The winner of last night's Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) South Florida Youth Bizplan Challenge already has three years' experience running her business -- and she is only 15.
Giselle Gallardo, a freshman at John A. Ferguson Senior High (pictured here with NFTE's director and judges), who won 1st Place for her company called Crazy 4 Bows Bowtique, recognized that jumping into the hot fashion teen trend of bows was not enough. She needed a product differentiator, and so bottle caps are incorporated into her school-spirited designs. She gave a strong presentation to the judges, but she had a lot of competition.
The 23 winning teams at each of the school competitions first competed in a semifinalist competition in the afternoon. Soon after, five finalists were selected to pitch in the finals. Each team gave an 8.5 minute pitch and fielded tough questions in front of a panel of judges and an auditorium full of people at the University of Miami.
Coming in second place in NFTE's annual regional competition was Jennifer Carter (pictured here presenting her company) of American Senior High. Her company, Precious Pearls, offers custom bras. "Precious Pearls isn't just a bra line, it sells confidence too," she says.
Both winners will be going to New York City to compete in the global NFTE competition in October.
The other finalists were: Eligansi, by Alissa Ovalle-Marquez of Hallandale Senior High, taking third place; iStylez Fashion, by Samandie Douceur of Miami Edison Senior High; and Histrionic Film Enterprises, by Richard Guzman and Yarien Suarez of Hialeah Gardens Senior High.
All five finalists won seed money for their businesses ($250 up to $1,500 for the first place winner). Hector Tundidor Jr., managing partner of Ernst & Young's Miami office and one of the judges, said all the presentations were very strong and the judges had their work cut out for them.
The keynote address was given by Nicklas Sarnicola of The Sarnicola Foundation, which also was the presenting sponsor for the contest. After telling his entrepreneurial story, he advised NFTE students to "build a business around your passion, not just to make money." He also said entrepreneurship isn't for everyone and it is not easy -- entrepreneurs need to get used to failure. But when you are truly passionate about your business, it doesn't feel like work at all, he said.
NFTE South Florida offers entrepreneurship programs in low-income schools in Miami-Dade and Broward. The nonprofit launched in South Florida seven years ago serving 350 students -- now it serves more than 3,000 students, said Executive Director Alice Horn. "We are nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs."