High school students representing 12 Twin Cities youth startups had a unique opportunity to network with local entrepreneurs, hone their business pitch, and vie for start-up funding at JA Pitchfest 2020. Participants had a chance to receive up to $3,000 in seed funding from Antimony Investments, a investment company run by high school students Josh Miller and Stuti Arora.
Students from schools throughout the Twin Cities – including Mounds View (Arden Hills), Edison (Minneapolis), Roseville, Wayzata, Hopkins, Liberty Classic Academy (White Bear Lake), and Como Park (St. Paul) High Schools – participated in the inaugural event to build on the skills they’re learning in two of Junior Achievement’s entrepreneurship programs, JA Company Program and JA LaunchU! Through these experiential programs, students learn what it takes to create, market and operate their own company, from concept to business plan, financing, execution, and sales.
The event kicked off with a networking session with 17 local entrepreneur mentors who helped students prepare and practice their pitches. Mentors included Neda Kellogg, CEO of Project Diva; Jackson Lefebvre, CEO of ParkPoolr; Dan West, CEO & co-founder of Blue Key Media; Courtney Ready, Lead Accelerator Program Manager of Target; and Garrett Warner, CEO of AccessPoint Vascular.
Creativity was on full display during the JA Pitchfest competition. Students pitched business plans for a variety of unique products, including adjustable heels, biodegradable coffee cups, eco-friendly makeup wipes, and fidget pens. Judges from youth-run investment companies Antimony Investments and Atland Ventures asked questions and provided feedback to the students.
With nearly $3,000 in available seed funding courtesy of Antimony Investments, all students received some level of investment. Two teams from Mounds View High School, Meiyu and BioBev, received the highest prize amount of $500. Meiyu sells a reusable makeup remover wipe; BioBev developed a biodegradable coffee cup. Teams receiving a $250 prize included Etaria (3D printed pen/pencil), ScanTech (apparel with scanning capabilities), Lil Buddy (alarm key chain) and Empower Heels (adjustable heels). The remaining participating teams received $200 and $100 prizes. Funds were matched by Mike Fiterman, Chairman & CEO of Liberty Diversified International.
“It was thrilling to see this event come to life,” said Gina Blayney, JAUM President & CEO. “Through opportunities like JA Pitchfest, we’re cultivating the next generation of entrepreneurs by providing transformative guidance from successful mentors and access to resources that can turn the next big idea into reality.”