Category Archives: i.Invest Nat’l Youth Entrepreneur Business Competition

Durham, NC Teen Entrepreneurs Turning Pulp into Profits with Online Sustainability Platform

Trofi Team Pic

Navami Jain, 17, Megan Wu, 17, Michelle Bao, 17 and Vincent Xia, 18 of Durham, North Carolina are one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest National Youth Business Competition. Their company, Trofi, is a sustainability-driven venture that aims to reduce food waste while simultaneously offering new nutritional value to livestock farmers and their animals.

Tell us about your business.

Trofi’s online platform will enable suppliers of food by-products, such as fruit and vegetable pulp and spent grain, to connect and sell their “waste” products to livestock farmers who can then incorporate these nutrient-rich products into livestock feed as dietary supplements. After the products are reserved online, suppliers and farmers can negotiate all the details of the transaction, thus making the process convenient for farmers while offering a sustainable waste disposal method for suppliers. For just a small subscription cost each month, suppliers and buyers gain access to effortless connections, increased opportunity for transactions, and a chance to boost their green corporate image.

What inspired the creation of Trofi?

As students from a residential high school, we often go to local smoothie shops and juicers. As we watched the workers create our delicious drinks, we also noticed how much pulp comes from each drink. In fact, a standard 16 ounce of cold-pressed juice yields 4.5 pounds of pulp waste which, as we later found, contributed to the astonishing 175,000 pounds of pulp waste that ends up in landfills each year. After stumbling across an article that told of the incredible story of tons of orange pulp and peels turning nutrient-deprived land into loamy soil after years of decomposition, we wanted to see what fruit pulp could be turned into. Recognizing this problem, we seek solutions to reduce or repurpose this form of food waste besides just composting, which still has some environmental repercussions. Living in small towns in NC, we frequently visit Farmers’ Markets for fresh produce and local meats, eggs, or other dairy products. Supporting these farmers is important to us; therefore, we want to connect these two parties together. Waste from one source could be a hidden gem for the other.

How will Trofi impact the world?

Trofi offers benefits for both suppliers and buyers of the food byproduct items, as well as overall environmental benefit for the local communities. The suppliers – local juice stores, breweries, and other businesses – are able to reduce costs spent on waste disposal while recycling the nutrients that would otherwise be the “waste products” of their business. The buyers – local farmers – are able to enrich their animals’ diet with natural nutrients by paying a small price. Thus, both suppliers and buyers are connected to simultaneously promote sustainability at the highest level. Furthermore, because both suppliers and buyers are local businesses, we are supporting and promoting an economic exchange.

What are the next steps for Trofi?

Trofi currently does not have investors and is in the process of becoming an LLC to begin seeking investors. We would like to work towards incorporating an educational tool for farmers and suppliers on the online platform. While feeding animals food scraps isn’t a new concept, the research and educational tools can bring more awareness to this practice and better cater to the different needs of various types of livestock. We are seeking $8,000 to extend the functionality of our web-based platform, begin development of a mobile platform, and for marketing.

To stay abreast of Trofi’s progress in the i.Invest Competition, sign up for our newsletter at www.i-investcompetition.com. To provide support as a mentor or investor, email info@i-investcompetition.com.

18-Year-Old Entrepreneur Connects Underserved Students to Experiential Learning Opportunities

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Miracle Olatunji, Founder, OpportuniMe

Miracle Olatunji, 18, of New Castle, DE is one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest National Youth Business Competition. Olatunji is the founder of OpportuniMe, a technology startup with the mission to help high schools and their students by democratizing access and exposure to quality experiential learning, enrichment, and employment opportunities for passion, career, and self-discovery.

We spoke with Olatunji to learn more about her business venture:

Tell us about your start-up company.

