Some folks say you can’t teach entrepreneurship. Cynics argue that entrepreneurship “requires skills that a person can only develop in the real world,” or that educators “can’t manufacture risk takers.”
Instead of spending time pondering the principles of entrepreneurship, naysayers might be wise to spend a few hours in the company of student entrepreneurs — say, any of the 220 high school entrepreneurs who participated in the first annual Youth Entrepreneurship Summit (YES!) at the University of Delaware last week.
Hosted by UD’s Horn Program in Entrepreneurship and the Paul & Linda McConnell Youth Entrepreneurship Initiative, the summit rallied regional high school entrepreneurs from Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey, as well as a handful of young foreign entrepreneurs from Moldova, Tunisia, Georgia, Uganda and Kenya.
The convening featured keynote addresses from successful young entrepreneurs and several workshops taught by regional professionals, such as Coded by Kids founder Sylvester Mobley, Horn Program director Dan Freeman and Trellist’s Lori Palmer.
The main event, however, was the third and final round of the Diamond Challenge, a local and international pitch competition for high school entrepreneurs. Contestants pitched their businesses or social enterprises to a panel of judges consisting of:
- Paul McConnell (founder, 1313 Innovation)
- Megan Grassell (founder and CEO, Yellowberry)
- Andrea Tinianow (Director of Corporate and International Development, State of Delaware)
- Lisa Ford (Director of Digital Marketing Strategy, Capital One)
Students from 3 Kenya high schools pitching at Diamond Challenge competition in Delaware, #YES2015
— StartUpAfrica (@StartupAfrika) April 30, 2015
Twenty teams competed in the last round of the Diamond Challenge, with eight taking home cash prizes. Here’s how it shook out:
- 1st Place ($7,500, school awarded $1,000): Spell for Success, a spelling bee flashcard app.
- 2nd Place ($5,000, school awarded $750): Value Addition for Short Seasoned Foods, a conceptual solution for making the agriculture industry more profitable.
- 3rd Place ($2,500, school awarded $500): Enkel Tech, a dev team that created an app that crowdsources restaurant wait times.
- Honorable Mention ($500): Male air freshener Eau de Manly Man, high school coffee vendor Cool Beans, interactive study buddy Smartest and computer science education platform Tomorrow School.
- Social Impact Prize ($2,500): Moldovan reflective-clothing manufacturer Modern Reflection.
According to the Horn Program’s external programs coordinator Julie Frieswyk, YES! will have two separate tracks next year — one for business concepts and another for social innovation.
“When you’re planning an event of this size for the first time, you really don’t know what to expect,” Frieswyk said. “I was blown away by how positive it really was.”
— Global Delaware (@DelawareGlobal) April 30, 2015