Tag Archives: entrepreneurship

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!

i.Invest 2016 Winner, Beacon Health, Raises $225K in Pre-Seed Funding

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Founders, Shrenik Jain & Ravi Shah (center & right); Chief Data Scientist Satya Prateek Bommaraju (left)

In 2016, 19-year-old founder of Beacon Health, Shrenik Jain, took home the top prize from the i.Invest National Youth Business Competition with his mobile app designed to help people struggling with mental illness. Since winning the competition and being named the i.Invest 2016 Youth Business of the Year, Jain, Co-Founder Ravi Shah and Chief Data Scientist Satya Prateek Bommaraju, have diligently worked to transform their innovative idea into a successful health IT business.

Beacon Health’s mobile app has captured the attention of investors and customers from public and private sectors. The platform allows users to create an anonymous profile, search for the issue most relevant to them and instantly be connected with other Beacon Health members with similar mental health challenges as well as trained professionals. The platform offers anonymity and support by utilizing a natural language processing algorithm that can detect vulgar or malicious content and therefore prevent cyber bullying.

Since winning the i.Invest top prize which included $2,000 cash and a host of in-kind awards last October, the Beacon Health team has raised $225,000 in pre-seed funding. They will open a seed round with the goal of raising $600,000 in May-June. The ideal investors would be focused in healthcare and bring potential deployment sites in addition to capital.

The current backers include, the National Institute of Health (NIH), Johns Hopkins University and the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO). NIH is mentoring the team in an effort to help them secure SBIR grants.

The Beacon Health staff has also grown. They currently have 10 employees, and are considering opening a second office in Boston, which will focus on research and development. They have signed 9 LOIs, some from major cities such as Denver and Nashville, to deploy their product once the pilots conclude.

Beacon Health’s app is live at several pilot sites, including Johns Hopkins University and Mindoula Health.

For more information on how to connect with Beacon Health email info@i-investcompetition.com or go to, http://www.beaconhealth.co/.

Congratulations, Shrenik, Ravi & Satya!

13-Year-Old Pittsburgh Youth Entrepreneur Uses All-Natural Ingredients to Create Lip Balm

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A’Niyah Dixon, 13, from Manchester Academic Charter School in Pittsburgh, PA, is one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest Competition. With her business, Winter’s Heart, A’Niyah hopes to put an end to chapped lips once and for all.

Tell us a little about your business.

Winter’s Heart is a bubble gum lip balm that A’Niyah plans on marketing to both females and males. Unlike other lip balms on the market, A’Niyah crafts her products with safe ingredients including food dye, petroleum jelly, bees wax and bubble gum. To appeal to everyone, the lip balms are clear and sold in different colors; therefore, males can purchase a product traditionally sold to women.

What inspired the creation of Winter’s Heart?

After trying a number of different brands, A’Niyah became frustrated that no lip balm on the market was able to cure her dry, chapped lips. When she began to research the industry, she was shocked to see the ingredients in some of the big name products on the market, so she decided to create a safe lip balm that would protect and heal damaged lips.

What challenges will Winter’s Heart face?

The cosmetic market is incredibly competitive and dominated by big name brands that hold a large market share. A’Niyah will have to invest a significant amount of capital into marketing to expand outside of her community. Because she hopes to market to both females and males, A’Niyah will face a challenge presenting lip balm in a way that is appealing to both genders. She may have to consider expanding her product line to include other scents besides bubble gum to attract a larger customer base.

How will Winter’s Heart impact the world?

A’Niyah hopes to solve a problem that many people face on a daily basis: dry, chapped lips. She also hopes to serve as an inspiration to her community and prove that kids, even at the young age of 13, are able to get out there and make a difference in the world with hard work and dedication.

What are the next steps for Winter’s Heart?

A’Niyah hopes to secure funding to expand her business in the near future. She plans on using the funds to pay for advertising and also to expand her existing product line. She hopes to also have business cards created so she can pass them out in her community and spread the word about Winter’s Heart.

To stay abreast of Winter Heart’s progress in the i.Invest competition, visit www.i-investcompetition.com and register for the i.Invest newsletter. Also, to provide support as a mentor or investor, please email info@i-investcompetition.com.

Good luck, A’Niyah!

