Entrepreneurship is beautiful because it can serve as a level playing field for world changers of incredibly diverse backgrounds. It doesn’t discriminate based on race, gender or economic status, and anyone can be an entrepreneur — all you need is an idea. What you do with that idea, however, can absolutely depend on the resources you have available to you.
As an aspiring social entrepreneur myself, I wanted to create a platform for young men and boys of color in Wilmington to showcase their ideas, receive feedback and compete for funding to turn their dreams into realities. I believe that we need to continue encouraging creativity among our youth and provide platforms for them to develop and showcase their incredibly unique talents.
The “I Have a Dream” Business Pitch Competition held during Raising Kings Week 2017, which concluded this Martin Luther King Day, was my own dream becoming a reality. (Read Garry’s piece about why he organized the competition here.) We filled 1313 Innovation’s main coworking space with great people, positive vibes and eager minds ready to hear from Wilmington’s own aspiring young entrepreneurs. It was truly a room full of dreamers.
We heard pitches from an array of future world changers including:
Jysen Burgess: This 10-year-old pitched a clothing line designed with the average churchgoer in mind. His customer interviews came from TV shows and people at his local church who would always complain about how uncomfortable they were while sitting through service each Sunday.
Morgan Mongare: This 15-year-old gave an impromptu pitch when provided the opportunity and described his phone repair service. Just imagine how many hands went up when he asked the audience, “Now, who’s ever dropped and cracked their iPhone?”
Joel Amin and Demetrius Thorn: These two sophomores from the University of Delaware and Penn pitched their real estate venture called TradeLink Pro. “Our dream is to equalize the real estate investment playing field for the upcoming generations of investors regardless of race, financial background, education level or personal inside real-estate network connections,” they said.
Zachary Inniss: This 15-year-old TeenSHARP student pitched his project “Race For Change,” a brand and movement with the mission to “encourage people to develop an understanding of what racism is, to eliminate ignorance between people, cultures and ways of life and to have the next generation grow up into a world of love and equal opportunities.”
Jahlihl Coleman: A 20-year-old UD student who showcased his social venture titled Kicks Canvas, which will not only allow patrons to find the hottest and most exclusive kicks, but will also give them access to purchase customized shoes designed by young artists in our very own city of Wilmington.
Our star-studded panel of judges included:
- Nasai Oliver, student at Salesianum School in Wilmington, who’s better known as his business’ name, Myster Lemonade.
- Jordan Gonzalez, senior at UD and cofounder of the Geoswap app.
- Tariq Hook, the “Code Rhino” of code school ZipCode Wilmington.
- Pedro Moore of Delaware Investment Fund.
Plus guest appearances by newly elected New Castle County Executive and social entrepreneur Matt Meyer, Councilwoman Rysheema Dixon, pro golfer and author Earl Cooper and more.
The main prize of $1,000 sponsored by the UD Horn Program in Entrepreneurship was awarded to Joel Amin and Demetrius Thorn with Tradelink Pro. The 2nd place of $250 provided by the NEXTERS PAC went to Zachary Inniss with Race For Change.
My favorite moment of the night was Tariq running to the ATM to take out cash for a 3rd place prize created by the judges titled the “Entrepreneurial Spirit Award” given to Jysen Burgess, the church clothes entrepreneur, for being a fearless young innovator.
Who knew that Wilmington had such creative and innovative young minds? We did.
There’s much more programming to come, and I’m especially excited to partner with the One Village Alliance to create a girls-only pitch competition because, ya know, #GirlsCanDoAnything.
I’m going to continue encouraging young dreamers to keep dreaming, building and innovating because we’re building a culture of youth entrepreneurship in Wilmington and showing the world what these young creative minds can do!