PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Lt. Governor Dan McKee today announced the winners of the 2020 Virtual Lt. Governor's Entrepreneurship Challenge, a Shark Tank-style business pitch competition for Rhode Island high school students. Five teams of young entrepreneurs won a total of $14,000 in scholarships.
Lt. Governor McKee hosted the competition live on Facebook. He was joined by Travis Escobar, President of Millennial Rhode Island and Ron McLean, President/CEO of the Cooperative Credit Union Association, who represents the Credit Unions of Rhode Island, the program's lead sponsor. The competition, in its third year, went virtual for the first time to keep participants and their families safe in accordance with Rhode Island Department of Health guidelines.
Over 20 teams from high schools across the state participated in round 1 of the challenge which required students to craft detailed written business plans that address marketing, growth strategies, finances and other topics. The top 5 teams advanced to the final competition where they presented their business pitches to a panel of judges and received scholarships based on their pitch scores. The competition can be viewed on the Lt. Governor's Facebook page [r20.rs6.net] under the 'Videos' tab.
Teo Janiga, a freshman at the Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center, won the top prize, a $5,000 scholarship. His business, GrandTech, is a service that coaches grandparents on how to virtually connect with loved ones via FaceTime, Skype, Zoom and other platforms to reduce social isolation and loneliness. Other business ideas that earned scholarships include a hair braiding salon, bakery, recycling app and a fire starter cup made from seaweed.
The 5 winning teams in the 2020 Lt. Governor's Entrepreneurship Challenge are:
• 1st place: $5,000 scholarship - GrandTech by Teo Janiga, The Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center • 2nd place: $4,000 scholarship - Green Scan by Alexa Beaulieu and Will Casey, East Greenwich High School • 3rd place: $2,500 scholarship - Seaweed Inferno by Meghan Amsden, Scituate High School • 4th place: $1,500 scholarship - Gabby's Cakes & Bakes by Gabriella Furtado, Barrington High School • 5th place: $1,000 scholarship - Tay's Touch Salon by Taylor Harvey, The Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center
The panel of judges featured a slate of Rhode Islanders who have small business experience: Jennifer Ortiz, Owner of Executive Cuts Barbershop and Rhode Island Small Business Coalition Member; Christine DiBiase, local corporate attorney and Millennial Rhode Island Board Member and Chris Parisi, Founder of Trailblaze Marketing, Co-Founder of the Rhode Island Small Business Coalition and Millennial Rhode Island Board Member.
"In each of the Lt. Governor's Entrepreneurship Challenge finalists, we saw passion and an unwavering dedication to innovation. This group of students managed to create impressive business plans and pitches while also handling distance learning. I congratulate our student finalists and all participants who shared their bold business ideas with us," said Lt. Governor McKee. "Thanks to the Credit Unions of Rhode Island, the Lt. Governor's Entrepreneurship Challenge has awarded dozens of young entrepreneurs over $30,000 in scholarships. I am deeply grateful for their continued sponsorship and the support of all the organizations and individuals who make the challenge possible."
"The Association and the Credit Unions of Rhode Island are proud to sponsor the Lt. Governor's Entrepreneurship Challenge. Supporting innovation and Rhode Island businesses is critical to the future of the state, and we are proud to help develop the future generation of Rhode Island's business leaders," said Ron McLean, President/CEO of the Cooperative Credit Union Association.
Other supporters of the Lt. Governor's Entrepreneurship Challenge include Dr. Day Care Learning Center, Massey & Associates, Inc., Rhode Island Association of Realtors, Dunkin' Donuts Franchisee David Batista and Millennial Rhode Island.