Johns Hopkins Engineering Students Develop Virtual Hand, Wrist Physical Therapy Software

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Group photo (from left to right): Adam Polevoy, Parth Singh, Rahul Yerrabelli, Himanshu Dashora. Single photo: Benjamin Pikus

Rahul Yerrabelli, 18, Benjamin Pikus, 18, Himanshu Dashora, 18, Parth Singh, 19, and Adam Polevoy,19, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD, are one of the teams participating in this year’s i.Invest Competition. Each of these young men are studying Biomedical Engineering, and were eager to solve one of the many issues facing the medical community with their company, MoTrack Therapy.

Tell us a little about your business.

MoTrack is a virtual reality software that has completely revolutionized the way that patients can receive physical therapy for hand and wrist injuries. Using the Leap Motion hardware and a webcam, MoTrack can track and interpret movements made by the patient’s hand and wrist. The patient can therefore complete physical therapy exercises at home and receive feedback on ways to improve in real-time. Because the exercises are designed to be more interactive and entertaining than traditional physical therapy, it is expected that MoTrack will have a higher rate of patient compliance to the regimen.

What inspired the creation of MoTrack?

After a friend suffered a serious wrist injury from playing cricket, these young men were surprised to see the intensive, time-consuming therapy that was needed to treat his injury. Years later, they participated in a weekend-long hackathon, MedHacks, where they were asked to use various gadgets to create a new medical invention. One of these gadgets happened to be a hand-tracking sensor used to track movements in virtual reality gaming. After putting their heads together and brainstorming, MoTrack was born.

What challenges will MoTrack face?

There are a few competitors in the same industry. However, MoTrack has the competitive edge when it comes to size and portability of the device. Furthermore, the current competitors are either focused in the European market or focused in general body therapy as opposed to hand therapy. In order to be successful, MoTrack will need to focus on educating consumers about the benefits of choosing MoTrack over other forms of therapy.

How will MoTrack impact the world?

Hand and wrist therapy is not only time-consuming, but costly and inconvenient as well. With MoTrack, patients will no longer have to schedule multiple appointments and travel to medical professionals’ offices to receive treatment. Instead, they will be able to do recommended exercises in the comfort of their own home while still receiving feedback about their progress and how they can improve. The cost of MoTrack therapy is far less than the cost of an in-office physical therapy appointment, so this software allows people of all income levels to receive the care that they need.

What are the next steps for MoTrack?

MoTrack has received $10,000 in non-dilutive funding from the Johns Hopkins University Ralph O’Connor Fund as well as an additional $300 from a Johns Hopkins University DMC grant. MoTrack hopes to secure another $50,000 from investors to cover the costs of patenting, running clinical trials and launching a large-scale marketing campaign.

To stay abreast of MoTrack’s progress in the i.Invest competition, visit www.i-investcompetition.com and register for the i.Invest newsletter. Also, to provide support as a mentor or investor, please email info@i-investcompetition.com.

Good luck, Rahul, Benjamin, Himanshu, Parth and Adam!

 

 

19-Year-Old Penn State Student Uses 3D Printing to Keep Headphone Cords Tangle-Free

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Shemar Coombs, 19, from Pennsylvania State University in Philadelphia, PA, is one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest Competition. After dealing with tangled or lost headphones for far too long, Shemar came up with a solution to this problem with his company, Rap It Up.

Tell us a little about your business.

Rap It Up is an iPhone case that allows customers to store their headphones safely without having to worry about them getting tangled or damaged. This case features a U-shaped channel on the side to easily and neatly store headphones. Designed with 3D printing, Rap It Up is sleek and sophisticated, so customers won’t have to worry about toting around a bulky phone case.

What inspired the creation of Rap It Up?

While Shemar was in a Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship class, he was given the task of coming up with a business idea that would make an impact in the world. It just so happens that in the same week he was given the assignment, he learned about 3D printing and its capabilities. With this knowledge in mind, he set out to put an end to the annoyance of tangled and damaged headphones once and for all.

What challenges will Rap It Up face?

The smartphone accessory market is very competitive and crowded, so Rap It Up may have to spend a substantial amount of capital on marketing to secure distribution. Although there are a few competitors in the market who have similar products, each of them has disadvantages. One of the competitors has a much bulkier design that makes it inconvenient to carry, while the other does not allow customers to use their own headphones. Once 3D printing becomes more mainstream, Rap It Up may face other competitors who also want to take advantage of this new technology.

