Budding entrepreneur heads to NYC for final test
Recently at the College of Charleston School of Business the top young entrepreneurs in South Carolina were competing in the finals of YEScarolina’s Business Plan Competition. YEScarolina, Youth Entrepreneurship South Carolina, is a program partner of the national organization Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). The event featured 15 budding entrepreneurs seeking to advance to the NFTE Finals to be held Oct. 3 in New York City. With a first place prize of $3,000 in seed capital and a spot in NFTE’s National Challenge on the line, the stakes couldn’t have been higher. The competition was much tougher than the previous year.
The coveted first place prize went to Evan Knox of Charleston Collegiate for his business Bullseye Web Designs. He was awarded $3,000 and will advance to the finals in NYC for a chance to compete against 40 other national winners for a chance to win $35,000. Second place and $2,000 prize went to Luke Varadi of Wando High School for his business Reel Fly Charters. Aquila Brown of Charleston Math and Science took home third place of $1,000 for her business Trusol Unique Designs. All the students who competed were awarded $250 as an appearance fee and the students from outside the tri-county area received $100 gas money and a hotel room for the evening. Joseph Long of Crescent High School in Anderson did so well and tied for first in the preliminary round that Jimmy Bailey, executive director of YEScarolina, awarded him $500 for his business plan.
In April, students presented their full business plan to peers, teachers and a panel of judges from throughout the business community for a chance to win capital to support their business ideas. The first round of competitions took place in the classroom and the top three students from the Motley Rice Class Competition won seed money in the amounts of $250, $150 & $100, respectively.
In May, those students moved on to compete in the Motley Rice County Business Plan competition in order to succeed to the state competition. At the state competition June 19, students were divided into three rooms, each room consisting of four or five students. Students had only 8.5 minutes to pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges who were distinguished business owners from the Charleston area such as Jack Hurley of Mex1 & Jack’s Cosmic Dog’s, Daniel James of Las Olas, Adam Witty of Advantage Media Group, Carolyn James of Motley Rice Law, and Sam Whetsel of MyPhoneMD to name a few.
“Judging the competition was a blast. Watching the kids present and put in so much effort, it was obvious that this experience will be a confidence builder and motivator for them to be entrepreneurial as they move forward with their lives. They certainly could not have gotten that by reading a book or sitting in class. Thanks to everyone at YEScarolina for their hard work in putting this program together,” said judge Jason Smith attorney at Hellman Yates & Tisdale of the experience.
Five different cities and 12 different schools were represented in the competition. The event was made possible by the generous donations of the Mark Motley Foundation.
Hacker Burr, headmaster of Charleston Collegiate, and YEScarolina founder Jimmy Bailey, both speak loudly of the value of the entrepreneurship classes, pointing to the fact that students must be a master of all subjects to develop and present a solid business plan. The process requires keen data analysis and strategic decision making skills, research skills, writing skills, tech skills, presentation skills and math skills. Finally and perhaps most importantly, the business plan competition successfully teaches personal skills. Now Evan and YEScarolina head to New York in October for a chance to establish a great reputation for his school and the program and an opportunity of a life time. The possibilities are endless with entrepreneurship.
“We are thrilled with the drive and creativity these young entrepreneurs demonstrate. For some, entrepreneurship could be the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. Entrepreneurship provides an avenue for financial independence, a benefit to all. These young entrepreneurs are certainly shaping up to be the dynamic business leaders of the future,” said YEScarolina founder and executive director Jimmy Bailey.
About the finalists
Evan Knox is a rising junior at Charleston Collegiate School on Johns Island. His business, Bullseye Web Design, aims to provide an affordable yet professional web design and maintenance service to small businesses without the time or expertise to create and maintain website themselves.
Luke Varadi is a rising senior at Wando High School in Mount Pleasant. His business, Reel Fly Charters, aims to ensure a fun, safe and educational experience on the Charleston waters. He targets tourists as well as locals who are looking to catch more fish and learn about the historic Charleston area.
Aquila Brown is a rising junior at Charleston Math and Science downtown Charleston. Her business, Trusol Unique Designs, aims to provide a service of hand drawn, customized art portraits and targets the tourists who visit Charleston.