As a high-school student, I experienced first-hand how difficult it is to search and apply for meaningful opportunities for high-school-age students. Therefore, I developed OpportuniMe, which is an early-stage startup with the mission to help high schools and their students easily find and apply to various experiential learning, enrichment, and employment opportunities. Currently, the OpportuniMe newsletter has hundreds of subscribers from the Delaware area, and I recently graduated from the very first cohort of DualSchool, an incubator for high-school student entrepreneurs and change-makers. OpportuniMe has been featured in Forbes, Mogul, Technical.ly, GoodWall, The Female Lead, Out & About Magazine, and several other publications and media outlets. OpportuniMe also won first place in the 2018 World Series of Entrepreneurship. The next step is to create and launch a fully-functional website platform that will allow users to find and apply to opportunities.

What inspired you to start OpportuniMe?

The decision to start OpportuniMe was inspired by a personal experience and a problem I identified among other young people around the country. The challenge is that the current process of finding these meaningful opportunities for high schools and their students is very disorganized, stressful, and time-consuming. Therefore, I decided to start OpportuniMe as a solution to this problem.

What makes OpportuniMe unique?

We will be leveraging artificial intelligence technology and machine learning to make the platform highly efficient and save users time. Our goal is to simplify exposure and access to diverse opportunities for the 25,000+ high schools and millions of students in the US, all on one secure platform. The student data that we collect will also be used to help students by matching them to those experiences and resources that will enable them to confidently pursue their collegiate, entrepreneurial, and career goals and to develop the skills necessary to be leaders in the 21st century.

How will OpportuniMe impact the world?

Opportunities are the keys that unlock the doors for students to experience passion, career, and self-discovery. Some of the most successful and fulfilled professional adults today cite that early opportunities they had to explore and identify possible career paths and passions were keys to their success later in life. Outside and inside of school, experiential learning, enrichment, and employment opportunities allow students to develop a real-world perspective outside the classroom, to explore career and personal hobby interests, to foster personal development skills, and to begin to build their network. That is why a core belief at OpportuniMe is that it is important for high-school students to have the opportunity to explore possible careers and start finding or cultivating their passion before they head off to college. These opportunities can even encourage students who weren’t considering higher education to pursue it.

What are the next steps for OpportuniMe?

The next step is to complete web platform development. We are also building a team of people with tech, design, business development, and other talents as well as a diverse advisory board of experienced professionals. We are also working towards fundraising for the company. The funds will be used towards product development, marketing, and sales and business operations. We plan to spread the word and market through partnerships with various companies, organizations, and universities, student and public figure ambassador programs, social media, and digital marketing.

To learn more about OpportuniMe, visit their website, www.opportunime.co , Twitter @Opportuni_Me, or Facebook page, www.facebook.com/OpportuniME/.

19-Year-Old Co-founders Redefine Online Dating with Skippit, a Voice/Video Dating Platform

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Winnie McCabe & Marc Baghadjian, Co-founders of Skippit

Brown University student, Winnie McCabe and Babson College student, Marc Baghadjian, both 19, are one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest National Youth Business Competition. Their startup, Skippit, is a dating platform that uses video and voice, and a slew of other features, to build intimate connections.

McCabe spoke with us about the business venture:

Tell us about your business.

Skippit is an iOS voice/video calling speed-dating platform for users ages 19-28 looking for an interactive experience that addresses the many shortfalls plaguing the incumbents in the online dating sector. Once two users match on Skippit, they have the option to spontaneously call or schedule a five-minute voice or video call with each other. If the call is successful, Skippit will suggest fun activities for their date based on their shared interests, then offer them insider deals on these activities for the date.

What inspired the creation of Skippit?

Marc and I both have had unsuccessful experiences using dating apps and are looking to solve a problem we have had firsthand. We were tired of the apps in the market and found that applications were built around prolonging the match process. We decided to reinvent the business model and build a dating application that condensed the match process. At first glance, one might not understand why the incumbents prolong the matching process but after evaluating their business models – which are contingent on users buying more swipes and using their dating applications for a long period of time – Marc and I decided to monetize in-person date interactions differently. We knew we had something special when we received positive feedback from polling users and individuals on our hypotheses.

How will Skippit impact the world?

Skippit facilitates introductions with individuals who would have never previously met. It assists in the match and meeting process, funneling people to do community gathering experiences through our integrated service providers. Skippit will enrich the communities on and between college campuses by offering individuals a way to streamline the first date process.

What are the next steps for Skippit?

