Teen Entrepreneurs Have the Chance to Win $300 in Startup Funding
A local company is helping teach business skills to students
Panelist Bruce Weschler talks to runner-up Demitirus Peeples following the pitch event. Photo by Ayrton Nichols.
Last week, amid the business landscape of Greenwood Village, seven Denver-area teens, between the ages of 13 and 26, faced off in an entrepreneur pitch competition, the winner of which would walk home with $300 dollars toward a business startup that they had created.
This event was the culmination of an 8-week program ran by Read More Co., an educational curriculum platform that focuses on building personal growth through books.The program, Stay F.R.E.S.H. Entrepreneur Program, introduces students to entrepreneurship and helps them to create and run their own businesses.
“The F.R.E.S.H. program started with a conversation we had with disgruntled parents about the downfalls in the modern education system,” says Kyle Colley, co-founder and CEO of Read More. “Parents informed us that students were experiencing a lack of self-confidence, leadership habits, and the inability to establish strong interpersonal communication skills.”
F.R.E.S.H. started with a leadership program building students’ inner-confidence, leadership skills and public speaking. However, through this program Read More saw another problem that schools were failing to meet.
“We noticed that the kids who we were educating weren’t being taught successful entrepreneurial mindsets and financial literacy,” Kyle says. “We want to help the next generation get into entrepreneurship at an earlier age.”
Over the course of the 8-week entrepreneur program, the Read More team taught these teen entrepreneurs fundamental principles of business: idea generation, product development, market penetration, advertising, professionalism, cost analysis, branding and more. In order to really teach these principles in practice, each teen (and one team of two) had to develop their own business idea and take it through each of these steps.
Which carried the students through to last week where they faced a panel of Denver area business owners and entrepreneurs — Dante J. James, co-founder of The Gemini Group; Ryan Frazier, a small business owner, former city councilman, navy veteran and charter school co-founder; Liliana Pascal, an employee of DaVita Kidney Care and a member of the Young Professionals Board of the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce; and Bruce Weschler, a former law firm partner, real estate investor and business owner.
Each student was given three minutes to pitch their business idea to the panel and then had to answer questions from the panel for an additional seven minutes. These ideas included an inflatable and heated travel cushion, a first-class packing service, a book collection and resell company, a bagel resourcing company raising funds to reduce food waste, a customizable heated blanket and an app that helped create outfits from items in your closet.
Reina Crowley, the winner of the event, with Read More co-founders Kyle Colley, Ceasar Smith and Kris Colley as well as Roosevelt Price, founder of Eastern Sky Consulting who sponsored the prize money. Photo by Ayrton Nichols.
The winner was 13-year old Reina Crowley with her company, Bagel Buddies, which re-sold day-old bagels to reduce Denver-area food waste. Her ultimate goal however, was to start a foundation that would go to prevent global food waste. Reina won a $300 investment to her company, from Eastern Sky Consulting. Two runner-ups, 16-year old Demitrius Peeples and 15-year old Peyton Castro each won $100 for their ideas, the travel cushion and the book collection companies, respectively.
“One of the main reasons we love to inspire entrepreneurship in young kids is because as the world becomes more technologically advanced common jobs that used to be operated by people will be taken over by machines,” Kyle Colley says. “This will make it more difficult for select people to stand out from the crowd, however, by developing their entrepreneurial mindsets, we allow them the opportunity to become producers in the modern world and not solely just consumers.”
Inspiring Students With Entrepreneurship
Read More itself was co-founded in 2016 by three Denver young entrepreneurs: Ceasar Smith, Kyle Colley, now CEO, and Kris Colley II, now COO. The co-founders were 25, 20 and 22 when they started the company. Giving these students an example of young entrepreneurship, while showing them their passion and commitment, has helped the students see, up-close, the value of entrepreneurship, Kyle Colley says.
“We make it a point of emphasis to host our sessions in modern-designed business offices to get them out of the mindset of traditional schooling and put them into a more business-focused and creative space,” Kyle Colley says. The program also enabled the students see Smith, Kyle and Kris at work. “This gave them a great look at how we operate as business owners and also gave them the opportunity to take what they’ve been learning in the course and apply it to real potential customers,” he says.
While the summer entrepreneurship program is now complete, the Read More team is preparing for its next course, which will begin in September. Students are able to go weekly, or participate in either a 4-week or 8-week version of the course. Aside from its F.R.E.S.H programs, the group has an author apprentice program, which pairs bestselling authors with aspiring authors. It also works with a number of ghostwriters, book cover illustrators and editors to help inspire authors of all ages.