Monday, June 20, 2011

Young Entrepreneurs Have Lessons for All

Lea Strickland, CEO of Technovation Entrepreneur

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. (TheStreet) -- When you think of entrepreneurs and startup companies, the first thing that comes to mind probably is not a pair of tweens with dreams of websites, mobile applications and business plans. 

But Marci Lawson of Garner, N.C., and Ben Brown, of Greensboro, N.C., both 11, made 60-second pitches at the Triangle Start-up Weekend like seasoned pros, competing against 52 adults (including some of the kids' family members) -- and were excited and surprised to see both of their ideas on the list of those moving to the next round. 

For Marci, a cheerleader who has performed at competitions and New York Knicks events, it was validation that her idea of building an online social network and mobile app for cheerleaders -- -- might become a reality. All she needed was a team of programmers (referred to as "hackers" at the event) and other business and marketing resources ("evangelists") to work with her on the business model, business plan and building the application and website. 

Ben also looked to social media. "It started when I asked my dad for some money. He said, 'Get a job.' I said I was too young. He said, 'Build an app,'" Ben says. "Then I came up with the idea of, a website for kids to learn how to dress, what's in style and to have a way to buy the look." 

Phase II of the weekend, held June 3-5 at the American Tobacco Complex in Durham, N.C., entailed getting a team of volunteers from the attendees. The goal of the team would be functioning websites and mobile apps, plus a five-minute pitch on the business model and revenue. The final presentation would take place Sunday before a panel of judges. 

Friday night Marci and Ben worked on forming teams -- and each hit roadblocks, ultimately going home without them. "We weren't able to get a team together before we left for the night. It was hard to get up on Saturday and come back," Marci says. "I almost didn't, then I remembered what the speakers were saying about every entrepreneur would hit obstacles. But you keep going, you 'pivot,' so we came on Saturday and started working."

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