Starting a business in high school may seem intimidating for some teenagers. But for five South Carolina students, what started as a school project has evolved into an opportunity to compete for $7,000 in seed money they can use to launch their own company.
These finalists, selected from high schools across the state, will have the chance to present their business plan at 7 p.m. Tuesday before a panel of entrepreneurship experts during the South Carolina State Business Plan Competition hosted by Youth Entrepreneurship South Carolina.
The group, also known as YEScarolina, is a nonprofit dedicated to teaching and guiding young entrepreneurs across the Palmetto State. Since its founding in 2004, the group has certified over 1,000 educators how to teach business classes. Those educators have gone on to help tens of thousands of students hungry to learn more about entrepreneurship, said Executive Director Tracy Bradshaw.
As part of each class, students are required to create a capstone project where they research, create and present a business plan.
Normally, students present their plans in classroom competitions, and those who place first and second move on to YEScarolina’s statewide event.
But last school year, this plan was disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting school closures.
As a result, students were required to film their presentation and submit it for review. Judges whittled the projects down to the top five finalists, who will participate in competition that will be livestreamed at yescarolina.com.
Viewers at home can participate, Bradshaw said. Audience votes will account for 25 percent of the competitors’ overall scores.
The five students competing this year are Adam Anderson and Dora Bendetti in Dorchester County, Aleksander Polka from Charleston County, Sydney Broadwell from Anderson County, and Christian Pimentel-Vasquez from Horry County.
The student who places first in the virtual competition will receive $3,000. Second place will receive $2,000 and third place will receive $1,000. Fourth and fifth place will both receive $500.
Anderson, 15, has always been interested in business.
When he was younger, he would bring candy to school to sell to his friends and would make a profit.
Now a sophomore student at Ashley Ridge High School in Summerville, Anderson said, he can’t be more excited that he was chosen to participate as a finalist in the student entrepreneurship contest.
The concept for his company, The Burger Boat, is simple. Every summer, hundreds of people flock to the inlets of Lake Marion on boats and other watercraft to relax and soak up the sun.
“Me and my friend would ride Jet Skis and we would always have to go back inside earlier just to get something to eat,” he said.
The Burger Boat would solve that issue. Once created, it would essentially serve as a food truck on a boat, Anderson said, where lake-goers could purchase classic American fare on the water.
He estimated that it would probably take around $20,000 in startup funds to get his business off the ground. If he wins the competition, he thinks he’ll probably invest in a smaller, lawn-mowing business that will allow him to save up for future projects.
Bendetti wanted to find a better, safer way to connect high school students looking to socialize or go on dates.
Her business, Bloom, would serve as a dating/matchmaking service for students between the ages of 14 and 17.
Bendetti, also a sophomore at Ashley Ridge, came up with the idea after hearing her friends mention the difficulties they had finding a prom date or someone to go to the movies with.
For a small fee, high schoolers could access Bloom via Instagram, Bendetti said. They’ll be asked to fill out a questionnaire that will help her match students with similar interests or hobbies together.
Once launched, the service would also require students to complete an in-depth screening process to make sure students are actually who they say they are.
Bendetti estimated that it would cost around $3,000 to officially launch the service.
“I’m really proud of it. I’m happy with everything I’ve done,” she said. “I think I will start it up, if the demand is there.”
Polka created a business model centered around buying and selling website domains. Anonimowy, the Polish word for “anonymous,” helps other entrepreneurs with branding, marketing, social media advertisements and website creation.
Polka, a 17-year-old student at Wando High School in Mount Pleasant, has taken several businesses classes before but none of them compared with what it took to complete this project.
Polka has already launched his business at anonimowy.com and has assisted several clients.
“Life is a lot of work. Making a business is no different,” he said.
Broadwell didn’t realize that many of the acrylic and oil paints she used for art projects were made with harsh chemicals until she started researching possible ideas for her business project.
Broadwell, a sophomore at Crescent High School in Anderson County, loves art and had the idea to create her own line of all-natural paints.
She spent the summer experimenting with different types of bases and pigments to find the perfect mixture.
“This just went from like a school project to a real deal thing,” she said.
Broadwell had never really thought about entrepreneurship until her mom signed her up for the class last year. While she was initially reluctant to join, she ended up loving it.
“I’m very excited to just see where it goes. This was just a big learning experience for me.”
Pimentel-Vasquez is a recent graduate of Carolina Forest High School in Myrtle Beach. Pimentel-Vasquez, 18, is in the process of completing basic training for his service in the National Guard.
His business plan, a build your own drone kit, will still be featured in Tuesday’s competition since he was able to pre-record his presentation in advance.
All contributions made to YEScarolina during the competition will be matched by private donors. For more information about the nonprofit and the competition, visit yescarolina.com.