Valhalla, N.Y. – Westchester’s budding entrepreneurs are showing off their best business plans in hopes of scoring a big-time boost to get the ideas up and running.
From gourmet chocolate art to an online publication, 25 high-schoolers outlined their start-up businesses Thursday in front of a panel of judges at Westchester Community College.
Up for grabs was a pool of $2,750 in start-up money for the top three plans, and a chance to compete in New York City’s national competition later this year, in which the winner will take home $10,000.
“It was amazing,” said Woodlands Senior Jaquan Furse, whose gourmet chocolate sculpture business earned him second place and $750. “We got to see how a business works and what it takes to get a business off the ground.”
The afternoon event, Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship's 2012 Westchester County-wide BizPlan Competition, was part of a year-long program led by the Connecticut-based NFTE. Students from eight lower-income school districts in Westchester and Fairfield counties, including Yorktown, Port Chester and Greenburgh, were guided through a "mini-MBA" program, said NFTE Executive Director Joel Warren.
The program, which requires students to put in 70 to 100 hours of class time, is meant to target students who otherwise may have dropped out of school by allowing them to develop a business plan out of things that interest them, Warren said.
“If kids are interested in something, they will stick with it,” he said.
More than 1,000 teens throughout the area have been outlining their business models since September. Each school held its own competition earlier this month, with the winners representing the district at the countywide competition Thursday.
Woodlands High School juniors Michelle Espinoza and her business partner, Jennifer Cangana, said they learned a lot about the ins and outs of life as an entrepreneur.
“It showed me a whole new side that I never knew business had,” Espinoza said.
Despite walking away without any prize money, Port Chester senior Lisseta Torres said she didn’t come away from the competition empty-handed.
“I feel more comfortable talking in front of people now,” the admittedly shy Torres said. “And I learned I can make a business out of something I like.”