2012 High School Track Winners

Business Plan Challenge’s teen winners take hands-on approach to learning


These students take a hands-on approach to learning about business and entrepreneurship.


Sports, food, music — the winners of the Business Plan Challenge High School Track came up with innovative business ideas for all these necessities of life.

Cole Press and Louis Segall, who were seniors at Ransom Everglades last year, said their winning business idea was born out of frustration: They were tired of going to multiple websites and blogs to keep up with their favorite teams. Every sports fan should have an app that personally curates news, views, stats and video clips, they figured, delivering only the information on the teams and players that the fan cares about.

Their first place-winning plan, called Team Beam, faced steep competition — even from more than a dozen of their own classmates in Jennifer Nero’s AP macro/micro economics class at Ransom who entered the contest.

Cole is now attending the University of Chicago, majoring in history. He plans to pursue a graduate degree in business. On campus he is involved in the Quiz Bowl and the Institute of Politics.

Segall is now at MIT majoring in math and economics and minoring in physics. “I am currently working with an economics professor on a project studying economic growth in China over the past 40 years. The majority of my work is in data analysis and data interpretation,” he said. He sees a graduate degree in math in his future.

Cole’s advice to entrants this year: “Do not over-complicate things. Think of a problem you’ve experienced, no matter how mundane, and try to figure out how to alleviate or eliminate that problem. Remember that you don’t need to come up with a totally original idea. Sometimes an improvement to something that already exists will be more useful.” Louis agrees and adds: “Take an idea you are passionate about, and have fun with it.”

Cupcakes 1+2=3 Cookbook

Miami Edison Senior High student Nelysa Ventura was only 15 when she cooked up a winning business idea and won second place in the Business Plan Challenge High School Track.

Her plan: a cookbook and website for children for baking up healthy desserts that also teaches math and reading. She said she saw a need for parents and their children to do things together; her cookbook would promote quality bonding time. Baking from recipes teaches math, reading and following instructions, and her Cupcakes 1+2=3 Cookbook would also contain fun math-learning activities. Her target audience would be children aged 5 to 14.

Nelysa has continued to work on her project. She has created a Facebook page for Cupcake 1+2=3 so she can keep in contact with her customers. “I am also working on a Blog page, and in the near future, I plan to create a website where I can post pre-recorded demonstrations and do live demos via a webcam,” she said.

Nelysa, now a junior, is the vice president of Edison’s Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) chapter and a member of the eClub (Entrepreneurship Club). Participating for a second year in the Network of Teaching Entrepreneurship, she is one of 17 students being mentored by employees of SAP International. She participated again in NFTE’s World Series of Innovation.

“I have also partnered with a classmate, Stephanie Frederic, where we started an organization called Open Arms. This is an organization created to bring awareness to the increasing number of homeless youths in our school and in our community. We are in the initial stage of the project,” Nelysa said.

Her advice for Challenge entrants: “Never doubt yourself! In life, I have always learned that obstacles will try to block your way. Even though you may not know what to do right away, stay focused on your goal and do not let the obstacles in life come between you and your dreams.”

Music Connection

Carlos Cruz-Taura believed emerging artists could benefit from a vibrant online community to help them promote themselves, make money and “spread the arts.” He also believed in the need for a trusted central place where event hosts and organizations could book local talent.

Carlos should know — he’s a musician.

The cellist at New World School of the Arts won third place for his plan, called Music Connection, in the Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge High School track last year.

Now a senior at New World, Carlos is president of the Future Business Leaders of America school chapter and is in a leadership development program for the school’s science department. Last summer, he attended two music camps. He has accumulated more than 1,500 hours of community service, which included playing in a lot of community orchestras and for theater groups.

“Many colleges asked applicants to explore the subject of diversity. What better experience in learning how to work effectively together with a diverse group of people than by playing in an orchestra. No matter how much attention any one instrument may seem to get in a composition, every instrument in the orchestration plays a vital role,” he said.

He has been busy applying to universities and auditioning for their top music programs. He plans to pursue a dual degree in music education and physics — eventually, pursuing a career that combines them both in concert hall acoustic design, he said.

His advice for Business Plan Challenge entrants: “Get to know the business or challenge you want to address very well — really understanding the issues and industry ... I also think that innovation comes from breaking away from any constraints we impose on ourselves figuratively or practically. Think big, think ideal world, and then chip away at the details one by one. And don’t be afraid to look to others for inspiration, information and expertise.”

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