From August 8-10, 15 student entrepreneurs from around the Greater Washington region participated in a 3-day program empowering them with the skills to solve some of our nation's greatest challenges. The program culminated with a Shark Tank-style pitch competition where the three teams of students presented their entrepreneurial business ideas in front of a panel of business professionals as well as parents and community members. The students were assigned an adult mentor and ultimately tasked with finding a creative, innovative, and sustainable business solution to the challenge presented to them over the course of the program. Junior Achievement’s partner in this summit, Community Business Partnership (CBP), led sessions on pitching, customer discovery and marketing.
Participating students ranged from 12 to 18 years old and represented schools from Maryland, Northern Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The student’s experience with entrepreneurship going into the event ranged from minimal exposure to multiple business courses. Regardless of their backgrounds, all five students on each team were strangers Monday morning, but they all had one thing in common: A desire to think outside the box and develop their skills while creating a solution to a real world problem.
The participating students were divided into three groups and were given the following challenge:
“Today, the United States spends over $218 billion–1.3 percent of GDP–growing, processing, transporting, and disposing of food that is never eaten. Teams are challenged with identifying a specific problem within the food waste realm and creating an innovative solution that addresses that problem.”
The solutions presented had to reduce food waste, benefit their immediate community and be sustainable. Students were told they could receive bonus points if they could generate income, use their solution to address an additional social problem, and/or address the scalability of their solution.
Each group came up with a unique and creative solution to the posed problem. Listed below are the mission statements offered by each of the three groups that summarizes their unique solution to the issue of food waste:
Clear Compost - Our mission, here at Clear Compost, is to produce glass ingots from food waste to sell to Corporations that create glass products. This would not only make use of wasted materials, but also prevent the product from ending up back in the landfill.
GEO - GEO is an affordable software package that reduces the amount of food waste in independently owned grocery stores by tracking expiration dates and alerting stores when food is close to expiring, allowing them to be proactive and to utilize the time before spoilage, while food is still usable.
Sticky Solutions - Sticky Solutions is launching Aftermath, a smart-phone application and messaging service that allows local restaurants in Fairfax County to notify our organization’s volunteers to pick up their surplus foods. Volunteers will then transfer food donations to community centers, food-banks, and local shelters.
The judges ultimately chose Sticky Solutions as the winner of the competition claiming they found the solution to be the one that they would most likely invest in. The judges acknowledged all teams prepared extremely compelling and persuasive proposals.
Ken Kozloff served as the mentor for Team Sticky Solutions and student members of the team included:
· Yannis Carelock, 9th grade – Surrattsville High School
· Claire Latimer, 11th grade – Fairfax High School
· Anthony Seabrooks, 10th grade – Basis DC Public Charter High School
· Kurien Thomas , 12th grade – Robinson Secondary School
· Sierra Watson, 9th grade – J.E.B. Stuart High School
A special “Rising Star” award was also presented to one participating student who “demonstrates the qualities of an emerging leader and who has exhibited outstanding success in executing their responsibilities during the summit.” This award was given to Zoree Jones, a member of Team GEO and a 9th grader from Patriot High School in Prince William County, Virginia.
When announcing the recipient of the award, Debbie Dever, mentor for Team GEO, said that Zoree, “displayed not only exceptional leadership and creative abilities, but also a willingness to assist team mates and to affect change for the betterment of the team.”
“From the first day of arrival, [she] emerged as leader and consistently assisted their team in organizing and strategizing a business solution to the social challenge presented,” said Dever, Director of the Business Incubation Center.
Overall, the 2016 JA Entrepreneurship Summit was a resounding success. JA of Greater Washington would like to thank everyone who came together to help make this event such a wonderful learning experience for the youth of our region. 1 in 5 JA® alumni say they work or have worked in the same field as their childhood JA® volunteer. The Junior Achievement of Greater Washington staff saw firsthand the impact these mentors had on the students throughout the week and are especially grateful for the support and guidance they provided to the students. Specifically, JA® would like to thank the following volunteers:
James “TaB” Patrick
If you, or someone you know may be interested in attending next year’s summit, please visit www.myja.org/entrepreneurshipsummit/learnmore where you can enter your email so we can stay in touch about 2017 details and registration deadlines.