Twelve Hoboken high-school students who had participated in the “Like a Boss" teen entrepreneur program, sponsored by the HOPES Community Action Partnership (HOPES), had an opportunity to pitch their ideas at the program’s culminating event, “From Students to Startups,” on Dec. 17. These young entrepreneurs were all from the Hoboken Charter School.
The students pitched their startup ideas in a setting conducive to networking and collaboration.Five of the ideas will be chosen to receive seed money to help the students “officially launch their business,” and these students will also “continue to receive mentoring,”Dominique Tornabe, HOPES community education manager, told NJTechWeekly.com. Two of the startup ideas have already been chosen.
During the “Like a Boss” program, students learned basic computer skills, marketing and branding, research and development, public speaking and networking. They also practiced confidence-building through exercises designed to help them achieve success, no matter what path they take in life.
Additionally, the program reinforced core-content standards, as well as critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Lead teacher Mira Septimus assisted the students.
Volunteers from the tech community included Matt Wade, cofounder and CEO of Gameplan, who served as lead volunteer. He introduced the students to the core components of entrepreneurship, and worked with them on their public speaking and networking skills.
Corinne Vizzacchero, a graphic designer and an entrepreneur herself, taught the students about design, establishing the visual identity of their business and other marketing techniques. Ron Reed, technical director of the computer firm MAINGEAR (Kenilworth), provided hardware, software and additional marketing support.
Funding for “Like a Boss” came from Party With Purpose, the PSEG Foundation and the New Jersey Office of Faith Based Initiatives.
Tornabe said that Aaron Price, of NJ Tech Meetup, is great supporter of the program and continues to help HOPES spread the word about its mission and accomplishments. In fact, NJ Tech Meetup helped run Friendsgiving, a fundraiser that gave part of its proceeds to HOPES.
The two student startups already selected to receive seed funding and mentoring are Youth Rules Tomorrow and Untie the Knot. While Youth Rules Tomorrow is not in the tech space, Untie the Knot is an online venture.
Youth Rules Tomorrow: Noah Acevedo, Tavian Frazier, I’ziah McClintock
“Youth Rules Tomorrow creates clothes that will best represent people in their early teens to early 20s. Youth Rules Tomorrow is a movement for kids who are afraid to express themselves and step out of their comfort zone because they are frightened of what people will think. Our brand is for kids by kids, so if other kids see people in their age group expressing themselves, it will influence them to do the same.
“Our clothes will be both urban and high-fashion, so people can wear our merchandise for different occasions. For example, the urban attire will consist of fitted clothing and even a distressed look on certain products, such as jeans, sweaters and shirts. The high fashion will consist of blazers, button-ups, ties and pants. Extra accessories will consist of socks, hats, jewelry, book bags, pillows, etc. The pricing won’t be too expensive. Shirts at the most will be $25, jeans will be $30, sweaters will be around $25 as well, and the accessories will be no more than $10. Be a leader, not a follower.”
These students created prototypes of clothing of their own design, and wore them to the event as part of their pitch.
Untie the Knot (UTK): Brittani Lugo (founder) and Jalene Borges
“Untie the Knot (UTK) is a nonprofit organization and website that will be provide support for those who feel hopeless, and who battle depression, self-harm, and thoughts of suicide. The goal is to create a safe haven for those require it. We will make a change in people’s lives for the better by offering a positive environment in which they can blog and vent instead of doing something harmful to themselves. We will post both setbacks and progress to show that no situation is without a solution, no matter how complex: there’s always a way to untie the knot.”
The site will also provide resources for assistance, seek to partner with a local hospital and will sell branded merchandise to help raise additional funding. For the pitch event, Lugo created and printed her own business cards for networking.
The Other Student Startup Ideas:
Fix Your Kicks: Adrien Perez
Customization and clean-up of kicks (high-end shoes) for true sneakerheads.
Young Kid: Kareem Parker
Youth can send lyrics or melodies to have a song custom-made for them, or create their own songs; intended for self-expression and a positive outlet for youth going through difficult times.
99th Closet: Kaira Widodo
The newest fashion blog out of Hoboken, New Jersey, from the perspective of a 15-year-old student with a passion for writing and fashion.
Create the Case: Nicole Calieza
Provides customers with an opportunity to customize their pencil cases, enabling each client to select the design, color and number of compartments as needed.
High-Speed Internet: Ahmed Faragalla
Research and development focusing on portable hardware to increase internet speeds in a variety of locations and on a variety of devices.
Blue Blaze: Justin Lai
Men’s clothing and lifestyle company that parodies famous women’s apparel such as Victoria’s Secret; also provides trendy website articles and information on men’s fashion.
Clothes for a Cause: Emely Sanchez
Online clothing store that offers high-end fashions at lower prices; proceeds from every sale go to breast cancer awareness and research.