adults to be entrepreneurial and to find creative ways to incorporate technology into their new businesses.”
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