Young entrepreneurs mix innovation, community impact to shape the future

Young entrepreneurs mix innovation, community impact to shape the future
Junior Achievement of Alabama Business Plan Challenge finalists Jenny Chin-Lai and Haley Meredith display their "Dorm Design" business plan. (Alabama NewsCenter)

When it comes to creativity and smarts, as well as understanding that business can be an effective force to improve lives, the finalists in Junior Achievement of Alabama’s Business Plan Challenge clearly “get it.”

The six finalists from this year’s annual entrepreneurial competition, including first-place winner Jordan Henderson, were honored Thursday at JA’s “Spirit of Free Enterprise” luncheon in Birmingham. The Hoover High School student will receive a $4,000 scholarship for winning the Challenge, and her fellow finalists will share in an additional $6,000 in scholarship money.

Her winning entry was the “Brace Buddy,” a dual-rod, carbon fiber kickstand that attaches to post-op medical braces, allowing patients to elevate their legs on any surface to help reduce swelling and increase comfort.

The contestants had to develop detailed business plans for producing, distributing and marketing their products. They also had to address social and ethical responsibilities in their business plans and compete in a live pitch session, which was held last month before a panel of area business leaders.

The important role that social responsibility plays in business success was emphasized by Alabama Power Chairman, President and CEO Mark Crosswhite in his keynote address at Thursday’s event.

“The true measure of success is the positive impact that you have on your community and the world,” Crosswhite told the gathering, which included Junior Achievement officials, student participants and supporters.  “Strong communities are the foundation for all that is good about our state.”

Crosswhite praised Junior Achievement for instilling a sense of social responsibility in the young people who represent the future leaders of Alabama.

“It’s good to know that as you expose our young people to the things that make businesses run – things like balance sheets, marketing plans, obtaining financing for new ventures – there’s also emphasis on giving back to the communities,” he said.

The other finalists, all students at Hoover High’s Finance Academy, and their business plans were:

  • Jenny Chin-Lai and Haley Meredith, “Dorm Design,” a website that allows users to work alone or collaborate with a roommate to create and design their dream dorm room.
  • Trent Hamner, “Street Ad,” a traffic barrel wholesaler that will sell the advertising space on the barrels, allowing companies to capitalize on the untapped marketing value while decreasing construction costs.
  • Gigi McLendon, “TenStudio,” an independent game developer focusing on the untapped market of minority gamers through the development of a role-playing game with a female lead character.
  • Zach Rodgers, “OurCharge,” a cable protector that extends the life of charging cables while allowing for a customer-printed logo on the front face, providing an outlet for advertising.
  • Alexia Wilson, “Happy Keys,” a new type of portable keyboard fashioned in a text keyboard format that will be compatible with any computer/laptop with a USB port.

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