Currently, we are looking to raise $150,000. We will use the funds to cover marketing costs, host the API’s to build the platform, contract developers and cover legal fees. Skippit’s target market is concentrated urban areas with large universities and business. We plan to start on the East Coast in the Boston area and reach an audience around the following schools: Harvard, MIT, Babson College, Wellesley College, Northeastern, Boston University, and Boston College.

To learn more about Skippit visit, www.skippitapp.com or follow them on social media: Twitter: www.twitter.com/skippit_app; Instagram: www.instagram.com/skippitapp/or Facebook: www.facebook.com/skippitapp. To mentor or provide support, email info@i-investcompetition.com.

Ohio-based Youth Entrepreneurs Fight Hunger in their Hometown – One Pumpkin At A Time

Pumpkins Helping People
Gabriella & Alexandrea Howard, Founders of Pumpkins Helping People

Fifteen-year-old Gabriella Howard, her sister Alexandrea, 13, and younger brother, Sam of Canal Winchester, OH are one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest National Youth Business Competition. Their charitable organization, Pumpkins Helping People (PHP), is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization working to fight hunger through the sale and distribution of pumpkins.

Here’s what we learned about PHP’s business model:

Tell us about your non-profit.

Pumpkins Helping People offers a retail-based fundraising initiative – selling pumpkins. PHP partners with community food pantries to organize and promote an annual fall pumpkin drive in the pantry’s local community. By buying a pumpkin through PHP’s website, customers are supporting the local food pantry and farmers, from which the pumpkins are sourced from. PHP works hand-in-hand with the pantry to promote the pumpkin drive throughout the community. This promotion directs customers to our website through the use of social media and email marketing. We hope to use the local school system, sports associations, youth organizations, and churches to spread the word.

What inspired the creation of Pumpkins Helping People?

Our inspiration for creating PHP is to help fight hunger. We believe our non-profit is an innovative funding mechanism for food pantries and it has the potential to become highly successful due to our commitment to the customer, the food pantry, and the community.

How will Pumpkins Helping People impact the world?

Over 48 million Americans suffer from hunger, with over 32,000 American food pantries relying heavily on donations to help fight this hunger. The way our program is structured, all profits generated will go directly to help fund local food pantries’ operations and to help fight hunger. In 2017, our proof of concept enabled us to donate $669 to the Canal Winchester Food Pantry to help feed the local community.

What are the next steps for Pumpkins Helping People?

PHP is a scalable concept. Within three to five years, we anticipate extending PHP to other communities similar in size to Canal Winchesters’ (12,993 households) in Central Ohio and then throughout the state. We want PHP to become a national platform for consumers to purchase pumpkins to help fight hunger at the local level.

We recently designed and released a logo and are developing our online store. Once completed, we will begin promoting our website to the Canal Winchester community. In Fall 2018, we plan to strengthen our already established relationship with the Canal Winchester Food Pantry. Within the next two years, we will expand to three nearby similar-sized communities.

To stay abreast of Pumpkins Helping People’s progress in the i.Invest Competition, sign up for our newsletter at www.i-investcompetition.com. To mentor or provide support, email info@i-investcompetition.com.

Teen Entrepreneurs Develop Wearable Medical Device to Help People with Heart Conditions

Pulse Team
Meet the Pulse Wearables team: From left to right – Anna Pertl, 17, Richa Krishna, 17 and William Barkoff, 16.

Richa Krishna, 17, of Los Altos, CA along with her team members, William Barkoff, 16 of New York, NY and Anna Pertl, 17, of Munich, Germany are one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest National Youth Business Competition. The team, who met at the 2017 MIT Launch Entrepreneurship Program, are the co-founders of Pulse Wearables, a startup company working to develop a potential life-saving wearable patch that will give people limited by heart conditions peace of mind.

We spoke with Krishna to learn more about the business venture:

Tell us about your business/product.

