Tri-County Students “LEAP” Into Business Start Up Competition
Monday, April 17, 2017

 Stephonz and Delvonz Flamand (left to right) - a twin brother business team from Everett High School – used their baking and business skills to showcase and “pitch” their home based bakery business. “DADA’s Bakery.” Their cupcakes were very delicious and were gobbled up by judges and other participants quickly!

Photo by Howard Spence 
By Howard Spence
LANSING, MI -- Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) sponsored the Lansing Youth Startup Challenge competition on March 29, 2017. 
This event is open to any middle school or high school aged student, living or attending school in the Tri-County region of Lansing (Clinton, Eaton and Ingham Counties). The event consists of an Executive Summary Business Plan portion (50%), a Product Display/Demo portion (50%). Cash Prizes will be awarded for Best Executive Summary Business Plan, Best Product Display/Pitch, as well as overall Champion.
Bob Tresize, CEO of LEAP, stated, “We hope that some of these kids competing in this Youth Start Up Competition here today will become the owners of businesses or develop products which will become a part of our local Lansing area economy in the future – employing many of their friends and colleagues in good, clean and stable well paying jobs.”
Not everyone wants to have a job working in an office or factory setting. A very large and important part of our economy will continue to grow in the areas of retail, marketing, innovation, inventing, developing and selling ideas and products, which may not even exist now.
With changes to the core curriculum requirements of public schools and elective classes available, there are now fewer opportunities for young people to be exposed to the rewards of stopping to think about what products are going to be popular or necessary in the future, and how they can be involved in the design, invention, production, or marketing of those products and services. 
The Michigan Chamber’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy provides resources and opportunities for high school level kids to be exposed to this challenging but profitable career track.   They have established special classes and workshops focused on interesting and training young students to consider business ownership as a career option.  
Intermediate School Districts – such as the Eaton RESA - also develop programs to encourage school districts to try to offer courses and incentives for our young people to explore business ownership opportunities. Eaton RESA has partnered with LEAP to help sponsor and conduct this area wide Youth Startup Competition. 
There were two hundred and sixty-nine middle and high school students present.  With smiling faces, they excitedly marketed and explained their business ideas and products to a panel of local volunteer judges that decided the competition winners. This competition is always intense and friendly. Many contestants team up with others on their projects. 
Several sponsors from the business community and educational community here in the greater Lansing area have donated towards the $10,000 in prize money.
“This competition continues to grow each year,” stated Tony Willis, who worked on this Project for LEAP this year and helped hand out the cash prizes to the “winners” on March 29. “Several community business leaders have been very supportive of our efforts and generous with their donations to fund the $10,000 in prize money we are giving out this year. We are hopeful that as this event and competition continues to grow, next year we may have $20,000 to award as competition prize money and many more students from more schools in the area participating. When this Youth Startup Competition began four years ago, we only had 59 students participate. There are over four times that number of students participating now this year.”
Twenty-seven schools and/or school districts were represented among the students who are present today competing for big, real cash dollars. During the four years that this competition has been in process, more and more students from local and urban schools have become involved too. 
A significant number of students from the Lansing School District – and particularly Everett High School – competed for a share of the $10,000 cash prizes. Also present were schools from Dewitt, Bellevue and Charlotte. Bellevue was recognized as school district of the year for encouraging its students to participate each year in large numbers. 
The lives of many of our local area high school and middle school students have been greatly enriched and their options expanded because of dedicated teachers who take it upon themselves to make sure they introduce information about business procedures and possibilities into their classroom projects and discussions, or to students in clubs at the local schools to whom they dedicate and contribute many hours of their time.
“Increasing exposure to this career option for innovation, developing ideas for businesses and products, and learning the skills necessary to market them is essential for the growth and maturity of all of our students and communities – and particularly in our minority communities and communities serving disadvantaged people,” said Lothar Konietzko, the social studies chairperson at Lansing School District’s Everett High School. “I just learned about this competition in the last year, and I made sure to encourage many of the students in my classes to develop business plans and product pitches and to enter into this competition. Some of my students won some big cash prizes today at this competition. They are really excited, and glad that they decided to come down to the Lansing Center and compete.”
Cash prizes in several categories ranged in size from $100 to over $1000. Students were free to use their prize winnings as they wished.
This competition has caught the attention of more and more students throughout the Clinton, Eaton, and Ingham county school systems. Large numbers of the students at this year’s Youth startup competition have participated in prior year competitions, and have come back to try again to win the cash prizes that are offered. Some students have been winners in two or more years. Ideas being shared and pitched to the judges came from the very young in middle schools, and also from the very mature high school students who were ready to graduate and possibly go on to college or other education and training schools.
The projects and businesses proposed by the students were from a very wide variety of product and services area. The products are from almost all the entrepreneurial areas, including manufacturing, services, and agribusiness and farm product areas.
The winner of one of the “Overall Best projects and pitches” in this year’s competition was by Dana Dishman for her concept and presentation on her business which she named “Mobile Dresses.” Dana won prizes in three categories and she walked away with almost $1500 in prize money to spend in any way she wanted.
“I tried really hard last year with my Mobile Dress business concept,” said Dana. “I didn’t win a thing last year! But I looked at how the other contestants - and winners especially - were presenting their ideas and businesses, and I learned from those other contestants. I worked on better developing my pitch and presentation at my booth, and I refined my ideas, and this year I am a big winner. Some of the winners in the past have used their prize money to further develop their business and have earned profits, which have actually helped them pay for their college expenses after graduation from high school - even after they enrolled in college! I am not sure how I will spend my prize money winnings yet!”
If your children or school district isn’t participating in the competition, ask someone “Why?” It’s never too early to start thinking about next year’s Lansing Youth Startup Challenge. 
To find out more about LEAP or any of their other initiatives and programs, please contact them at 517-702-3387.
Printed in the April 16 - April 29, 2017 edition

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