The opportunity of a lifetime was earned by two young entrepreneurs from South Carolina this week amid flooding back home. After a tough day of competition, Caleb Milligan and Connor Simonson advanced to be among the top fifteen Youth Entrepreneurs in the country. Of the 18,000 students participating in the 2015 NFTE National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, presented by the Citi Foundation, the YEScarolina students represented strongly by advancing to the semi-finals. The students traveled to NYC for the chance to pitch their business plans for the grand prize of $35,000 at the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s National Challenge in New York City on October 6th.
“Have you seen that magician, he’s incredible!” gushed several judges and volunteers at the competition. Caleb Milligan, junior at West Ashley High School, dazzled both quarterfinal and semifinal judges and audiences. Milligan with his business, Caleb Alexander: The Next Generation of Magic is determined to revolutionize the art form of magic. Milligan hopes to transform the perception of the classic tuxedo magician into the unique, innovative, young, and charismatic magician that he is all while building a strong brand of magic products.
Not only was Caleb recognized as one of the top fifteen youth entrepreneurs in the nation, he was awarded “Most Creative Marketing Tactics” for the 2015 Elevator Pitch Contest, earning him a brand new laptop. All 36 competitors created a one minute elevator pitch video and had a month to encourage friends, family, and those in their community to vote for their video.
Caleb exclaims, “This competition was a once in a lifetime opportunity that allowed me to connect with numerous reputable business leaders and even meet new friends. This has truly changed my life and is something I will never forget.”
Freshmen at Catawba College, Connor Simonson, traveled to New York City for the first time ever to showcase his business, Deep Fried Dyes, the South’s premier provider of professional lacrosse stringing and dying. As an avid lacrosse player, Simonson is dedicated to not only grow his business but also growing the game of lacrosse in the South. “The whole trip and competition was amazing. It was truly a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am so grateful to everyone who helped me along the way,” said Connor Simonson.
All of the finalists were business plan competition winners from their respective regions and were required to develop and present original business plans as part of their entrepreneurial studies at school, based on NFTE’s award winning, experiential curriculum.
The top three student businesses were first place, Crystal Sanchez of, Lawndale, CA with Guardian Locket, and runner-ups Kenneth Huertas of Downey, CA with A Touch of Eco and Urbana Anam & Jannatul Rowshan of Queens, NY with URBANAlifa Hijabs. Judges at the final round of the top three businesses included David Chubak, Head of Productivity at Citi, Luke Cooper, NFTE Alumnus and Founder & CEO of Peach Labs Co., Ben Darr, Co-Founder of Brandtale, Dave Gilboa, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Warby Parker, and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, Co Founder & CEO of GLAMSQUAD and Co-Founder & Strategic Advisor for Gilt.
“Being a part of the National Challenge as a mentor & coach to these students is a truly rewarding experience. It’s remarkable to see the students from day one in their entrepreneurship class and transform into confident, focused, and successful business owners throughout the entire business plan competition process. The YEScarolina team is extremely proud of the hard work and accomplishments achieved by the SC competitors,” Molly Crete, YEScarolina Program Coordinator.