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Dare to Dream

Competition gives teens first step into world of business

 

On May 12 four high school students got to do something most teens don’t have the chance to — divvy up $6,000 in cold, hard cash. To spend anyway they wanted. All because of their ingenuity, drive and persistence.

Those teens from Greenup County were the winners of the inaugural Glockner’s Dare to Dream Tri-State business pitch competition.

“The economy in the Tri-State needs help,” Mike Thompson, executive in residence for Tech GROWTH Ohio, associated with the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation, said. “The best and the brightest students are leaving. Why not use these bright young minds to come up with business deals. What affects the Tri-State affects southern Ohio.”

That is how the Dare to Dream competition got started. First there were more than 100 students from Tri-State schools making up 22 teams. Each team had from three to five members.

They came up with a business pitches for imaginary companies, anything from a marketing firm to the winners who created an actual social media consulting business the teens had already created as a community service project for school.

Coaches worked with all the teams before they started creating their businesses having three months to get ready.

“What problem are you solving,” Thompson said. “What is my solution. Why is my solution better than what is out there. How financially does this work. You can have the greatest idea in the world but how do you make money from this. What does it cost to start it, to run it. What is going to be your profit.”

For the final competition it was down to six teams who made their pitches to a panel of five business people in the area during a four-hour pitch contest at Ashland Community and Technical College.

The students made their presentations during a four-hour pitch contest at Ashland Community and Technical College.

“I want you to be absolutely brutal with the kids,” Thompson said he told the judges. “So many times we are not giving honest feedback.”

Despite the rigors, the finalists maintained their poise.

“There are such bright kids out there,” he said. “To stand there on stage and do a presentation at 16 or 17 years old. I couldn’t do it.”

Through sponsors including Andy Glockner, CEO of Glockner Automotive Group, there was $10,000 in prize money; $6,000 was the top prize; $1,500 for second place; $1,000 for third place; and $500 for fourth, fifth and sixth. Other sponsors were LEDC, Tom Wolf of McDonald’s, Kentucky Farmers Bank, Big Sandy Superstore, and Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital.

“I want this money to go to the kids themselves with no strings attached,” Glockner said. “I want to do anything to support the youth. I don’t care if it is sports or entrepreneurship. I have a passion. Youth are our future.”

The competition is the outgrowth of the Tri-State Angel Investment Group, created to give entrepreneurs a financial support opportunity.

“In being with the Angel Investment it is to be able to create job opportunities,” Glockner said. “We want to retain the talent that comes out of schools. There are very few opportunities to come back and earn a living in their field. We want to encourage young adults to use their gifts and talents. We want to try to keep that talent pool here. That is where our leadership is coming from.”

With traditional sources of industry like coal drying up, it is up to the small business person to keep the economy growing, according to Dr. Bill Dingus, executive director of the LEDC

“We have to move toward the idea of a cottage industry, a technological industry,” Dingus said. “At a young age they need to examine themselves to see if they would be interested in starting their own business. It is important to stimulate that and maintain it up to the time they open their own business. You look at history, it is the small businesses that have been the foundation.”

Starting in August contest organizers will start distributing information packets and go out to the schools to explain the competition.

“I am passionate about helping entrepreneurs,” Thompson said. “Helping people who have the heart to start their own business. You have to have brains and backbone. You have to be brave to start your own business.”