As I sat in the judge’s panel, I could feel the electric excitement in the air. 11 youths, representing nine different businesses, were pitching their innovative ideas in the Teen Biz Challenge, held by the Office of the Mayor, Catherine E. Pugh, in Baltimore. The competition was inspired by the popular “Shark Tank” television series and the teens were competing for up to $6,500 in startup funds for their “big ideas”.
The teens came prepared, armed with creativity, talent and cool ideas for businesses, from the OmegaBrush, an innovative dental hygiene product presented by Mahmoud Shelby (18 years old), to Miracle Box, a subscription service for healthy food delivery presented by Sa’Niya Sherman (16 years old). Kamri Moses (14 years old) presented a mouthwatering array of smoothies and assorted beverages for his KR Smoothies business.
The pitch that received the highest level of funding came from a recent high school graduate and current freshman student at Stevenson University, Ciera Smith (18 years old). Ciera’s business, Naturally Me is a monthly subscription service for feminine hygiene products. Ciera Smith received $6,500 in the accelerator program and each business that pitched received at least $1,000 in funding.
All the teens that pitched were graduates of the 2018 Y.E.S. (Youth Entrepreneurship Startup) Summer Program. WhirlWind was a Gold Sponsor this year, and as I sat there in the judge’s panel, I thought the impressive presentations were a testament to the important work facilitated by the D.R.E.A.M. (Developing Resources to Empower All Minds) Foundation.
At WhirlWind, we fleshed out what empowerment means to us and came to the core of helping people to understand and fulfill their potential. Showing up for the teens and serving as judge and mentor gave me a front seat view into the next generation’s incredible potential. It is also important for us to engage local talent and businesses, for they translate into a stronger economy and contribute to thriving communities. And for this, I am excited to do the work I do.
What comes to mind when you think of “helping people to understand and fulfill their potential?” What inspires you when it comes to empowering yourself and others?