How will Rap It Up impact the world?

Not only does Rap It Up solve a common problem that customers face on a daily basis, Shemar will also use his platform to better the world around him. Shemar is passionate about recycling, so when his business is up and running, he plans on encouraging customers to recycle old, unused phones. Customers who follow Shemar’s lead by recycling will be rewarded with a slight percentage off of the purchase price of a Rap It Up case.

What are the next steps for Rap It Up?

Shemar hopes to secure funding after this competition to help Rap It Up cover patenting and marketing costs. Because of the competitive landscape of the phone accessory market, Shemar plans on dedicating the majority of any funds to building a strong brand presence.

To stay abreast of Rap It Up’s progress in the i.Invest competition, visit www.i-investcompetition.com and register for the i.Invest newsletter. Also, to provide support as a mentor or investor, please email info@i-investcompetition.com.

Good luck, Shemar!

Youth Social Entrepreneur & i.Invest Applicant Provides Specially Designed Bikes to Students in Bangladesh

 

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Wu, 16, Youth Entrepreneur from Henry M. Gunn High School in Palo Alto, CA provides bikes to people in Bangladesh

Randy Wu, 16, from Henry M. Gunn High School in Palo Alto, CA, is one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest Competition. LyfeCycle, which started as an idea in a model UN class, has now turned into Randy’s life mission: to help the less fortunate in developing countries.

Tell us a little about your business.

LyfeCycle is a nonprofit organization that is on a mission to mobilize people around the world using bicycles. This nonprofit donates specially designed and assembled bicycles to students, entrepreneurs and healthcare workers in Bangladesh. The bikes are designed to meet the unique needs of each village in Bangladesh, something that differentiates it from its competitors. LyfeCycle recruited volunteers in Bangladesh to support their mission by contacting high schools and universities in the area. These volunteers run the division overseas and also support efforts to get the local government involved in the mission. Currently, bikes are sold through the local Bangladeshi government who support the efforts to improve the lives of citizens in rural areas.

What inspired the creation of LyfeCycle?

LyfeCycle started as a project in a model UN class Randy’s friends from New York, Jason Lu and Ariful Islam, participated in. They recognized that in developing countries, distance to healthcare, education and job opportunities hindered a lot of people’s ability to have a better quality of life.  They knew that giving these kids bikes would greatly alleviate the stress they felt in getting to school, so they set about figuring out how to provide bikes to developing countries. Randy  was passionate about providing both educational and industrial opportunities to the youth and wanted to help them achieve their goals.


What challenges will LyfeCycle face?

Because LyfeCycle is a nonprofit that relies mainly on donations, grants and fundraisers, raising enough capital by spreading the word about LyfeCycle’s mission will always be a priority. Right now, LyfeCycle is focused on providing bikes to citizens of Bangladesh, so they will need to expand resources in order to move into other territories.

How will LyfeCycle impact the world?

LyfeCycle enhances the lives of people in developing countries, specifically Bangladesh, by providing them with bicycles. When bicycles are given to underprivileged people in Bangladesh, they immediately have access to better educational, economic and healthcare opportunities. LyfeCycle is making the world a better place, one bicycle at a time!

What are the next steps for LyfeCycle?

LyfeCycle is currently partnered with the fourth largest law firm in the world, Kirkland Ellis, LLP. In the near future, LyfeCycle hopes to secure at least $3,000 in funding to expand their operations. With these funds, LyfeCycle will be able to offer more incentive for local organizations in Bangladesh to help their cause, and also secure more bikes that can be donated.

To stay abreast of LyfeCycle’s progress in the i.Invest competition, visit www.i-investcompetition.com and register for the i.Invest newsletter. Also, to provide support as a mentor or investor, please email info@i-investcompetition.com.

Good luck, Randy!

 

 

Contained, Stored or Leashed: How not to handle innovation

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Have you ever watched an innovator convert an idea into a practical concept, mold that concept into a viable business model then employ an operational process that allows a new venture to spread its wings and soar? If not, you should, because the sheer curiosity and eagerness of a dedicated business leader is inspirational beyond words.

It takes commitment to start a business.

