Teens Pitch Million-Dollar Ideas
With her plan for "The Scribbler," a nail-polish pen, 17-year-old Abigail Lewis walked away with top honors at the first National Youth Business Competition in New York.
Twenty-eight teenagers from across the nation competed in the Oct. 26 event, which was sponsored by Smith Barney and the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship. The participants, winners of NFTE's regional business plan competitions, presented their business plans to a panel of judges, who selected three finalists based on the strength of their business ideas and presentations.
As the first-place winner, Lewis received $10,000 to put toward her business. Thomas C. Dant, Jr., 17, from Silver Spring, Md., took second place and $5,000 for his event- and art-photography business, Fine Foto. Lawrence Yamoah, 17, from Chicago, won third place and $2,500 for his presentation of his sneaker-customization business, In Touch Customz.
Lewis' Scribbler is a brush-tipped pen filled with nail polish, designed for rapid, spill-proof polish application. Lewis got the idea for her invention when she was scribbling on her nails with a pen during class one day.
"Later, I went to the craft store and bought a bunch of pens," Lewis said. "I took them apart to see how they worked, then created a few samples."
Lewis took her invention to boutiques and nail salons near her home and found retailers were very interested in the product. She plans to use her prize money to begin large-scale manufacturing of the Scribbler.
"The money is all going back into the business," Lewis said.
Lewis may end up with partners in her business endeavor thanks to publicity surrounding the competition. Since the event, Revlon and Essie Nail Polish have expressed interest in the Scribbler.
The National Youth Business Plan competition was the culmination of a dream for NFTE founder Steve Mariotti, who first imagined such an event 25 years ago when he was a teacher in the South Bronx, N.Y. "This is one of the greatest days of my professional life," Mariotti said. "I truly believe entrepreneurship can be taught and futures can be self-created."
Since its founding in 1987, NFTE has provided entrepreneurship education to more than 180,000 young people. This year, when the SBA identified the 50 top entrepreneurs under the age of 20, seven were NFTE graduates.
The panel of judges included former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman William Donaldson, the CEO of Donaldson, Lufkin, and Jenrette; former NBA All-Star Allan Houston, who is now the president of Allan Houston Enterprises; Douglas L. Becker, the chairman and CEO of Laureate Education; Curtis Archer, the president of Harlem Community Development Corporation; New York City Councilman Eric Gioia; Consuelo Mack, the anchor and managing editor of Consuelo Mack Wealth Track; and New York State Banking superintendent Diana Taylor.