Youth Entrepreneurs Score High on Leadership and Success
By David Chubak, Head of Productivity, Citi October 16, 2015 10:00 AM
Selecting one young person from three talented and business-savvy finalists at the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge, presented by the Citi Foundation, proved to be quite the exercise. On October 6, as part of the Challenge, 49 top young entrepreneurs, ages 16-24, from across the U.S., arrived in New York City for the opportunity to pitch their business ideas. The enthusiasm in the NFTE judges’ deliberation room for the final round was as palpable as the passion exhibited by the student participants on stage. We knew what was on the line – the chance to make a new business venture begin, with the help of a prize package worth approximately $25,000, including a college scholarship and access to business expertise.
At Citi, I’m excited to work with colleagues who drive results with imagination and determination. Innovation has been key to scaling the company’s strategy across the globe. When I’m working to take our execution to the next level, much like these young entrepreneurs are taking the next step in growing their business and their skillset, it’s critical that I tap into Citi’s strengths. NFTE and the Citi Foundation are doing this as well by empowering youth: by developing their entrepreneurial mindset, equipping them with tools to problem-solve, and instilling confidence.
As a part of the Citi Foundation’s Pathways to Progress initiative, a three-year, $50 million commitment to give 100,000 low-income youth in the U.S. the opportunity to develop the workplace skills and leadership experience necessary to compete in a 21st century economy, youth participants in NFTE and the Citi Foundation’s “Make Your Job” entrepreneurship program are building professional and social capital that will help propel them towards lifelong success.
In my role as Citi’s Head of Productivity, I am always seeking new ideas to advance Citi’s operations. So, I was excited to serve as a judge and weigh in on innovative business plans by budding business young men and women.
Faces full of anticipation filled the auditorium as over 350 guests—entrepreneurs, their families, volunteers, and business executives—awaited our final decision. Even we judges were at the edge of our seats.
“When they were announcing the winner, I was very nervous because I’ve been working at this for almost an entire year,” shared NFTE finalist Crystal Sanchez, who took home the grand prize for her Los Angeles-area based business Guardian Locket, a fashionable necklace that helps to protect women from sexual assault. The locket is a security signal in disguise, and through a click of a button the cellular chip embedded in the necklace sends an alert to local authorities and emergency contacts that the wearer is being attacked. “This is something I’ve worked up to. I just wanted to make everyone proud.” From her tears of joy and the cheers in the audience, it was clear that Crystal not only made her family proud, she was proud of herself. It was a sentiment the other finalists shared.
“Getting into the final round was really an honor,” said runner-up Jannatul Rowshan of UrbanAlifa Hijabs, a New York City business she co-created with Urbana Anam, which enables Muslim women to customize fashionable Hijabs that reveal their sense of style while maintaining their religious modesty.
“It was very nerve-racking for us and really exciting at the same time,” adds Urbana. “We are not discouraged; we feel like winners.”
“I’m leaving this competition with invaluable experience,” said runner-up Kenneth Huertas of A Touch of Eco, an environmentally-friendly auto detailing service and app in the Greater Los Angeles area. “It was great coming out here to New York and meeting all of these great people with innovative ideas. I gathered a lot of inspiration and I learned from them.”
I was honored to represent Citi at the NFTE National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge. By doing so, I joined the more than 200 Citi employees that already volunteer as business coaches, mentors and local judges in NFTE programming across the country. Being a judge was a privilege. I enjoyed witnessing new ideas and promising futures take shape.
David Chubak, Winner Crystal Sanchez, NFTE President & CEO Shawn Osborne