It takes boldness to put forth an innovative idea.

It takes heart to see it through to the very end.

For those of us privileged to work with business trailblazers, we’ve witnessed many new ideas take flight. But in order to help these pilots stay above the clouds, both public and private sectors must do more to avoid putting roadblocks in their path.

Innovation is the idea of thinking differently about how we do things. In many ways it is the key to building a better world. From the development of the polio vaccination to the creation of the Internet and beyond, when we inhibit innovation by not providing the resources needed to mature an innovator’s dynamic ideas, we are also hindering our own personal and professional growth.

Innovation should never be contained, stored or leashed. To grant it the freedom it needs to change the world, it must be unfettered then fueled. But the fueling becomes the problem.  In order to properly drive innovation, public and private sectors must create pools of resources accessible to both thriving ventures and start-up companies.

In a perfect world, every program created in the name of entrepreneurship would offer hefty funding resources, mentorship and collaborative opportunities. But we live in the real world. With countless limits on capital resources for new businesses and political opposition to funding more research and development, roadblocks to innovation will continue to exist over time unless we act now.

So, how can we give innovation the freedom to thrive? Here are my three ideas to help public and private sectors broaden their view of the entrepreneurs’ needs:

Money matters. You’ve heard it a million times: access to capital is key. Well, it is. No company succeeds without financial support.  Call it what you want – crazy, ill-conceived or unorthodox – but the process of creating new technology is a lot like throwing spaghetti at the wall. You sling it until it sticks and when it does, you peel it off, figure out what made it stick in the first place then do it all over again. But if every sling at the wall costs $50,000 or more, innovators may only get one chance at success. Therefore, the key is to ensure that all public and private entrepreneurial programs develop strategies that will provide multiple layers of funding for companies at each stage.  One shot just isn’t enough.

Failure isn’t final.  Public and private entrepreneurial programs should be designed with failure in mind. In a recent Forbes magazine article, “Why is Innovation so Hard?,” writer Edward D. Hess discusses a key factor in what hinders us from accepting failure. He writes: Our educational system and most work environments have taught us that good performance means avoiding failure, not making mistakes. This is a big problem, because failure is an unavoidable part of innovation experimentation.

Innovation requires the willingness to fail and learn. But failure comes at a cost that most investors don’t want to take on. Innovators with great ideas often fail at the early-stage because of a lack of financial support. Programs created to help them will often offer assistance worth the value of one sling at the wall and nothing more. To change this, we must shift our psychological acceptance of failure and instill new ways of thinking into public and private program development.  Although failure may be final to most investors, to a serial entrepreneur it can be the beginning of a new onslaught of creative ideas and concepts that deserve a chance at success.

Supporting the best and disregarding the rest is no way to build a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem. The best of the best technologies can be found at the least attractive places. Great ideas can come from anywhere. From basements in an urban community to labs at junior colleges, entrepreneurial programs should throw out the status quo and start looking for great inventions in some of the most unlikely places. We must learn to support business growth at all levels and create new avenues for innovators to get the recognition they deserve regardless of their educational background, income level or geographical location.

Let’s work together to ensure that innovators are provided the resources they need to soar.

Written by Michelle D. Jackson, CEO, PR Solutions LLC & Executive Director, i.Invest National Youth Entrepreneur Business Competition

Nonprofit Entrepreneuring Youth Launches IGNITE MY FUTURE Crowdfunding Campaign to Support New Summer Youth Program in Hilltop Communities

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Entrepreneuring Youth (EYouth) has created and launched its first online crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. With an initial goal of $15,000, the campaign will run until July 30th and support EYouth’s entrepreneurship summer program for middle and high schoolers in Pittsburgh’s Hilltop communities. 

PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA  On May 30th, Entrepreneuring Youth, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit that teaches middle and high-school students entrepreneurial skills, launched its first crowdfunding campaign to support the Ignite My Future Summer Entrepreneurship Camp for kids. During the four-week camp, 25 students from the Hilltop communities will learn how to create their own business, develop a business plan and pitch their products to investors and customers. Detailed campaign information can be viewed at: http://igg.me/at/IgniteMyFuture/x/10829366.

