South Florida high school student Jhasir Bermudez and Mariem Marquetti will be competing for more than $63,500 in seed capital and prizes in the NFTE National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge in New York City on Thursday.
All 34 finalists, which come from across the nation, participated in the nonprofit Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s program that engages and inspires young people to pursue educational opportunities and start their own businesses. “We seek to address the needs of under-served segments of our young students, offering support and opportunity where there would otherwise be none,” said Alice Horn, NFTE South Florida’s executive director. All finalists were winners in their regional competitions.
South Florida’s first place winner, Jhasir, a senior at Miami’s Southridge Senior High School, developed Princesa by Jhasir, a business manufacturing organic cotton dresses for young girls. Mariem Marquetti, a sophomore at Ferguson Senior High School, won second place with her business Purely Natural Crochet, a collection of hand-crocheted scarves. Since then, her business has evolved to include one-of-a-kind crocheted purses.
The 2012 NFTE National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge grand-prize winner will take home a total of $25,000 in venture capital and prizes. Two runners-up will each win $5,000 and two round-trip tickets on Southwest Airlines.
Finalists also filmed an elevator pitch video as part of the NFTE Online Elevator Pitch Challenge. To vote for their favorite elevator pitch, the public can visit www.elevatorpitch2012.com and vote under Tuesday, Oct. 9. The winner of the pitch challenge will receive $2,500 on the evening of the National Challenge with two runners-up receiving $500 each.
Additionally, in honor of NFTE’s 25th Anniversary, the event will also feature the inaugural Mariotti Venture Award Pitch Challenge, in which up to 10 NFTE graduates with fully operating businesses will compete for an additional $25,000 in venture capital. The winner of this new challenge will be chosen by a panel of judges in combination with a live action vote by the audience.