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Two Students Who Shined at the YE Pitch Competition

Last year’s The Big Idea competition has grown to become the National Invention Convention Entrepreneurship Expo US National Finals presented by Youth Entrepreneurs at The Henry Ford Museum in Detroit, Michigan. The event represents the culmination of students’ hard work as they develop their business ideas, put it into action and pitch their proposals to a panel of expert judges. Students from across the nation will compete for $50,000 and a chance to make their ideas a reality. We talked to two YE alumni who know a little about the pressures and triumphs of the pitch.

Both Sara Nambo, a senior at Independent High School in Wichita, Kansas, and Jaden Roggow, a freshman at Pittsburgh State University in Pittsburg, Kansas, competed in last year’s Big Idea event. Here is our conversation:

What was it like to compete in The Big Idea last year?
SARA: Oh it was so nerve-wracking. I was very nervous beforehand. I was worried they would ask me a question about my product that if I wouldn’t know the answer to. But once I went in there, I felt pretty confident. All of the questions they asked me, I was able to answer them perfectly and it went really well.

JADEN: I’m pretty level-headed and I try not to be too high or low about things. I usually just go with the flow. But when you’re pitching your business, you have to step up. So I remember feeling a little out of my comfort zone but it was a really great experience.

What was the business you pitched?
SARA: My Nu-FIT Sheet System is a product that keeps fitted bed sheets secure using plastic corners and hooks. I was even able to make a prototype and show it to the judges. 

JADEN: J Engravings. I offer custom engraved products including stainless steel tumblers, clocks, coasters, ornaments and more.

What did being a part of the The Big Idea competition teach you?
JADEN: It taught me how to be a better public speaker for sure. I recently participated in the Kansas Entrepreneurship Challenge in college. The Big Idea definitely gave me some new insight and set me up for success. I was able to really show my passion for my idea to the judges.

SARA: I learned I should just trust myself and my product more. It's my product and I know it inside out because I was the one who came up with it. It has also made me a more confident person in school and in life.

What are you up to now?
JADEN: A lot. I just finished my freshman year at Pitt State after graduating from Sedan [High School] last year. I’m majoring in Computer Information Systems. I’m still running my business that I pitched and am looking to expand. I have a job on campus in the IT service department and an IT internship at a bank in Girard, Kansas. And I just got elected president of the entrepreneurship group called Gorilla CEO. So yeah, doing all that and trying to have a social life.

SARA: I’m going to be senior at Independent High School. I want to go to college for something in business, I’m just not sure what yet. I was able to win $2,500 in the pitch competition last year, so that’s been a lot of help. I’ve used some of the money to buy a laptop to help with school work. I’m looking to either save the rest for college or use it to make some new prototypes for my business.

What advice would you give the students competing this year?
JADEN: Definitely practice your pitch. Find anybody that's willing to listen and give feedback. It’s so much about muscle memory. If you practice your speech over and over again, it helps out a lot.

SARA: Believe in yourself! If I can do it, you can too! No matter if you win or not, you should be 100% proud of yourself that you've come this far and that you're doing this competition.