Over the last six years, EYouth’s in-depth entrepreneurial learning experiences have reached over 500 area students, some of whom remain engaged for multiple years. Through program facilitators at Beaver County Youth Entrepreneurship Collaborative, Brownsville Area School District, Entrepreneuring Youth’s Hilltop E-Center, Manchester Academic Charter School and Urban Pathways Charter School, students have learned to think and act like business owners.

“The success of our kids impacts the entire community,” said Jerry Cozewith, EYouth’s President and Co-Founder. “Our crowdfunding campaign will allow us to invite a large and diverse audience from the global community to make an investment in their future. The goal is to leverage donor support to help us transform their lives and revigorate the communities around them.”

Funds from the campaign will help EYouth hire instructors, pay for transportation to field trips and develop retail expos to enable students to learn from entrepreneurial business leaders and to earn money from the sale of their products.

For more information about the campaign contact Michelle Jackson at info@prsolutions123.com.

About Entrepreneuring Youth

Entrepreneuring Youth is a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization that develops entrepreneurial learning programs based on real life business creation experiences for middle school and high school students. EYouth’s vision is to offer every young person, regardless of their early life circumstances, the chance to seize and create opportunities to achieve the life they really want and to build the vitality of their community through entrepreneurship. To learn more visit: http://www.eyouthamerica.org/.

Local Professionals Gather to Support Pittsburgh-Area Charity

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Local charities are the pathway to community growth and prosperity was the overarching message given during today’s Charity Supper Club event at Sonoma Grille in Pittsburgh. Hosted by PR Solutions’ owners, Scottie and Michelle Jackson, the two-hour brunch was attended by a group of local professionals including representatives from UPMC and USAR 316th Sustainment Command in Coraopolis. The event raised money for Entrepreneuring Youth, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching kids from underserved communities entrepreneurial skills.

“Local charities provide critical resources for area communities. Our goal is to help them promote their initiatives by appealing to area professionals who enjoy great food, fellowship and giving,” said Scottie Jackson. “We are starting small with the hopes that one day we will attract hundreds of attendees to each event.”

The event raised over $1,200 for the organization.

Charity Supper Club is an invitation-only dining experience that takes place quarterly at a different restaurant in the Greater Pittsburgh area. Guests are invited to attend, and to bring a friend, and are asked to join in the conversation, eat well and pledge at least 50 percent of the total cost of their restaurant tab to charity. To learn more about the program visit, www.prsolutions123.com or contact info@prsolutions123.com.

To see photos visit our Facebook Page.

EYOUTH STUDENTS IGNITE, INSPIRE, INNOVATE AT I-PITCH COMPETITION 

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Twenty-seven middle and high school students from across Pittsburgh took the stage at Google in Bakery Square on March 28th to share new business ideas and celebrate youth entrepreneurship at the annual i-Pitch Competition. During the two hour event, EYouth students pitched products ranging from homemade cannolis to mobile apps and inspired a room of judges, parents, teachers and peers.

Sponsored by NextTier Bank and the Pittsburgh Technology Council, the i-Pitch competition was held as the culminating event for students from Beaver County Youth Entrepreneurship Collaborative, Brownsville Area School District, Entrepreneuring Youth’s Hilltop E-Center, Manchester Academic Charter School and Urban Pathways Charter School.  The judge’s pool consisted of 11 representatives from area public and private industries including Google, Neighborhood Allies, Ansys, Allegheny County Council, Alpha Lab Gear and Five Star Development, Inc. They were also joined by PA House of Representatives’ Member, Ed Gainey. Judges scored the two-minute pitches based on customer benefits, service features and presentation skills. Cash prizes were awarded to first, second and third places in middle school and high school divisions.

Top winners in the high school division included Grayden Sabol, founder of Footmark Tracking- a company that uses sound technology to find missing arrows; Nariah White, founder of Nariah’s Fabulous Jewelz; Caleb Kirkland & Maddison Angelone, co-founders of Holy Cannoli.

Middle school division winners included Cheyenne Rhone, founder of Hopes for the Best Survival Bracelets; Sanaa Morris, founder of Smore Cookies; De’Andre Gordon, founder of Phoenix Classic Designs, maker of custom T-shirts.

Congratulations to all the participants! 

Support EYouth’s up-coming Crowdfunding Campaign scheduled to launch on Indiegogo May 15th. Follow us at #IgniteMyFuture.