The Pulse Wearables device is a non-invasive patch that is easy to use, inconspicuous and does not require any companion devices, such as smartphones to operate. For patients who have been diagnosed with a heart condition, our wearable technology will positively change the way they monitor their heart health. Pulse Wearables allows people who experience dangerous arrhythmias – 16 million people in the US alone – to live their lives to the fullest. The user inputs the heart rate levels recommended by their cardiologist through a mobile app. When their heart exceeds the maximum safe heart rate, the patch vibrates gently to notify them to adjust their activity levels to better suit their heart.

What inspired you to start Pulse Wearables?

Pulse Wearables was inspired by my personal need for a reliable and an inconspicuous device, which I could wear to keep my heart rate in check. I was a high-performing ballet dancer when I was diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), a heart condition in which the heart muscle becomes abnormally thick, causing the heart to have a dangerously high frequency of irregular heart rhythms, called arrhythmias, at high activity levels. Having HCM meant every time I was dancing and training, my heart rate could reach levels that caused dangerously irregular rhythms. Too many arrhythmias meant a high risk to my life, which led me to give up spots in prestigious performances, competitions, and training events. There were no devices available that allowed me to take more control of my activity, and that’s what inspired the need to create one. Additionally, my co-founder, William, has Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT), a heart condition also related to dangerously high heart rates that can lead to arrhythmias and therefore, understands this need as well.

How will Pulse Wearables impact the world?

1 in 500 people is diagnosed with Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy, the heart condition that is the leading cause of sudden death today. People who have been diagnosed with this condition often have to put an end to active lifestyles because of the high risk of heart failure. Pulse Wearables is addressing this problem by putting the control in the hands of the user and in doing so, giving them peace of mind.

Our product will allow users who are more-active to increase their activity at a reasonable level to suit their personal ability, instead of abstaining out of fear and uncertainty. For users who are less-active, our product will allow them to be conscious of their restrictions when performing daily tasks that require physical exertion.

What are the next steps?

We currently have a grant from the MIT Launch entrepreneurship program (now called LaunchX) and a monetary award from the Diamond Challenge. We are additionally seeking $60,000 to roll out the initial 200 units for beta testing and initial sales. We plan to use various captive marketing channels such as Cardiomyopathy, sports, dance, and heart-specific health blogs to put our product in front of potential users. We plan to target HCM patients in the year 2019 and will expand to people with other forms of arrhythmias in 2020.

We are very excited and motivated to see the impact we can make with Pulse!

To learn more about Pulse Wearables visit their website, www.pulsewearables.com or follow them on Instagram @pulsewearables. To mentor or provide support, email info@i-investcompetition.com.

Meet i.Invest Mentor, Steve Rice, Entrepreneurship Instructor, Arkansas School of Mathematics, Sciences & the Arts

Steve Rice, Entrepreneurship Instructor, Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences & the Arts

Tell us about your current job, why you do what you do and how it prepares you to mentor youth and youth entrepreneurs?

I serve as the Entrepreneurship Instructor at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts (ASMSA). ASMSA is one of sixteen public, residential high schools in the country specializing in the education of talented and motivated students who have an interest and aptitude for mathematics and science as well as a passion for creativity, humanities and the arts. Over the past five years, The Washington Post, Newsweek, and The Daily Beast have ranked ASMSA among the “Top 25” public high schools in America.

Before graduating, all ASMSA students complete an advanced research project (similar to a capstone). My Advanced Research and Entrepreneurship course is one of the options students can choose from to fulfill this requirement. In this course, I am hands-on every day with the students as they develop a problem/solution hypothesis and then work to develop and validate a unique value proposition and business model to prove that their idea is viable.

I love the creativity, variety, and flexibility that this type of project-based teaching brings to the classroom. It is a true collaboration between the students and instructor.

I find that often young entrepreneurs just need permission. Permission to try crazy ideas. Permission to create something that doesn’t work. Permission to pivot and learn. My goal in the classroom, and out, is to give students permission to learn, grow, and succeed in a way that prepares them with marketable and transferable skills, whether or not they ever start a business.

What was the very first business you started and why? 

My first job out of college was a startup. We worked hard. We got lucky. We were successful quickly. But it wasn’t my company. I was building someone else’s dream, but I had been bitten by the startup bug.

