2013 High School Track Update

Teens put education, social entrepreneurship to work in winning plans

 

ndahlberg@Miamiherald.com

1st Place: SeniorLink Consulting

For Sam Steiner, entrepreneurship is not only about making money — although he does. It is about doing something bigger than himself.

Sam’s Business Plan Challenge-winning service conquers fears, cures loneliness and brings families closer. It also has the potential of helping to alleviate teen unemployment. How’s that for impact?

The social entrepreneurial SeniorLink Consulting employs high school students to give senior citizens one-on-one help with technology, whether that is teaching them computing basics such as surfing the net or using email and Facetime, trouble-shooting more advanced issues, or helping them select computers or tablets and getting them all set up with apps and programs. Because learning technology can be intimidating in a class setting, coupled with transportation issues, he believes seniors learn best in their own environment on their own computers.

Sam, who is now a junior at Saint Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, has served more than 100 customers through his business, and has two employees. SeniorLink charges about $40 per hour for the service and the business is profitable. He hopes to continue to grow the business, particularly in other parts of South Florida, but admits that it has been a challenge finding other dedicated teen employees. “I continue to try out new employees to meet my growing client base.”

Last semester Saint Andrew’s hosted an international convention (International Round Square Waves of Change Conference) with more than 750 students from 36 countries. Sam was asked to speak about SeniorLink, as an aspect of the convention was a discussion of social entrepreneurship. He also served as a panelist discussing entrepreneurship and led break-out sessions discussing how to take an idea from its beginnings to an actual business.

Sam also continues to run volunteer computer labs at four local assisted living facilities. He has had more success getting volunteers who want to fulfill the required community service hours. He himself has logged over 500 community service at the centers.

Now, after seeing the impact computer access can have for seniors and with his business cranking along, Sam is turning his attention to another challenge: He wants to see legislation enacted that will require Florida’s licensed assisted living facilities have computers for their residents.

“I have drafted the proposed legislation and submitted it to a contest sponsored by Florida Rep. Kevin Rader. He chose another proposal, but I am not giving up and am in the process of speaking with other legislators, especially those with a large constituency of seniors,” Sam said.

Sam has contacted Rep. Rader, Rep. Bill Hager and met with Rep. Irving Slosberg to garner support to amend existing assisted living facility legislation to include computer access for all residents as well as lessons and opportunities to learn. He is also reaching out to Sen. Eleanor Sobel, chair of the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee, to discuss the value that computers offer to the elderly.

Sam’s advice to the next crop of Business Plan Challenge entrants: Enter!

“The Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge was great for me as it forced me to step back and look at my business. It helped me organize the company and winning it really gave me confidence. The opportunity to establish permanent legislation is the next challenge.”

2nd Place: How Do I Look?

The team behind the second-place winning business idea — How Do I Look? — have had an adventure in designing an app.

How Do I Look? was envisioned as a fashion app, where users could easily share pictures of themselves wearing outfits they were considering buying at a store or wearing on a date. Users would be able to instantly give feedback as well as rate and review the outfits. Coupons would also be available from retail stores, which would pay a monthly fee to interact with customers and offer deals. “We become the middlemen between the everyday person and shopping retailers — without taking advantage of the consumer,” the team said in the plan. The fashion mavens behind the plan: Josh Kaplan, Blake Altman, Jonathan Greenwald and Kyle Lieberbaum.

Kaplan and Altman, who were seniors at Ransom Everglades when they won the award, are now at University of Michigan and will most likely pursue the study of business. Greenwald, also from Ransom, is at Tulane University studying political science. Lieberbaum, who was at Miami Beach Senior High, is now at the University of Florida and studies business.

Currently, progress has slowed, but the four had an entrepreneurial summer. “To begin with, we met with experienced entrepreneurs that we know to figure out the first step in starting our project. We then met with programmers to learn what they needed to be able to create the app,” said Greenwald. “Our first big step was working on designing the app, creating each and every possible individual page, how users could move between pages; basically deciding how it would look and work. We worked on this step for a couple months and had the app completely designed and ready to hand over to programmers.”

“Unfortunately, our work stalled after this process ended due to the cost of creating the application. We are still hopeful that we will be able to continue the project in the near future and we are actively looking for investors to help fund it or any professionals that can help us with experience in the app business,” said Greenwald.

3rd Place: Do-Re-Mi-A-B-C-1-2-3 Piano Book

Veronica Chui and Hee-Young Kim combined their passions for music and education into a winning plan: The Do-Re-Mi•A-B-C•1-2-3 Piano Book.

Music is more than just learning songs: It is also about counting and reading. Their song book would incorporate story-based songs that would help children learn math and reading while making piano lessons fun. The book would also include academic checkpoints after each song.

Hee-Young and Veronica are still in the “drawing board” stages of their project but have been brainstorming ways to make Do-Re-Mi•A-B-C•1-2-3 Piano Book the best it can be. “From formatting the pages of the book to composing the musical arrangements, we still have a long way to go. However, without a doubt, we are deeply passionate about making Do-Re-Mi•A-B-C•1-2-3 Piano Book a reality one day,” said Veronica. Hee-Young added that they plan to put some of their ideas into action this summer when Veronica returns to South Florida for the break.

Veronica is at Emory pursuing a double major in mathematics and economics, and hopes to pursue a career in industrial engineering. Over the summer, she was selected as a Miami student representative for the 2013 Bank of America Student Leaders Program. As part of this program, she not only attended a Student Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., but also engaged in an internship with the nonprofit Boys and Girls Club. At Emory, she is involved in academic and leadership clubs and organizations.

Hee-Young is a senior this year at Ransom, preparing for college. She has been involved in a nonprofit project: “My best friend and I both love to bake (and we are pretty good at it!), and we created a nonprofit organization called Baking for Buddies when we were juniors.” Since then, they have been donating homemade cakes each month to the Children’s Home Society of South Florida to help the children celebrate their birthdays.

As to the Challenge, both recommend entering. “From creating the plan and putting together the ideas to winning, going to the luncheon and meeting all the people who offered to help us and gave us great ideas — it was a really inspirational and memorable experience for me, and I learned so much from it,” Hee-Young said.

Read more Business Plan Challenge stories from the Miami Herald

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