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The Big Idea 2019: Bigger Than Ever

On May 29, twenty Youth Entrepreneurs students from around the country flew into Detroit, Michigan, to participate in one of the two Big Idea competitions. For almost all of them, it was their first time in Michigan. For some, it was even more significant. 

“This was my first time leaving Texas,” said Darius Ford, a student at Young Men’s Leadership Academy in Fort Worth, Texas. “There have been lots of firsts that YE has helped me do.” 

This year has also marked many firsts for YE and the national Big Idea competition. The event moved to Detroit thanks in part to YE’s growing partnership with the STEMIE Coalition, which is headquartered at the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan. For the business pitch competition, now named Start-Up Challenge, students shared their business ideas with a panel of judges for a chance at $50,000. 

“That is the largest sum of money available for Start Up Challenge competitors,” said Heather Love, vice president of programming at YE. “It’s a huge opportunity for our students and provides them with a real chance to make their ideas a reality.” 

Nerves were heightened, pitches were given and eventually nine pitches were awarded some of the $50,000 prize. The two top business winners were HoopHers, a women’s basketball short company, and Change 4 Kids, a financial literacy program for impoverished youth. Reema Moussa, creator of HoopHers and recent graduate of The Independent School in Wichita, Kansas, was not expecting to come home $12,500 richer. 

“I’m so surprised. I was not expecting this,” said Reema, who is attending University of Tulsa in Fall 2019 in pursuit of becoming a doctor. “This class and this competition showed me that I can be more. Maybe I’ll open my own doctor’s office someday.” 

The Big Idea also had a dynamic, new component this year called YE Next. A separate group of seven, opportunistic YE students were given the reigns to help create out of the box solutions for scaling the YE experience. Each student was partnered with a mentor from Amazon Web Services to help coach them through the incubation experience and empower their ideas. Ultimately, they presented these ideas to a panel of judges. Their ideas ranged from a gaming app that incentivizes participation in the digital curriculum to a website that helps young professionals identify the right attire for business events. 

“Our YE student participants have been incredibly principled in the pursuit of their ideas,” said YE President Kylie Stupka. “These students’ enthusiasm about their ideas has left such a strong impact on their schools, peers and communities — encouraging others to follow their passions and become leaders.” 

Students participating in both competitions were able to gain valuable experience, expand their knowledge and put their public speaking skills to the test. As The Big Idea grows, YE will continue to seek new, engaging opportunities to make next year’s competition even bigger and better than the last. Learn more about the 2019 Start-Up Challenge winners.