My first business was a sole proprietorship massage therapy clinic. It was a mess! I didn’t have any idea what I was doing, business-wise. An early mentor gave me great advice though: “Start something small and make it pay for itself. Keep it simple. Fail and learn all the lessons you can. Then do it again.”

What three things should all young entrepreneurs be prepared for before they create a business?

#1 Young entrepreneurs should be prepared for failure. They need to understand what it is. To me, failure isn’t the opposite of success. It is the mechanism that entrepreneurs use to pivot, and it is a natural part of the innovation process.

#2 The second thing that can help young entrepreneurs is to be prepared for the unexpected. It will happen. You get to decide what any given situation means and the impact it will have on you personally.  For example, I was once fired from a “dream job.” At first, I was insecure and scared. But I decided that, in the long run, getting fired would be the best thing that happened to me professionally. On the backside of that experience, this has proven to be true.

#3 The final thing that young entrepreneurs need to be prepared with is patience. As an entrepreneur, you work harder than you ever have in your life. You will spend more money than you ever expected, and it will take more time than you ever thought it would. If giving up isn’t an option, then you can pivot–and even close a business–with confidence because you have decided you are in it for the long haul.

Tell us about your biggest business failure and success.

I didn’t have any idea what I was doing in my first business. My business plan was based on a fundamentally flawed assumption that added to the failure of the venture. I made all the major errors I think a person can. I stacked the cards against me from the start. But I did learn exactly how not to start and run a business! The wisdom gained from those insights are invaluable. In that regard, it was also my biggest success.

Why is nurturing entrepreneurship important to you?

Entrepreneurship at its core is a point of view, a set of skills, and dedication to learning. I’m committed to nurturing entrepreneurship because I believe that if a young person develops these skills and the ability to recognize how to transfer them and apply them in a variety of settings, they will never be unemployed. If a young person learns how value is created and captured, she can recognize the value she brings to the market and can learn to articulate that in a way that leads to unending opportunity. Recognizing and leveraging opportunity is a core skill for every entrepreneur. Every child should have the opportunity to develop and deploy these skills.

Name up to three educational classes, business programs or real-world experiences that played a key role in your success and why.

Years ago, I was heavily involved in Toastmasters International – a worldwide communication and leadership program. I was fortunate to be a part of one of the top clubs in my area and I learned the art of public speaking from some of the best in my town. Toastmasters also provided the earliest “lab” for me to experiment with leadership and learn how to be an effective leader.

At the same time, I launched my career with a medical startup. Going through the startup process on someone else’s dollar was a huge benefit in my professional development. I got to learn how a business grew (or didn’t) from the inside out.

To learn more about Steve, follow him on Twitter @StevenERice or on LinkedIn. To learn more about i.Invest visit, www.i-investcompetition.com.

i.Invest National Youth Business Competition Application Submission is Now Open

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 1, 2018

NEW ORLEANS, LA – i.Invest is pleased to announce that the 2018 National Youth Business Competition is accepting applications. Aspiring entrepreneurs, between the ages of 13 – 19 years-old, with a demonstrable product or service can apply until May 1st for the six-month web-based program.

Now in its third year, the program has attracted applicants from across the U.S. Winning individual entrepreneurs and teams receives a share of up to $10,000 in cash and in-kind prizes and the opportunity to be mentored by top business and academic leaders. In addition, entrepreneurs who complete the program receives on-going assistance, post-competition, to help them reach their personal and professional goals.

“i.Invest opens the doors for entrepreneurial-minded students to learn about business development,” said Michelle Jackson, i.Invest Executive Director. “Regardless of their GPA, geographical location or school affiliation, we look for innovative students with great products and services. The program’s goal is to empower the best young business minds to connect, collaborate and compete.”

To qualify, applicants must submit a concept profile, executive summary and pitch video. The application fee is $29. Scholarships are available for students from economically underserved communities through LifeSkills Foundation, a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for youth and youth entrepreneurs.

All application submissions, mentoring and scoring are done virtually. To apply, go to www.i-investcompetition.com. To become a sponsor or to learn more about the program, email info@i-investcompetition.com.

