By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
They were all inspirational – both the ideas they presented, which clearly reflected their passions, and the glimpse they provided on the future of entrepreneurship in this region.
And, more than two and one-half hours after the first pitch started Tuesday night, the 15 presenting teams of middle and high school students learned that everyone had received some investment to advance their idea as the second “Investor Pitch Night” for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, better known as “YEA!,” came to a close.
In addition, one team – RefugeeLikeMe – saw its ticket punched to the next level, the regional finals for the Saunders Scholars Competition, and a chance to compete later this year in the “YEA!” national finals.
RefugeeLikeMe is a joint effort of John D. Cobb of the Clayton Bradley Academy and Alexander YarKhan of the L&N STEM Academy. The two, who met in the first grade, are developing a website to humanize refugees through story sharing and also to raise funds for local refugee resettlement agencies.
They received $700, the amount Cobb and YarKhan had requested.
The minimum amount that the judges awarded to teams was $100; the maximum was $1,000 that went to Team Huddle, a concept advanced by Cole Davis of South Doyle High School. His dual goal is to provide a means for high school athletes to influence product development by collecting their input and also using the curated information to develop his own line of products.
Symbolically, the venue for the “YEA!” pitches was the Relix Variety Theater in Knoxville’s Happy Holler neighborhood, an emerging entrepreneurial hotspot just slightly north of downtown.
“YEA!” is a project of the Knoxville Chamber with financial and other support from Pilot Flying J, Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville campus, Clayton Bank, Arconic Foundation, and WATE-TV.
In addition to RefugeeLikeMe and TeamHuddle, the ideas and those who pitched them were:
- Bewachen, a 3D-printed marker tag named FlakTag targeted at airsoft players that was presented by Joshua Walker of West High.
- Corporate Keystone, a human resources development website named Excel Toolbox to help people find and register for professional development courses that was presented by Connor Allen of the Clayton Bradley Academy.
- Hands & Paws, a non-profit idea to market dog collar charms that raise money for animal abuse. The two collaborators are Lezly Monterrosas of Eagleton Middle School and Callie Fulghum of CAK Homeschool.
- H2H, which stands for Heart-to-Heart, a website where individuals share their stories of how they made it through tough times as a way to help others. It was presented by Jaylen Baylock of the L&N STEM Academy.
- Icon, a small portable console that will allow users to play two of their favorite games at the same time wherever they go. It was presented by Tejes Gaertner of West High School.
- InHouse Greenhouse, an indoor container for herb gardens. This is a joint effort of Lillian Patty of Nature’s Way Montessori School and Courtney Lam of Bearden High School.
- Living HisStory, a wholesome online book and toy store supporting traditional values that was presented by Graylin Nocus, a homeschooled student.
- My Cut Counts, a non-profit campaign to raise money for cancer research that includes donating hair. It was presented by Sanam Patel, a West Valley Middle School who grows her hair and donates it regularly.
- Onward Electronics, a built-in retractable wall phone charger presented by Aidan Cantu of Farragut Middle School.
- Puppy Hut, a dog bed with built-in storage for travel. The bed, which would come in three sizes, was presented by William Walker of Bearden Middle School.
- Sleep Gear, a hood with a built-in pillow that can be worn on camping trips or vacations. It was presented by Rylan Cantu, a sixth grader at Farragut Middle School who was the youngest of the students.
- Stay Rosy, an upcycled and repurposed vintage clothing line presented by Sophie Foster of West High.
- Zer0 Power, decorative safety wall outlet covers presented by Ella Blair of Gresham Middle School.