Teen Entrepreneurs Vie for Seed Money

With products ranging from fudge to candles, some of the nation's budding young entrepreneurs took center stage on Friday at the graduation ceremony for the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship's New York City BizCamp.

Four student finalists presented business plans before a panel of judges, with Gabriel Felder of Queens, N.Y., walking away with top honors — and $300 in seed money — for his plan to open a homemade fudge sauce company.

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"Don't forget: just fudge it!" Felder said upon accepting his award, making a plug for his company's slogan.

Twenty-five teenage students attended NFTE's summer BizCamp, a two-week program designed to teach teenagers about entrepreneurship.

The other business plans presented during the ceremony at New York University's Kimmel Center included a candle company, a fashion-themed bookmark retailer, and a youth self-defense school.

In their PowerPoint presentations, students outlined the goals of their businesses, cost of product creation, and return on investment. They also identified local and national competitors and described the demographic of their target market.

"The hardest part of doing the business plan was calculating how much I had to charge to make money," said Mahmud Ahmed, whose business, Ahmed's Defense, would teach defense skills and street smarts.

In addition to composing business plans, students listened to guest speakers and went on field trips to visit small businesses and wholesalers.

NFTE was established to teach entrepreneurship to young people from low-income communities to improve their business and academic skills. Since its inception in 1987, NFTE has trained 3,700 schoolteachers in entrepreneurship, enabling them to reach more than 150,000 children.

"We want to get kids thinking about their role in the economy, that they can be an owner," said Steve Mariotti, a former entrepreneur, teacher, and founder of NFTE. "The enthusiasm and potential of students who may not be doing as well as one might like in the classroom, is unleashed when they talk about markets and sales."

At the graduation ceremony, Michael Caslin, CEO of NFTE, expressed his confidence that skills students learned would serve them well in the future.

"Every community has a certain language that is required to get around in that community," Caslin said. "Students here have been exposed to the language of wealth creation, the language of destiny."

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