POC: marketing@prsolutionsllc.org

2017 i.Invest National Youth Business Competition Winners Announced

PrepUP Shirt + Blazer
i.Invest first place winner and founder of PrepUP, Akhilesh Khakhar, 17

PR Solutions LLC today announced the winners of the second annual i.Invest National Youth Business Competition. Five teams consisting of youth entrepreneurs, 13 to 19 years-old, walked away with cash and in-kind prizes after successfully completing a six-month web-based competition that included three rounds of scoring, group virtual coaching, one-on-one mentoring and a finale pitch event.

This year’s winners are:

  • First Place – PrepUP. Developed by Akhilesh Khakhar, a 17-year-old Brooklyn, NY high-school student, the free test preparation app brings students together on social media platforms to study for the SAT and ACT college preparatory exams. The app offers an interactive, live, head-to-head match between its users. Prize: $2,000 non-equity investment, title of i.Invest 2017 Youth Business of the Year and a one-hour consulting session with Don Morrison, serial entrepreneur and chairman of deal flow at BlueTree Allied Angels and former president and CEO of American Eagle Outfitters.
  • Second Place – Face the Facts. Created by Jason Kao and Chauncey Lau, both 17, of New York, NY, Face the Facts creates apparel for environmentally conscious consumers and display graphics in a way that supports a social issue while raising awareness. Prize: $1,000 non-equity investment and a one-hour consulting session with Don Morrison, serial entrepreneur and chairman of deal flow at BlueTree Allied Angels and former president and CEO of American Eagle Outfitters.
  • Third Place – Software Flow. Daniel Mousavi, 14, of Great Falls, VA., along with his younger brother, designed a board game and interactive game app – Immigrant’s Nightmare and Immigrant Challenge – to address the immigration crisis around the globe.  Prize: $500 non-equity investment.
  • Community Investment Award – Official Clutch Band. Birmingham, AL musicians, Timothy Huffman, 19, and his brother, Wesley Huffman, 17, help form the ensemble, Official Clutch Band. Performing a wide genre of music ranging from bebop, jazz, smooth jazz, R&B classics and Motown hits, the band released its first cd in 2016. Prize: $250 non-equity investment.
  • i.Invest ‘Rising Star’ Award – HoverHouse. Riley LeHane, 13, of Rhinebeck, NY created a hoverboard party pop-up and equipment rental company. Prize: $100 non-equity investment.

In addition, all the winners will receive a one-hour marketing consultation with PR Solutions LLC, a strategic marketing and public relations firm; the opportunity to be a vendor and/or speaker during the #EYECON Youth Conference in May 2018 at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD; and, the chance to participate in a “Ask the Start-Up Attorney” no-fee virtual consulting session with Cherin Law Firm located in Pittsburgh, PA.

“The i.Invest competition was an amazing learning experience,” said first-place winner, Khakhar. “What really makes it different is that, over the course of six months, the companies progress and iterate while being guided by mentors. i.Invest provides the mentorship and feedback young start-ups need when they are initially pivoting and choosing a track to follow.”

To download PrepUP: The New SAT and ACT Prep App for free, go HERE. To view the virtual finale pitch event, go HERE.

The 2018 i.Invest competition will open for online applications, March 1 – May 1. Applicants must be between the ages of 13-19 and have a demonstrable product or service to compete. The application fee is $29. To receive event updates and for sponsorship information visit, the i.Invest website or contact Michelle Jackson at mjackson@i-investcompetition.com.

Special thanks to our Silver-level Sponsor, On The Set Youth Film Camp and the i.Invest 2017 Judges & Mentors:

Andre McGregor, Director of Security, Tanium/ Former FBI Agent & Current FBI and Technical Consultant for the TV Show Mr. Robot

Artis Keith Turner, President, TurnGroup Technologies, LLC

David Tucker, Jr., Founder & Executive Director, On The Set Summer Film Camp

Dennis Martin, President and CEO, Martin Financial Solutions, LLC

Desiree Young, Founder, Venture Walk

Don Morrison, Chairman of Deal Flow, BlueTree Allied Angels

Dr. Alain Briancon, CEO and Co-founder, Director, Kitchology Inc.

Dr. Chadd D. Carr, Managing Partner, 6massive Holdings, LLC

Dr. Mansur Hasib, Professor and Author, University Maryland University College (UMUC)

Dr. Tamecka Knight, CEO & Owner, Premier Pediatrics of Houston

James Parren Courtney II, Owner, Courtney Consultants, LLC

Jeremy Hunnewell, CPA, CFO & Business Strategist, ZEHNDER Communications

Ketaki Desai, Executive Director, eCenter@LindenPointe

LaToya Staten, Chief Collaborator, LaToya C. Staten & Associates

Matthew Miessau, Analyst, Epidarex Capital

Mike Capsambelis, Product Manager, Google

Mojdeh Bahar, Assistant Administer for Technology Transfer, USDA

Natasha Muhammad, Program Director, Urban Alliance & Executive Director, EYE for Change

Omar S. Muhammad, Director of the Entrepreneurial Development & Assistance Center (EDAC), Morgan State University

Professor Jim Liew, Johns Hopkins Carey Business School

Regina Tillery, Director and CIO, Maryland Department of Commerce

Rex Willis, Founder & Information Technology Consultant, Hi-Tek POS

Roger London, CEO at Corporate Links

Ryan Makhani, Founder, BuildMyIdea.org and Mentor, Good Works Houston

Shrenik Jain, Founder, Beacon Health –  i.Invest 2016 Youth Business of the Year

Timothy Taylor, CPA

Vernon Lee, Founder, Brightwood Management Partners, LLC

About PR Solutions LLC

PR Solutions LLC is a strategic marketing and corporate event planning firm that specializes in working with new and established ventures to build viable business models and to integrate innovative marketing tools into for-profit and non-profit business strategies. PR Solutions is the parent company of the i.Invest competition. To learn more, visit http://www.prsolutions123.com.

 

Meet i.Invest Judge and Cybersecurity Expert, Dr. Chadd Carr

Chadd Carr
In 2017, Dr. Chadd Carr, Managing Partner, 6massive Holdings, LLP joined i.Invest as a judge and mentor. Bringing with him over 18 years in the fields of cyber investigations and intelligence, Carr has also founded and exited several services and product-based companies. His extensive experience in business development and dedication to youth entrepreneurship has been an asset to helping i.Invest prepare the next generation of business leaders.  
Tell us about your current position, why you do what you do and how it prepares you to mentor youth and youth entrepreneurs?
6massive is a company focused on conceiving, developing, and taking to market those technologies that the world will want tomorrow.  As a Partner at 6massive, I am directly responsible for a portfolio of up to 10 technologies, each with its own development cycle and market strategy, all operating in parallel.  My portfolio ranges from advanced cyber threat intelligence tools, to career apps based on artificial intelligence, to learning and certification services for federal contractors, to socially-driven mobile apps.  Usually, to expedite the go-to-market timeline, we often seek outside investment capital, which means I spend a great deal of my time pitching angel and accredited investors.  I am also a college Professor dedicated to teaching, motivating, inspiring, and mentoring the next generation of industry giants.  I have found success in converting this experience into a roadmap our younger generation can consider as they set out to capture their dreams.
What was the very first business you started and why? 
I’ve been an entrepreneur for as far back as I can remember.  I’m sure my parents can go even further back. From buying a bag of candy and selling handfuls to classmates in elementary school, to borrowing lawnmowers from neighbors and sharing a percentage of revenue with friends who actually cut the grass, to buying and re-selling things on eBay, I’ve always had a passion for entrepreneurship. And it was never (and still isn’t) about how many dollars I could collect that motivated me.  It was the actual process of creating value where value didn’t exist before.  One of my favorite quotes came from one of my favorite TV shows, Discovery’s Gold Rush, is  “You’re already millionaires.  The only thing is, you gotta get it out of the ground.”  With imagination, perseverance, and insane work ethic, there are almost infinite paths to success, however you define it.
What three things should all young entrepreneurs be prepared for before they create a business?
#1 It’s hard work.  Really hard.  Entrepreneur Lori Greiner [from TV Show Shark Tank] said it best, entrepreneurs are “the only people who work 80 hour weeks to avoid working 40 hour weeks.”  It’s a lifestyle, not a profession.
# 2  It can be lonely.  Successful entrepreneurs are the ones trekking paths others don’t see value in.  A lot of what they do doesn’t make sense to others, therefore, a lot of feedback and guidance they receive from others aren’t necessarily positive.  Non-entrepreneurs like to classify outcomes as either a “success” or “failure.” Entrepreneurs typically classify something as “that worked”, or, “it didn’t work… that time.”
#3  Commit to building yourself, before you build your product.  Your best brand–your most important brand–is yourself.  Investors do not invest in businesses or technologies.  They invest in the people behind them.  Build credibility through personal and professional relationships, education, and proven history of hard work.  Those three components provide the nutrients from which your “product” will eventually grow from and thrive.  Also, the product you begin with, most likely, won’t be the same product you will end with.  However, the two constants throughout that evolution, will be your health and your family.  Protect those.  Nurture those. Despite whatever path the product takes, in the end, what you will value above all else, will be those two things.
Tell us about your biggest business failure and success.
I don’t believe in failures.  Even though I’ve had things that didn’t work at a particular time, under a particular set of circumstances, I’ve also walked away smarter and better prepared to tackle the next challenge.  Success… failure… both are part of the journey, but neither are a destination.  My wins are simply byproducts of an amazing, resilient, and incredibly patient family. If I had to name one success, it would be that I’ve been able to strike a healthy balance between my entrepreneurial insanity and helping foster a loving family.
Why is nurturing entrepreneurship important to you?
How does the saying go… in society, 97 percent of people who said it could not be done, work for the 3 percent who said it could be done?  Something like that.  As a father, I’ve always told my kids, “you can either spend your time aiming for the corner office or some fancy title (which someone else has built), or,  you can spend your time creating those corner offices and titles.”  Both paths have their own pros and cons, but I wanted my kids to grow up in a world where both were interchangeable and equally possible.  Only through observable entrepreneurship can that happen.
Special thanks to Dr. Carr for his dedication to i.Invest Competitions. To learn more about the competition visit, www.i-investcompetition.com.

17-Year-Old NY-based Entrepreneur Develops Mobile App to Prep Students for SAT, ACT Exams

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Akhilesh Khakhar, 17, of Brooklyn, NY is one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest National Youth Entrepreneur Business Competition. Akhilesh’s company, PrepUP: The New SAT and ACT Prep App, is revolutionizing the world of testing by bringing students together on social media platforms to study for the SAT and ACT.

Tell us about your business.

PrepUP: The New SAT and ACT Prep App is a free iOS test preparation app that provides an interactive, live, head-to-head match between its users. Users can take customized ACT and SAT practice tests, solve Questions of the Day, and view in-depth answers and explanations to thousands of questions.

What inspired the creation of PrepUP?

Two years ago, I suffered from a concussion that caused my brain to work and think differently. After months of physical therapy, I discovered that genuine interest and competitions were important in learning. I took this newly found knowledge and applied it to the development of a testing platform that would allow me to impact how high-school students studied for college-preparatory exams. I am proud to say that I am a 99-percentile scorer.

Test preparation is incredibly expensive for most households, yet is necessary to achieve the high scores required by top universities. PrepUP provides the service at no charge for everyone who needs it while bringing people together to study and compete in a fun and educational way.

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How will PrepUP impact the world?

PrepUP’s impact within the field of education and college-prep testing is groundbreaking. The venture will make B2B connections with established test preparation companies and school districts throughout the country. Students can download the application for free as part of their syllabus and lesson plans with its unique ability to personalize practice tests and tailor-made Questions of the Day. PrepUP is making studying fun and free at the same time.

What are the next steps for PrepUP?

Earlier this year, PrepUP became available at the iTunes app store. PrepUP is seeking to raise $50,000 to optimize the application and make it available for all mobile platforms.

To download the app, go to: PrepUP Website

To stay abreast of PrepUP’s progress in the i.Invest Competition, sign up for our newsletter at www.i-investcompetition.com. To mentor or invest in the company, email info@i-investcompetition.com.

Good luck, Akhilesh!